This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

Human-Powered Ventilator

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have created a human-powered ventilator that utilizes hand-pump motions, rather than hand or wrist motions such as with a Bag Valve Mask (BVM), to help stabilize respiratory distress in a patient, without electricity. By using an arm-pumping motion to operate the accordion-like ventilator, minimally trained operators can provide respiration to a patient on space-based missions with greater endurance. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this device was reengineered for terrestrial applications in areas where electrically powered ventilators are nonexistent or in short supply. The ventilator is designed to be made of parts that are portable and inexpensive to manufacture as well as simple to assemble and use. This allows for rapid deployment to areas in need such as resource-poor localities or for use by minimally trained personnel, allowing for quick availability to areas in need.

Contact:NASA’s Licensing Concierge
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Beyond 5G Mobile Communications

Researchers from the University of Birmingham, UK, have revealed a new beam-steering antenna that increases the efficiency of data transmission and opens up frequencies for mobile communications. The technology has demonstrated vast improvements in data transmission efficiency at frequencies ranging across the millimeter wave spectrum, specifically those identified for 5G (mmWave) and 6G, where high efficiency is currently only achievable using slow, mechanically steered antenna solutions. It does not require the complex and inefficient feeding networks required for commonly deployed antenna systems, instead using a low complexity system, which improves performance and is simple to fabricate. Experimental results show the device can provide continuous ‘wide-angle’ beam steering, allowing it to track a moving mobile phone user in the same way that a satellite dish turns to track a moving object, but with significantly enhanced speeds. The team is now developing and testing prototypes at higher frequencies and in applications that take it beyond 5G mobile communications.

Contact: Ruth Ashton
+ 44 7989 558041
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Reconfigurable Metasurfaces

One of the most impactful breakthroughs of lens technology in recent history has been the development of photonic metasurfaces — artificially engineered nanoscale materials with remarkable optical properties. Driven by device miniaturization and system integration, as well as their ability to selectively reflect different colors of light, metasurfaces are rapidly replacing bulky optical assemblies of the past. Now Georgia Tech researchers have demonstrated the first-ever electrically tunable photonic metasurface platform. The pronounced tuning measures achieved through the new platform represent a critical advancement toward the development of miniaturized reconfigurable metasurfaces. The results of the study have shown a record 11-fold change in the reflective properties, a large range of spectral tuning for operation, and much faster tuning speed. Immediate impact on technologies like LiDAR systems for autonomous cars, imaging, spectroscopy, and sensing is expected. More aggressive applications like computing, augmented reality, photonic chips for artificial intelligence, are also possible with further development.

Contact: Georgia Parmelee
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