Six Lincoln Laboratory inventions honored with 2022 R&D 100 Awards | MIT News

Six technologies developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory are the recipients of this year’s R&D 100 Awards. The award recognizes the 100 most significant innovations that have been transformed into use or are available for sale or licensing during the past year.

R&D world The magazine administers the awards programme, which has been held annually since 1963. Dubbed the “Oscars of Innovation,” the global competition is judged by a jury of science and technology experts and industry professionals.

Lincoln Laboratory’s recipients represent a range of research and development areas. One technology is revolutionary hurricane tracking satellites. Another is a silent propeller design for small commercial drones, and one is a system that prevents drones from colliding in national airspace. Two winners are tackling technology overcrowding: one by allowing different devices to use the same radio bands at the same time, and the other by keeping dense electronics cool. Finally, cybersecurity tools were recognized for their ability to prevent prevalent types of cyberattacks.

“Our R&D 100 award represents a major achievement in technology transfer outside the laboratory. We are extremely proud of everyone involved in this groundbreaking work,” said Lincoln Laboratory Director Eric Evans.

Airborne Collision Avoidance System sXu

Today, small drones or unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are generally not cleared to fly within the US National Airspace System. U.S. law requires all aircraft to be able to see and avoid conflicting air traffic — and sUASs have neither a pilot on board nor a technical solution to meet that requirement. Lincoln Laboratory developed the Airborne Collision Avoidance System sXu (ACAS sXu) to allow sUAS to operate unrestricted in national airspace. The system allows the sUAS to detect and track other nearby aircraft, then automatically steer the sUAS away from those aircraft to avoid a potential mid-air collision (or alert its ground operator to do so). The ACAS sXu can be mounted on a sUAS or used as a remote service and is suitable for various sUAS vehicle types. The ACAS sXu design standard is finalized in 2022, and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing policies and procedures to approve use of the system.

Lincoln Laboratory shared the award with its technical collaborators: the Federal Aviation Administration, MITER, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Limited communication and radar dual use

Radar and wireless communication systems typically operate in separate radio frequency (RF) bands to avoid cross-interference. However, today’s plethora of wireless devices is crowding out the RF spectrum—a problem that has led researchers to explore ways in which technologies can share the same RF bands to free up space.

Dual-Use Constrained Communications and Radar (CONCORD) technology enables such frequency band sharing. CONCORD is a method of designing waveforms that can use the same transmitter and receiver to perform both radar and communication tasks. This approach allows system designers to unify the hardware used for these tasks, simplifying system design and reducing cost. CONCORD is suitable for any military or commercial system that requires radar to sense objects and transmit data, such as airborne radar imaging systems or autonomous vehicles.

Embedded Microfluidic Cooling for High Power Electronics

Electronics are getting smaller and more powerful. These increased power densities are approaching the limits of what conventional thermal architectures can manage. As a result, electronics designers are looking for new cooling solutions to meet performance requirements and reduce energy costs.

Lincoln Laboratory’s Embedded MicroJet Cooling technology uses arrays of micron-sized fluid jets to cool high-power devices. These arrays are small enough to be embedded directly into chip-scale devices. This integration allows the fluid to flow directly up to the semiconductor substrate of the electronic device, resulting in an order-of-magnitude improvement in heat transfer over a heat sink or cold plate that passes the cooling fluid parallel to the substrate. Microfluidics can be made from low-cost materials such as silicon or plastic, and can be mass-produced using existing casting tools. JETCOOL Technologies Inc., an MIT spin-off company, is commercializing the technology.

Ring propeller

Anyone who has ever encountered a small amateur drone flying nearby has probably noticed the high-pitched hum of its propellers. NASA experiments have shown that humans find this sound more annoying than any other vehicle noise. If drones are to be used more widely, such as package delivery, they may need to be quieter.

Lincoln Laboratory’s annular propellers are much quieter than ordinary multirotor propellers while producing comparable thrust. Annular propellers consist of annular blades where the tips of the front propeller blades curve back into their rear propeller blades. This closed structure minimizes the strength of the tail tip vortex and increases the overall stiffness of the propeller, both of which reduce its noise; it is also less likely to catch or cut in its path than conventional propellers object. The propellers can be 3D printed and customized for a range of vehicles, making them suitable as drop-in replacements for current drones.

Just-in-time address space randomization

Timely Address Space Randomization (TASR) addresses memory corruption, one of the most prevalent network vulnerabilities today. A hacker who launches a memory corruption attack can take control or steal data from millions of computers at a time because the memory structures in these systems all look alike. TASR prevents such attacks by automatically shuffling, or re-randomizing, the location of code in memory.

TASR improves on an existing solution deployed in most modern operating systems called Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), which uses a similar premise of randomizing memory layout. The problem with ASLR is that it randomizes memory only once, and attackers bypass this solution by using an “information leak attack” to force applications to reveal how their memory is randomized. TASR is the first technique to mitigate such attacks by randomizing the layout each time an application’s output is observed. TASR is compatible with existing network infrastructure and incurs very low overhead. Cloud development company InfoSiftr has been licensed by TASR.

TROPICS Pathfinder Satellite

According to NOAA, the frequency and intensity of hurricanes are projected to rise this century. To provide scientists with more data on Earth’s tropical belts where these storms form, Lincoln Laboratory conceived the TROPICS mission. TROPICS is a constellation of small satellites called CubeSats that will work together to provide a global, rapidly revisited view of tropical storms. Launched in 2021, the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite is the first satellite in the constellation.

The satellite has a microwave sounder, a sensor that produces high-resolution 3D images of the temperature and water vapor content of Earth’s atmosphere, as well as estimates of precipitation intensity. Microwave sounder measurements are fed into numerical weather models to generate forecasts (and make the greatest contribution to reducing forecast errors of all data types introduced). The biggest technical challenge in developing the TROPICS Pathfinder was the miniaturization of the sensor. Over the past 10 years, Lincoln Lab has gradually shrunk its sensors from the size of a washing machine to the size of a coffee mug, enabling them to be used on CubeSats. The R&D 100 award is shared with NASA and Blue Canyon Technologies.

technology transfer

Since 2010, Lincoln Laboratory has received 81 R&D 100 Awards. These awards recognize the laboratory’s efforts to transfer unclassified technology to industry and government. Every year, there are also many technology transitions for classified projects. This technology transfer is critical to the lab’s role as a center for federally funded research and development.

The 2022 winners will be recognized at a banquet on November 17 in Coronado, California.

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