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Displaying Available Technologies results for Hardware, Circuits & Sensors

NON-PLANAR DIRECT-WRITE NANOLITHOGRAPHY

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Available electrospinning technologies deposit haphazard fiber patterns. This deposition process significantly limits the pattern resolution and prohibits alignment between multiple layers.

University of Utah researchers have developed a method of direct-writing nanofibers and nanoparticles that enables the production of high-resolution, precise patterns. This technology is not only less expensive than current deposition technologies, but also enables direct-writing onto non-planar, or curved, surfaces.


DIRECT-WRITE MASKLESS NANOLITHOGRAPHY

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Commercially available nano- or micro-scale lithography machines require the use of expensive equipment and have large physical footprints.  Additionally, available electron beam lithography machines are low-throughput, restricting use to research and development and low-volume production of semiconductor devices.

University of Utah researchers have developed an economical table-top-sized electron beam lithography machine that is high throughput. This technology patterns photoresist between two UV polarizers to direct-write customizable patterns without a mask. Potential patterns include straight, curved, array, and isolated.


MICRO-PLASMA FIELD EFFECT TRANSISTORS

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Field effect transistors (FETs) are commonly used in circuit boards to amplify or switch electronic signals. Metal-oxide-semiconductor FETs (MOSFETs) are the most common field effect transistor and use electrons to carry currents. However, MOSFETs are highly susceptible to damage through static electricity and fail to work at high temperatures.

University researchers have developed a metal-oxide plasma field effect transistor (MOPFET) that can operate at high temperatures and in ionizing radiation. This MOPFET device utilizes ionized gases as charge carriers, which are unaffected by ionizing radiation and have increased operation efficiency in such conditions. As a result, MOPFETs can be used in nuclear power stations, outer space, engines, and other hightemperature/ ionizing radiation applications.


MOLECULAR FLUORESCENSE SENSOR FOR MERCURY DETECTION

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Mercury pollution causes hazardous environmental and health issues, such as heart, kidney, stomach, and gene damage. The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act set maximum mercury contaminant levels at 2 ppb. Most mercury detection sensors are colorimetric and fail to quantify mercury levels. Additionally, interference from coexisting metal ions often result in false positives.

University of Utah researchers have invented a low cost, point-of-use optical sensor for mercury detection and quantification in water. The new sensor exhibits sensitive and selective detection of mercury directly in aqueous solutions through fluorescence quenching. The fluorescent molecule dims in the presence of mercury to enable detection at low levels. Companion software that uses optical detection of the fluorescing molecule quantifies the mercury concentration and enables rapid, portable mercury detection. The sensor exhibits high stability and offers superior detection performance compared to traditional molecular fluorescence sensors.


DIGITALLY TUNABLE COMPONENTS FOR 5G & M-MIMO

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5G telecommunications are anticipated to reach the market in 2020. As 5G emerges, so too are technologies to facilitate its implementation. Yet, the majority of technologies available increase chip area requirements and have high power consumption.

University of Utah researchers have developed a delta-sigma modulated switched capacitor transmitter, frequency tunable digital power amplifiers, and a multiphase beam steering transmitter ideal for 5G applications. This tunable modular approach allows flexible hardware configuration, such as placing components at the antenna, improving
overall efficiencies.


ULTRA-LOW POWER VOLTAGE REFERENCE & TEMPERATURE SENSOR

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The emergence of internet-of-things technology has led to an increasing demand for efficient stable power supplies, with low sensitivity to temperature and supply quality.

University of Utah researchers have created an ultra-low power, highly stable voltage reference for 65nm CMOS circuits with lower PVT sensitivity. The temperature sensor is built on the low-power voltage reference design and provides a digital friendly and accurate output from -20 to +80°C with a max error of +/-.23°C while consuming only 11nW.


MAGNET-LESS RING COMBINER AND SWITCHES FOR FULL DUPLEX COMMUNICATION

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Conventional communication circuits are unable to send and receive signals simultaneously, which limits communication throughput. Systems involving magnets are similarly restricted to transmission in a single direction, due to the magnetic field generated by magnets.

University of Utah researchers have developed a magnet-less ring combiner that enables full duplex communication, which provides simultaneous transmission and reception of signals. This combiner is configurable with n-number of ports, while maintaining a smaller overall size, reducing manufacturing costs, and enhancing performance. Combiners can be coupled with various switched output port configurations including a SP3T using a 6-way ring combiner.


PV STRING FAULT DETECTION

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Ground faults and other wiring issues that compromise optimal panel performance are common, but often remain undetected posing safety and fire risks. Most methods for detecting ground faults require time-consuming voltage and current measurements, as well as visual assessment of solar panel integrity.

U of U researchers have developed a novel spread spectrum time domain reflectometry (SSTDR) method for the detection of photovoltaic (PV) string faults. This SSTDR method compares autocorrelation differences generated by the PV string before and after detection of the fault. It does not require current or voltage measurements, saves time, and prevents malfunctions caused by undetected string faults.


ON-CHIP INDUCTORLESS POWER CONVERTER

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Existing on-chip systems for power conversion optimize either performance or dynamic conversion. No solution offers simultaneous high efficiency and adjustable conversion ratios. Additionally, current devices are bulky and lack sufficient power density.

The on-chip inductorless power converter utilizes film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) technology to increase power density while minimizing electromagnetic interference (EMI). The FBAR device consists of a piezoelectric material sandwiched between two electrodes and acoustically isolated from the surrounding medium. Replacing the inductor with a FBAR reduces the size of power converters. The device offers high inductance density with a high Q factor and can be fabricated easily in a CMOS compatible process. This FBAR technology promises economical production of LEDs with dynamic conversion and lower electromagnetic interference.


LIVE ELECTRONIC COMPONENT MONITORING

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Reliable and uninterrupted operation of power converters is crucial – especially in industrial processes where failure-free operation is indispensable. Capacitors and switching devices, such as transistors and diodes, are the most likely to fail components in power converters. To ensure failure-free operation, converters are often operated with redundancy and require periodic maintenance and replacement, which is time and cost intensive. Additionally, the functionality and performance of power converters degrade over time. Conventional methods estimate wear by characterizing individual components, but fail to reflect the overall state of the converter.

Live Electronic Component Monitoring provides a real-time, non-invasive method for monitoring the overall state of health of power convertors. Using spread spectrum time domain reflectometry, the method assesses the impedance, resistance, and capacitance of various current paths within the converter. This information is then used to form a converter-specific matrix that predicts the age and reliability power converters. Measurements are implemented while the components are live or functioning within the overall system.


FLUORESCENCE SENSORS FOR RAPID DETECTION OF GAMMA-RAY RADIATION

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Gamma radiation is widely used in nuclear relevant security, medical radiological therapy, and scientific research. When administered in high doses, however, it increases cancer risk and causes tissue damage. Additionally, greater awareness of the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism increases the need for instant detection of gamma radiation. Scientists and engineers have developed radiation detectors to measure the radiation dose. The accuracy of these devices is, unfortunately, limited by low sensitivity as well as energy and angular dependence.

The described optical sensor provides a cost-effective, easy-to-operate, and highly-sensitive gamma radiation detector. The sensor uses a novel molecule that emits blue fluorescence, which dissolves in halogenated solvents. The molecule experiences a reduction in emittance after contact with gamma rays. The acid interaction enables instant detection of gamma radiation down to the .01 Gy level.


DUAL-GATE FET CHEMICAL SENSOR

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Detection of chemical species in gas or vapor phases is a rapidly growing field. Detection can be used as a warning system for chemical and biological threats, as well as to monitor air quality concerns. These sensors generally fall into two categories: sensing semiconductors and sensing gates. Sensing semiconductors have poor selectivity, while sensing gates have poor sensitivity. Additionally, state-of-the-art chemical sensors are expensive and material-dependent. They also require specific conditions for proper operation.

The dual gate field effect transistor (DG-FET) combines sensing semiconductor and sensing gate technologies to provide both high chemical sensitivity and high selectivity. The top gate is functionalized for sensitivity to ammonia and interacts with the analyte. The bottom gate drives the transistor into saturation to enhance sensitivity. The DG-FET chemical sensor can be easily tailored to detect a wide range of chemicals by changing the functional layer alone. Additionally, this sensor is highly conductive and can be used with off-the-shelf electronics, which reduces manufacturing and circuitry costs.


MICRO-ELECTROMECHANICAL SENSING SYSTEMS & PROCESSORS

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Sensors based on micro-mechanical devices typically have small stand-by power consumption, which makes them ideal for use in the Internet of Things, where a multitude of sensors are required to monitor the status of every system. These sensors continue to decrease in size, use less energy, and cost less.

The Micro-electromechanical Sensing Systems & Processors sense low magnetic and electric fields, as well as small vibrations. The devices can also perform amplification, logical operations, spectral analysis, rectification, and detection of radiofrequency signals using less than 10 nW of power. Due to their low power usage and high sensitivity, these sensors are well-suited for remote sensing and implantable medical device applications.


AMPLIFIED CHEMO-MECHANICAL COMB GAS SENSORS

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Conventional capacitive vapor sensors (chemicapacitors) measure gas concentration by observing changes in capacitance between fixed conductive electrodes. Chemicapacitive sensors are robust devices, but cannot detect water vapor concentration corresponding to less than 2% relative humidity.

The proposed technology is a highly-sensitive chemicapacitor with a vapor absorbing layer. The layer absorbs volatile organic compounds, which increases stress on the interdigitated fingered capacitor and causes the fingers to bend. As the absorption layer approaches the other finger, an electrical signal is produced. This sensitivity increasing method is compatible with pre-existing chemicapacitive sensors, making its potential applications widespread.


HIGH-TEMPERATURE ELECTROCHEMICAL-SENSING ELECTRODE

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Voltammetry offers a technique to measure the concentration of ions in high-temperature molten salts, which are used in nuclear fuel and the recycling of rare-earth metals. Accurate high-temperature electrochemical measurements, however, are difficult to obtain due to interactions between the electrode and other elements as well as difficulty determining the surface area of the working electrode.

A newly developed fused glass electrode contains a fixed area metal rod. This enables accurate determination of area-dependent electrochemical measurements such as cyclic voltammetry. This fixes the surface area of the interface between the electrode and the electrolyte to eliminate uncertainty regarding the surface area. The electrode can also detect impurities, monitor ions of interest, and provide feedback for process control and optimization in high-temperature molten salts.


UTAH SLANTED ELECTRODE ARRAY PUDENDAL NERVE STIMULATOR

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Bladder dysfunction affects 17 million Americans and is particularly common in patients with spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis. Current treatments, while effective, have major side effects including infection, urethral damage, and loss of peripheral sensation.

The pudendal nerve stimulator treats bladder dysfunction by enabling push-button urination control. The nerve stimulator consists of a Utah Slanted Electrode Array implanted into the pudendal nerve that selectively contracts and relaxes the two major muscle groups associated with urination. A remote device signals the array to contract the bladder muscle, while restricting the urethral sphincter to facilitate urination. The device can be inserted using minimally-invasive surgery and eliminates the need for catheterization and the major side effects associated with current bladder dysfunction treatments.


LIFTING COACH

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, injuries to the back resulted in 19.6 percent of work nonattendance cases related to injury in 2012. Many workers, even after recuperation, encounter risk of further injury by repeating poor lifting practices.

Lifting Coach is a sensor system designed to mitigate the risk of on-the-job back injury. This system includes insole sensor hardware and accelerometers that integrate with a mobile application for real-time feedback. The app audibly warns users when they use a high-risk posture or operate beyond their load capacity. It also advises users to take breaks or make postural changes. Lifting Coach helps employers manage operations and adjust work practices by recording workers’ risk estimation results for each shift and generating daily reports that indicate worker fatigue and exertion.


VIRTUAL ELECTRODES FOR HIGH-DENSITY ELECTRODE ARRAYS

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Neurostimulators are used to stimulate human tissue in many applications, including retinal prostheses and neurological disease treatments. Neurostimulators often use more than one electrode to improve the stimulation resolution and efficacy of the array. Regular electrodes, however, present zones of large current density such that increasing the number of electrodes in one array causes tissue damage.

Virtual electrodes enhance stimulation resolution without causing tissue damage by creating large current density zones away from the electrodes. A virtual electrode is placed between two regular electrodes to enhance the signal quality and increase targeting capabilities. By routing the current from each regular electrode, the array can stimulate tissue not directly under the electrodes. This increases stimulation resolution without overstimulating one specific area.


MONOLITHIC SPINTRONIC OLED MAGNETOMETER

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Magnetometers are used for a variety of sensor applications and various magnetometer concepts, each with different advantages and disadvantages. Currently available, low-cost room temperature magnetometers, however, must be calibrated for any environmental conditions under which they are operated. Most magnetometers are calibrated to account for a small range of normal operating conditions (e.g. a temperature range) only.

This monolithic organic thin-film semiconductor magnetometer eliminates the need for calibration. A dielectric thin-film provides electrical and thermal insulation between a thin-film wire, capable of inducing an AC magnetic field, and a layer stack in which spin-dependent electronic transition rates govern a measurable current. Magnetic resonance of the frequency of the AC field and the Larmor frequency of charge carriers in the thin-film device change the spin-dependent transition rates and thus, the electric current. Small electric current changes, indicative of magnetic resonance, reveal the magnetic field applied to the device.


INTELLIGENT HYDRATION SYSTEM

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Endurance activities, such as mountain biking, running, hiking, and military operations require proper and continuous hydration. Hydration systems traditionally used for outdoor activities require manual monitoring of water levels, either by gauging a pouch’s weight change, inspecting the bladder, or using commercially available flowmeters. Lack of accurate information can lead to underestimation of remaining water and potentially dangerous situations.

The Intelligent Hydration System is a fluid level sensor that enables easy-to-use bladder monitoring and can be integrated with most commercial hydration backpacks. The technology consists of two sensors connected to a small circuit that can be attached to either side of any pre-existing reservoir. A light-emitting diode display communicates the bladder’s fluid level to the user. The kit provides an accurate reading of the fluid content, irrespective of shaking and movement.


PRESENT WEATHER IMAGER

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Accurately characterizing the physical properties of atmospheric hydrometeors is essential to improve numerical models for weather forecasting and to respond to current weather conditions. Weather systems track precipitation type and intensity using lasers, shadows, and diffraction patterns, but fail to consistently identify changing precipitation states. These systems are especially unreliable with precipitation at temperatures near freezing and lack sufficient visualization of hydrometeors.

The present weather sensor utilizes high-speed imaging to accurately identify and communicate precipitation types. The sensor consists of a small camera mounted inside an outdoor security enclosure, with an LED lighting array to facilitate image processing. The sensor captures various precipitation types and fall intensities to maximize the accuracy of hydrometeor measurements, even in windy conditions. Standard meteorological measurement tools, such as thermometers and barometers, can be attached to the top of the device to increase the present weather sensor’s versatility and enhance precipitation measurements.


NEARLY TRANSPARENT IMAGING SYSTEM

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Traditional imaging methods, which are relatively costly and complex, rely on a lens to focus light onto a sensor that records photons.

The proposed invention uses an image recording device placed at the edges of a transparent layer to accurately reproduce an image. A small fraction of the light from the outside scene scatters off imperfections in the transparent layer to reach the image-recording device. The full scene is reproduced computationally from the point sources. The image is captured without a lens and without a direct line of sight to the scene. While the system could be used to capture any image, it is applicable specifically to biometrics and automotive machine vision.


CHEMICAL PERCOLATION SWITCH

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Chemical sensors and electronic noise technology require continuous sources of energy and lack the ability to operate at low power, which limits their distribution. Sensors with low power consumption, however, have poor chemical selectivity.

The proposed technology is a chemically selective percolation sensor that can operate with zero or near-zero power consumption. The sensor includes a positive and negative electrode separated by a nano-sized switch gap. A binding agent, which differs based on the target compound, binds to the switch to form an electrically conductive-selective pathway via percolation between the positive and negative electrode. The switch connects to the power supply and switches on when exposed to a programmable threshold concentration of the target compound. Such low-energy use improves device life, reduces risk of detection, and requires less battery maintenance, and which is particularly applicable to military and defense applications. The switch can detect a wide range of chemical targets including chemical warfare agent aerosols and vapors, fuel and explosive vapors. For agricultural applications, the switch detects invasive parasitic plants.


3D FIBER OPTIC INTERFEROMETER

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Interferometry is a measurement technique that involves the superimposition of light waves, providing distance measurements with great accuracy. Highly accurate 3D measurements can only be made at the expense of time.

The 3D fiber optic interferometer directly measures three- dimensional distance and position with high speed and precision. The device uses light from single mode optical fibers to determine the distance between points in space. It does not require careful alignment of the fibers and can provide determination of absolute position. This device could be utilized in a number of manufacturing and robotic applications since it overcomes many of the difficulties associated with the distance between two articulating points. The device is accurate over one meter distances and would be most useful in machine shops employing large batch statistical process control manufacturing.


ORGANIC LIGHT-EMITTING DIODE (OLED) WITH RESONANT STRUCTURE

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Existing light emitting devices suffer from efficiency problems, such as incomplete light extraction from active layers. This inability to direct light from the diode results in an 180˚ active range of light emission and power losses.

The OLED with Resonant Structure utilizes two mirrors to increase the radiative efficiency of OLEDs by 80-100 percent. The first mirror is a partially reflective, metallic patch grating resonator that reduces lateral propagation of radiative emissions’ diffusion. The second mirror is a transparent electrode of the OLED, which communicates with the optically active material. Together, these mirrors almost double the output power of the LED.