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

Powerful infrared laser

Innovators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center have developed a high-power infrared (IR) laser that can drive lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells into thermal runaway (TR) without perforating the battery wall like previous methods. Inducing TR in the battery cell allows engineers to test and improve the safety performance of overheated batteries that could potentially catch fire or explode. The main advantage of this method is that the thermal energy delivered by the laser can be localized to the exact target location on the battery cell, minimizing thermal drift to neighboring cells. Li-ion cell activation with laser radiation can work on any commercial battery cell design, requiring only external surface treatment. The technology has several potential applications, including human transportation applications that require a high level of rigor in defining safety margins.

Contact: The NASA Licensing Concierge
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Muscle fibers

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Penn State University have created a new type of fiber that can work as a muscle actuator, in many ways better than other options that exist today. And most importantly, these muscle-like fibers are easy to manufacture and recycle. The researchers showed that these fibers, which they initially discovered while working on another project, are more efficient, flexible and capable of handling increased stress compared to what is on the market today. These fibers can be used in a variety of ways, including medicine and robotics. Such a robotic arm could be used in an assistive exoskeleton to help people with weak arms regain movement and strength. Another potential application could be something like a “self-closing dressing” that could be used in surgical procedures and naturally break down in the body after the wound heals.

Contact: Nat Levy
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Ultrasound stickers

Ultrasound imaging currently requires bulky and specialized equipment that is only available in hospitals and doctor’s offices. But a new design by MIT engineers could make the technology as wearable and affordable as buying patches at the drugstore. Engineers have designed a patch that creates ultrasound images of the body. The stamp-sized device adheres to the skin and can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours. The stickers can have immediate applications: for example, the devices can be applied to patients in the hospital, similar to ECG stickers for heart monitoring, and can continuously image internal organs without requiring a technician to hold a probe in place for long periods of time. time. If the devices can be made to work wirelessly, the ultrasound stickers could be turned into wearable imaging products that patients can take home from the doctor’s office or even buy at a pharmacy.

Contact: Abby Abazorius
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