ABSTRACTS - Phase I
This project is developing a mixed-mode Fully-Depleted Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (FD CMOS) technology suitable for scientific applications. This technology will offer higher speed performance at lower power dissipation and operate in more severe environments than the present bulk CMOS technology. The approach is to keep the process simple, utilize presently available processing equipment, avoid exotic materials and transistor configurations, relax the design rules, and provide the ultra-thin Silicon On Insulator (SOI) substrates, so that the technology can be introduced quickly to the community and be made available from a wide variety of sources. In this Phase I project, ARACOR is verifying the computer simulations of the FD CMOS process and experimentally demonstrating the feasibility of processing FD channels in its ultra-thin Bond and Etchback SOI (BESOI) material by fabricating and evaluating MOS capacitors. The specific objectives are to adjust and validate the channel implant and anneal parameters used to set the n-channel transistor threshold voltage and to demonstrate that the ultra-thin SOI material made with the BESOI process is suitable for processing the FD MOS transistors. An additional Phase I objective will be to improve the quality and uniformity of the epitaxial films used for manufacturing the ultra-thin BESOI material.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The FD CMOS technology is being considered for next-generation commercial products which require high levels of integration and ultra-low power. The results of this program will be commercialized through specialized detector products, process licensing, and the manufacture and sale of ultra-thin SOI substrates qualified for the process.
Recent efforts in particle accelerator design have focused on improving existing accelerating structures, searching for more compact structures, and developing structures with better electrodynamic characteristics. Consistent with these efforts, researchers are creating a design/feasibility study of accelerating-focusing Rectangular Cavity Periodic Structures (RCPS) and Rectangular Cavity Biperiodic Structures (RCBS) to determine their applicability ranging from Race-Track Microtrons (RTM) to electron-positron linear colliders as well as for microwave power devices. A 70MeV compact RTM is being used as a practical test bed. Researchers are designing a biperiodic on-axis coupled rectangular accelerating structure with circular beam holes which provides a significant simplification in RTM construction. This RCBS has a higher effective shunt impedance than previous structures and quadrupole-like focusing so it is an accelerating-focusing system which can be used to good effect in linacs and linear colliders.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Commercial applications of rectangular cavity structures are apparent for: (1) electron-positron linear colliders, (2) electron LINear ACcelerators, (3) mobile Race-Track Microtrons, and (4) power microwave devices.
The project makes possible a comparatively inexpensive system that can produce a tunable quasimonochromatic high energy photon source. Because such beams can be polarized, have low emittance, and small energy bandwidth, they are applicable to a broad spectrum of commercial and medical uses. They can also be used to provide compact, stable, efficient, intense particle beams, further enhancing their commercial prospects. The key elements are the RF electron gun, recirculation of the electrons with acceleration, wigglers, chicanes and achromatic bends based on permanent magnetic materials, and the recirculation of the intermediate photons generated by the wigglers. The technique of Compton backscattering to boost the intermediate photon energy gives the variable, quasimonochromatic source of high energy photons. Researchers are designing the photon source and simulating the behavior of the electrons and the UV photons as they circulate within their respective structures. They will design and fabricate one period of the short period helical wiggler demonstrating the feasibility of a significantly improved wiggler capability both from the standpoint of wavelength and variable polarization.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A number of areas such as isotope production, nuclear waste remediation, food, water, and medical instrument sterilization, and accelerator-based medical treatment of terminal diseases would benefit directly and quickly from breakthroughs in access, safety, affordability, and flexibility.
This project is developing an improved method for rapid nuclear polarization of 3He at one atmosphere with primary application to neutron polarization. Since the 3He(n,p) cross section is 104 times larger for the anti-parallel spin case than for the parallel case, a sufficiently thick polarized 3He target efficiently transmits neutrons of one spin state while absorbing the others. Unlike grazing-incidence reflection polarizers, polarized 3He filters can be applied to epithermal neutrons and can be used as a polarization analyzer in a number of standard neutron-scattering instruments, including Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) spectrometers, which presently have substantial private sector applications. 3He spin filters also produce far lower gamma-ray backgrounds than grazing incidence polarizers which is an advantage in many applications. Unlike x-rays, neutrons penetrate deeply into most materials and can distinguish among different isotopes even of low-Z atoms including hydrogen. Polarized neutron scattering has been shown to be a very powerful tool in studies of deuterium-tagged polymers, biological macro molecules, and magnetic materials including superconductors. Recently, polarized 3He has been shown to be a useful contrast agent in MR imaging of air-filled bodily cavities. This new application promises to become an important diagnostic tool in functional imaging of the lungs. SRL's helium polarization method promises to be faster and more efficient than existing methods and thus, once demonstrated, should gain rapid acceptance by the neutron scattering and medical communities.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: There is a solid niche market for thermal, cold, and epithermal neutron polarizers. There are several established polarized netron scattering techniques that are used at over nine facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Europe, the former Soviet Union, Australia, and Asia operate another 17 facilities. These facilities represent a substantial market which will be pursued vigorously following the SBIR project. In addition to the application of polarized 3He to polarization of neutrons, SRL anticipates a large market in the medical industry as medical imaging using polarized 3He becomes widely used.
The novel radiation detector described in this project has the potential to provide the commercial sector and government with a simple, low cost, room temperature radiation detector with extremely high energy resolution. The detector requires no cryogenic cooling, is extremely rugged, and provides efficient and accurate identification of x-rays and gamma rays from 50keV to 10MeV with an intrinsic energy resolution far superior to any scintillation detector currently available and approaching that of cryogenically cooled germanium. The researchers at SenTor have been investigating highly purified xenon gas near the critical point as a room temperature detection medium. Xenon gas in this thermodynamic regime has proven to be ideally suited for room temperature radiation detection. A xenon ionization chamber detector constructed in a cylindrical geometry provides the additional opportunity to perform Compton suppression through pulse shape discrimination.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A cylindrical ionization chamber xenon x-ray/gamma-ray detector represents a significant advancement in high resolution, room temperature radiation detection and could be used in such diverse applications as treaty verification, hazardous waste monitoring, deep well logging, x-ray and gamma-ray astrophysics and medical diagnostics.
Described is the development of an entirely new, wavelength-multiplexed, monolithic semiconductor laser array for use in a spectrometer capable of simultaneously detecting absolute trace concentrations of a variety of gases. The achievement of simultaneous, multitrace gas detection is presently only possible with complex and very expensive multilaser systems or with FTIR instruments which do not have trace gas sensitivities approaching those demonstrated by tunable diode laser spectrometers. The recent (1994) discovery and demonstration of the quantum cascade laser (a unipolar, mid-IR, semiconductor laser) opens the way for developing a completely new, manufacturable, junction-free semiconductor laser source which can be multiplexed over a large number of preselected wavelength regions in the mid-IR. Such a tunable, multiwavelength laser source is ideal for simultaneously sensing traces of a large variety of gases in the atmosphere. The objectives of this research are to design, develop and demonstrate a monolithic, addressable, tunable multiwavelength, quantum cascade laser array for gas and trace gas detection. In Phase I, Spire is designing an innovative, monolithic, addressable laser array (with UCSB as a subcontractor). It is anticipated that this research will result in the development of a portable, ultra-high sensitivity, multigas, mid-IR spectrometer.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Potential commercial applications include simultaneous trace gas detection of a wide variety of atmospheric pollutants, hazardous gaseous species, explosive decomposition products, and biological agents. Such an instrument can also be used for chemical process monitoring, studies of complex chemical kinetics, medical diagnostics, and environmental surveillance.
This project is developing robust, high-pressure 10 mm silicon-nitride sample cells suitable for high-sensitivity high-pressure (HP) high-resolution (HR) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) in protein structure determination, as well as numerous other applications in materials science, supercritical fluids, and process chemistry. While HP-HR-NMR has recently been shown to have enormous analytical potential, no commercial NMR apparatus currently exists for this research. The use of hot-isostatic pressed (HIP'd) silicon nitride (Si3N4) will result in a marketable product with an order-of-magnitude increase in sensitivity compared to conventional folded glass capillaries. Initial versions will be suitable for operating pressures up to 200 MPa (2000 bar) at temperatures up to 300oC. The large inner diameter (6.00mm) in the sample region accounts for the order-of-magnitude increase in sensitivity, and a maximum wall thickness variation of 4 microns over a length of 25-mm in the central rf region will permit state-of-the-art lineshape and resolution (3 Hz non-spin proton at 7T). Active metal braze alloys (Ag-Cu-Ti) will be evaluated with precision tapered joints to attach BeCu threaded fittings to each end of the sample cell for convenient sample access, pressurization, and cleaning. Total volume of compressed liquids will be only several milliliters to minimize stored energy. Internal pressurization via heating of sealed liquids, the method of choice for many applications in supercritical fluids, will be utilized during Phase I. These sample cells will be fully compatible with virtually all modern 10-mm HR-NMR probes and techniques, including triple-resonance, multinuclear, 2-D, solvent suppression, PFG, and MRI.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Potential commercial applications are in biochemistry (protein structure determination), and any other field utilizing NMR where high pressure is a valid concern or unexamined variable, such as numerous other applications in materials science, supercritical fluids, and process chemistry. Specifically, there are at least 3,000 high-resolution spectroscopy laboratories that stand to benefit from the commercial availability of a high-pressure sample container. The compatibility of the apparatus with existing HR probes will provide additional return on investment and experimental flexibility at modest cost.
This project concerns the development of a novel type of miniature mercury sensor utilizing very recent develop-ments in microcantilevers. Sensors based on this technolo-gy will be up to 103 times smaller, considerably more sen-sitive, and less expensive than currently available mercury sensors. Microcantilevers that are 50-200µm long, 10-40µm wide, and 0.3-3µm thick and possessing resonance frequencies in the range 10-300kHz, have recently been used in scanning force microscopy to detect extremely small changes in force in the range of 10-12-10-9N. The resonance frequency (and bending) of the microcantilever varies reproducibly and sensitively due to adsorption of molecules on the cantilever surfaces making it an ideal chemical sensor with picogram sensitivity and parts per billion detection. Preliminary mercury detection studies, have demonstrated detection of ppb of Hg, and have shown that selective adsorption of mercury on gold coated cantilevers (end loading) produces a linear variation in resonance frequency with a sensitivity of 0.8 pg/Hz. Simultaneous bending measurements resulted in a sensitivity of 0.6 pg/mV. The recyclability of the mercury sensor is being demonstrated by removing the adsorbed mercury by heating the sensor. Exploiting the microcantilever response, combined with selective removal of interfering molecules (such as H2S) using filters, microcantilevers are being shown to be extremely versatile and novel mercury pollution sensors. Consultec plans to demonstrate that the sensor can be vibrated in liquid environments with a reasonable Q, allowing it to be used to detect the presence of mercury in these environments. Additionally, due to the extremely small size of the sensor, the development of a personal monitor that is highly sensitive may be possible. The work provides a highly significant advance in microcantilever sensor technology with possibilities of developing new sensors for other chemicals.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Commercial applications of mercury sensors are numerous since these detectors will be extremely sensitive, miniaturized, and could be mass produced. Applications include industrial hygiene, air and water pollution control, mining industry, submarines, air quality monitoring, etc.
A general algorithm, and corresponding software package, based upon tensor representation of multidimensional data blocks, is addressed to express relationships between dependent properties and independent molecular feature measures. The solutions to these data set problems are three-dimensional quantitative structure-property relation-ships, 3D-QSPRs. While this project focuses on three-dimensional relationships, the formalism can easily be extended to higher dimensions. The molecular features are partitioned into the intrinsic molecular shape tensor, the molecular field tensor, a non-shape/field feature tensor, and an experimental feature tensor. The intrinsic molecular shape tensor contains information on the shape of a molecule within the contact surface while the molecular field tensor contains information outside of the contact surface. Molecular features not directly related to molecular shape are placed in the non-shape/field tensor. Experimental measures not being used as dependent variables can be considered as independent molecular features in the experimental tensor. The 3D-QSPR is realized by constructing the transformation tensor which optimizes the statistical significance between the dependent and independent variables. Factor analysis, partial least squares regression and multidimensional linear regression analyses are being explored individually, and in combination, to determine the transformation tensors. The described formalism has been applied (in a limited fashion) to a set of flexible M2/M3 muscarinic inhibitors leading to a 3D-QSA (Property=Activity) R in which an active conformation has been identified, and to a set of benzylpyrimidine inhibitors of dihydrofolate reductase where the enzyme bound conformation and alignment have been correctly identified. Other data sets to further explore the utility of the formalism are presented. The algorithm has far reaching implications in the field of computer-aided molecular design. It is the only method proposed to date, which once developed, will provide the researcher with general, analytical functions which quantitatively relate structure to properties of members of sets of flexible molecules which can assume multiple alignments.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The 3D-QSPR algorithm product is likely to be purchased by all sites currently used CoMFA in order to facilitate treatment of conformational flexibility and multiple alignments. In addition, the general features to compute molecular shape properties (molecular shape analysis) make the package a stand-alone 3D-QSPR product. More than 100 installations have been targeted as likely within 18 months of version 1.0 product release.
The project is developing an ultra-narrowband liquid crystal tunable filter (LCTF) as the basis of a Raman chemical imaging microscopy station for non-invasive chemical characterization of solid-state materials. The advantages in performance and practicality provided by this technique allow Raman chemical imaging to become a mainstream analytical methodology for the first time, accessible even to non-experts and applicable for routine industrial process monitoring and materials analysis. Raman chemical imaging has the capability to characterize heterogeneous systems without the need for significant sample preparation. Chemical imaging allows visualization of the composition and spatial distribution of constituents that dictate material function, which is fundamental to characterizing advanced composite materials. An optimized Raman imaging system based on an LCTF can readily be used to analyze a wide variety of materials, including polymers, corrosion resistant alloys, and pharmaceuticals. Researchers are constructing a high resolution filter and using it in a microscope to obtain Raman images from test samples.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A Raman chemical imaging system has broad applicability in the polymer and coatings industries for chemically specific visualization of domains and defects without the need for sample staining. In situ monitoring of corrosion in ferrous alloys is another important use, while a third application lies in quantitative studies of polymorphism in pharmaceutical crystalline materials.
Researchers are adapting the Multi Photon Detection (MPD) technology to high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) techniques, thereby significantly improving the detection limits of HPLC. Current HPLC sensitivity is limited by the performance of the detectors used, and is typically in the range of 10-12 g/ml. Preliminary experimental results suggest the possibility of achieving detection limits of better than 10-15 g/ml. The research focuses on the development of derivatizing agents and techniques to introduce MPD-compatible labels to analytes which are present at subattomole/ml concentrations. This effort yields an ultra-high sensitivity detector and reagents for research and analysis using HPLC. The HPLC/MPD system enables researchers to isolate, detect, and measure substances at levels which were previously unattainable.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Ultra-sensitive HPLC/MPD instrumentation facilitates the study of the role and function of biologically important substances such as neurotransmitters, steroidal hormones, angiotensins, and others. It also helps pharmacokinetic studies leading to a better understanding of drug interactions and the safety and effectiveness of new pharmaceuticals. Thus, HPLC/MPD instrumentation should find application in both academic and industrial laboratories.
The project addresses the national need to continuously measure the total mercury emissions from stationary sources such as incinerators and coal-fired boilers. The development of a compact sample conditioning system for the production of elemental mercury vapor from ionic mercury compound which can then be interfaced to a low-cost microsensor-based mercury vapor analyzer yields a unique combination of advantages to satisfy this need. The small sample size required by the microsensors in these instruments prolongs their useful lifetime in corrosive environments and simplifies any sample-conditioning requirements. They can be mass produced on silicon wafers using standard methods to significantly reduce costs, while achieving high reproducibility and minimizing calibration requirements. The research focuses on the development, evaluation, and optimization of the sample conditioning system for continuous monitoring of total mercury from stationary sources.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The successful development of the technology will result in a new generation of continuous total mercury monitoring systems with an unprecedented combination of features including ruggedness, low maintenance, rapid response, high sensitivity, compactness, and low cost. These new monitoring systems will be used to measure and verify reductions in mercury emissions from stationary sources as well as to perform water and soil analysis. Markets for the instrumentation include individual coal-fired power plants, municipal waste incinerators, industrial boilers, refineries, minerals processing and smelting facilities, metal fabrication shops, and the pulp and paper industry.
Robust biocatalysts are being prepared to endure extremes of temperature, pH, water tension (lyophilization), long term storage, and protease attack. Preparation methods are technically facile, economical of material and labor, and can be used to prepare enzymes for use in packed bed reactors. Important commercial enzymes are being used in the work, during ongoing consultation with manufacturers and users of commercial enzymes to ensure smooth and ready transition to commercial development.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: More robust enzyme preparation will find wide commercial applications related to food products, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, environmental remedia-tion, medical therapy and diagnosis, destruction of hazardous waste, pollution control and personnel protection.
This project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of improved copper-base alloys as inert, oxygen evolving anodes for aluminum electrowinning from molten cryolite-alumina. The search for an inert anode has previously focused mainly on ceramic oxides, cermets and in situ formed ceramic oxides. The most serious problems with these materials are: (1) dissolution into the cryolite with subsequent contamination of the product aluminum, and (2) mechanical fracture. An alternative approach is to use a material which actually thrives in the hostile molten salt/O2 environment. This concept was demonstrated recently by Sadoway and co-workers at MIT using metal anodes. Their work included experiments with binary Cu-Al alloys. Under oxygen evolution conditions, these alloys should form stable, protective A12O3-based films. However, the alloys employed by Sadoway exhibited only partial stability and suffered periodic film failure. This problem may be overcome by use of alternative copper-base alloys. The foundation for the approach is evidence in the literature over the past 25 years of improved alloy propertiesæchemical, physical, and mechanicalæ developed by the brass industry.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Electrowinning of aluminum consumes around 2-3% of U.S. electric power annually. According to Alcoa, retrofitting U.S. aluminum smelters with inert anodes could reduce energy consumption by 23%. Eliminating carbon anode use would also avoid formation of the perfluorocarbons CF4 and C2F6 greenhouse gases with a lifetime of >10,000 years in the atmosphere. U.S. aluminum producers have committed to reduce emission of these gases 40% by 2000.
The project demonstrates an innovative approach to detection of chlorinated hydrocarbons for continuous, in situ monitoring. Current methods of chemical analysis require that samples of contaminated soil or groundwater be collected and transported to a centralized laboratory for analysis. In the Phase I effort new solid phase reactants are developed which can be incorporated into controlled-release polymers for reagent delivery. The chemical basis for this approach is an outgrowth of the work of Fujiwara who first demonstrated that basic pyridine, when exposed to certain chlorinated hydrocarbons, developed an intense red color. Problems encountered with this assay include volatility of the pyridine reagent and the difficulty of containing it, consumption of the reagents during the reaction with the analyte, and poor long-term stability. This effort will eliminate many of these problems by developing solid phase reagent systems that have excellent long-term stability when combined with new controlled-release reagent delivery systems, and incorporated into an optical fiber probe. Reagent response to TCE and chloroform will be measured spectroscopically and verified when incorporated into a controlled-release polymer.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Ariano Technologies, Inc. believes that there is a significant market opportunity for accurate and reliable field deployable analytical instrumentation for in situ, continuous monitoring of chlorinated hydrocarbons. The instrumentation developed under this program will have immediate commercial application for the measurement of groundwater contaminants, monitoring the efficacy of environmental bioremediation efforts, unattended monitoring of stack discharges, and assuring workplace air quality.
This project is conducting background research and developing advanced in situ, gas sensors that are simultaneously extremely sensitive (parts-per-billion-volume (ppbv) or lower concentrations), and low in cost. These laser-based sensors are designed to meet the increasing demands for improved chemical characterization and monitoring instrumentation of gaseous species (molecules/atoms/radicals/ions) in chemical and environmental science applications. The unique properties of semiconductor diode lasers coupled with the high detection sensitivity and operational versatility of a new spectroscopic technique, intracavity laser spectroscopy (ILS), provide the technology innovation required to successfully address these applications. Innovative Lasers Corp. (ILC) has already used ILS technology to develop and market high-sensitivity gas sensors for the semiconductor manufacturing industry (e.g., for measuring micro-contamination such as <30 pptrillion water in nitrogen). In this Phase I research project, ILC is developing advanced ILS gas sensors which utilize semiconductor diode laser devices as ILS devices in place of more costly crystal lasers. In comparison to currently available ILS gas sensors based on crystal lasers, the new generation of semiconductor diode laser/ILS sensors will have: (1) substantially lower costs, (2) simplified operational parameters, and (3) expanded applicability while maintaining high detection sensitivity relative to any currently available gas sensors. During Phase I, ILC will utilize its established expertise in ILS technology to determine the specifications required for semiconductor diode laser/ILS gas sensors which are optimized for chemical characterization of chemically and environmentally important gaseous species under realistic processing conditions.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The research and development of semiconductor diode laser/ILS gas sensors provide new opportunities to design extremely sensitive, low-cost gas sensors that are operationally simple for applications to chemical and environmental sciences. Commercial markets for sensors include the semiconductor industry (e.g., micro-contamination monitoring, real time in situ detection of gaseous species, controlling the reactivity in chemical processing), monitoring combustion and plasma reactions used in the preparation of high quality deposited materials (e.g., flat panel display fabrication), the ultra-high purity gas supply industry, and the expanding fields associated with environmental monitoring and certification of legal compliance.
This project focuses on the development of analytic techniques for the integration of density functionals. In recent years, Density Functional Theory (DFT) has emerged as an accurate alternative first-principles approach to quantum mechanical molecular investigations, which is cost-effective compared with conventional correlated methods. Unfortunately, the approximate density functionals used in practice are quite complicated and numerical quadrature must be used for their integration. There are difficulties inherent to such grid-based methods which do not arise in methods where all the requisite integrals are evaluated analytically for example, as in Hartree-Fock theory. Unless great care is taken in the handling of the molecular grid, undesirable effects manifest themselves in the calculation. These various difficulties can be rigorously handled, but their improper treatment is a source of problems in most implementations. The goal of the Phase I feasibility study is to develop an analytically integrable density functional which yields a theoretical model chemistry similar to that of the Dirac Functional. Q-Chem will implement the resulting functional within their quantum chemistry computer program. If the Phase I research indicates that analytically integrable density functionals (AIDFs) may be both technically feasible and chemically useful, they will develop their approach further during Phase II to develop, implement and test more sophisticated AIDFs.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: There is a significant opportunity for considerable advancement beyond current technology in the evaluation of density functional integrals. Were a practical analytic method available, it would eliminate the spurious effects described above, and at the same time would be quite likely to improve the computation time for small- and medium-sized systems. The commercial benefits are apparent by measuring the substantial increase in both the quality of the results and the efficiency of the system resulting in increased research productivity and cost effectiveness.
This project focuses on the development of economically and environmentally advantageous solid acid catalysts for the gasoline alkylation process; a process whereby alkylate is generated by the reaction of butenes with isobutane to generate a highly branched C8 hydrocarbon. Alkylate, comprises over 12% of the gasoline pool and is one of best components of gasoline having high octane, low volatility, and clean burning characteristics. Consequently, demand is growing for this material. The strategy of this research will be to synthesize novel, non-volatile, easily separable solid acids with superacidic properties, characterize the materials and test them for alkylation acidity. Currently, alkylate is generated in acid catalyzed processes utilizing liquid sulfuric or liquid hydrofluoric acids. At any time, a typical plant sulfuric acid plant utilizes 2.5 million pounds of sulfuric acid while a hydrofluoric acid plant utilizes 200,000 pounds of this material. Particularly in the case of the volatile, highly toxic, hydrofluoric acid, these large quantities of toxic acids pose significant health and environmental issue. Additionally, these acids require frequent regeneration. In the case of sulfuric acid, a typical plant will generate 100 tons/day of spent acid that requires regeneration.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The replacement of these liquid acids with non-volatile, easily separated solid acid catalysts would provide refiners with a more economic option for producing high octane reformulated gasoline. Importantly, it would obviate the environmental problems associated with current processes. It is anticipated that the development of effective solid acid catalysts would have broad implication for the process industry as many industrial processes utilize acid catalysts.
This project is related to the development of new sensor materials for chemical characterization of multicomponent gas streams. There is a growing need for chemical sensors for the continuous, online monitoring of gaseous process and emission streams. Micron-sized devices that are sensitive, operate under the adverse conditions frequently required for many energy-related applications, and can discriminate species in multicomponent mixtures, are currently unavailable. The objective is to develop robust chemical sensing devices which will quantify the gas composition based on changes in the electrical conductivity of the transducer produced by adsorption of the target gas(es) and identify the species based on the temperature at which they desorb from the transducer surface as the transducer is heated linearly. T/J Technologies has identified conductive ceramics which hold great promise for use as sensor materials because they are refractory, possess high electrical conductivities, reversibly adsorb/desorb a number of gases of interest and can be produced in the form of high surface area films. Sensor transducers based on these materials will be amenable to miniaturization, highly selective, operable at extreme temperatures and inexpensive. The Phase I research demonstrates the feasibility of these materials by fabricating high surface area transducer films and evaluating their ability to detect and discriminate H2 and NO, common process gases. The films will be fabricated using proprietary methods developed at T/J Technologies. Changes in the electrical conductivity on adsorption of H2 and NO will be evaluated using the four point probe method and the ability to discriminate these gases will be determined using temperature programmed desorption techniques. The thermal and chemical stabilities will be evaluated in H2 and NO at temperatures up to 1000oC.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This project will lead to a new class of materials for online sensing of gaseous streams. These sensors will be based on materials which are ideal for operation in high temperature and corrosive environments. Process control and continuous emissions monitoring represent two broad areas of potential commercial application. Combustion based processes would benefit in both respects. For example, emissions feedback to engine control computers can both improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
The project concerns synthesis of polymer-based catalysts for methanol electro-oxidation to carbon dioxide, and uses a novel in situ electrochemical nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method for the catalyst characterization. This project addresses molecular principles of reactivity enhancement in heterogeneous oxidative electrocatalysis with bimetal Pt/Ru electrodes, and with the electrodes supplemented by ternary components. The objectives are to synthesize polypyrrole-embedded platinum-ruthenium nanoparticles to produce the efficient catalysis, and characterize the catalyst to understand how it works. The research is drawn upon recent scientific accomplishments in the realm of electrocatalysis such as: (1) the demonstration of promising CO poison-tolerant properties of polymer-embedded metal particles in methanol electro-oxidation, (2) the ability to reproducibly form micro- and nano-scale particles of platinum metals in conducting polymers, and (3) the progress in solid-state NMR and electro-analytical methodology in electrochemical surface science. Lynntech will study the particle size effect on the methanol oxidative electrocatalysis, as well as the particle composition in terms of the Pt/Ru ratio, and the addition of ternary copper and rhodium. Used will be polypyrrole-embedded platinum/ruthenium nanoparticles supported on a gold substrate. The principal methods of study will be voltammetry, chrono-amperometry, and electrochemical NMR. While the progress in the electro-analytical techniques is both well-documented and explored, the only published literature on the NMR-electrochemistry combination has been from one of the subcontractor laboratories at Urbana. This preliminary work completed to date opens up a broad array of possibilities for in situ examination of electrocatalytic materials. Taken together the developments projected will allow one to obtain high reactivity as well as new insights into the model fuel cell electrode process and oxidative heterogeneous electrocatalysis.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The insights derived from catalyst syntheses and overall systems characterization will be used as a future guide for preparing new alloy- and chemically-modified electrode materials in conducting polymeric matrices for poison-free current generation in DMFC devices. These DMFC devices would have great utility in mobile electric power and other applications requiring portable power sources. Scale-up of selected catalysts and commercialization will be proposed in Phase II of this program.
This project identifies new enzymes from thermophilic organisms suitable as stable off the shelf reagents for selectively and mildly installing chiral centers from corresponding carbonyl groups. There is great need in the chemical industry to develop catalytic methods capable of efficiently converting molecules to products without generating excessive waste streams or emissions. Molecular conservation methods based on biocatalyst reagents, such as dehydrogenase enzymes, offer opportunities to solve the challenges associated in industrial scale synthesis. Current dehydrogenase based technology is limited by the few available enzymes that have narrow substrate specificities, stabilities, or yield a single type of stereocenter for application on large scale. New dehydrogenase enzymes need to be developed in order to increase the chemo- and stereo-selectivity of different substrates from that which is currently available. Preliminary results indicate that dehydrogenases may be present in a number of extreme thermophiles that will be further investigated. Dehydrogenases have been identified as useful biocatalysts for chemical synthesis applications, particularly in the reduction of carbonyl groups to alcohols. They allow simplification of reactions that are difficult by traditional synthetic methodology. The highly stable biocatalysts that are being developed will add a variety of new dehydrogenase specificities to the synthetic chemist's toolbox.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Dehydrogenases have been identified as useful biocatalysts for chemical synthesis applications, particularly in the reduction of carbonyl groups to alcohols. They allow simplification of reactions that are difficult by traditional synthetic methodology. The highly stable biocatalysts that ThermoGen proposes to develop will add a variety of new dehydrogenase specificities to the synthetic chemist's toolbox.
Topic 3-Materials Research
This project demonstrates a unique diamond-based cold cathode electron source that contains a randomly distributed high density of emission sites, fast response time, low energy spread, and high thermal conductivity. Due to the novel structure described and use of diamond as the cathode material, this electron source should not be subject to built-in wear-out mechanisms of Spindt-type field emission cathodes, and should be relatively impervious to substrate poisoning by residual contamination. In Phase I, this firm is constructing this novel diamond-based electron source and testing the properties of this source by comparing performance with more traditional Spindt-type field emission cathodes.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The anticipated benefits of the material include reduced production costs and increased performance of field emission electron sources used in vacuum electronic devices, electron sources for electron microscopes, and electron sources for field emission flat panel display devices.
This project is oriented toward improvement of magnetic and tensile properties of phosphorus iron parts fabricated using the P/M process. The phosphorus irons fabricated using P/M technology are being widely used in industry today. They are formulated by admixing iron powder with Fe2P or Fe3P powder. During sintering, a liquid phase occurs at 1066oC (1950oF) which diffuses the phosphorus into solid solution in the iron. Problems exist in that only two powder producers sell the product, and large pores can remain in the sintered part, owing to the melting of the ferrophosphorus particles. Several attempts have been made to coat the phosphorus on the iron prior to sintering. The first attempt was to add P2O5 to methanol and spray it on the iron powder. The trial resulted in failure because the phosphorus did not reduce the oxide on the water atomized powder, and perhaps provided additional oxide which acted as a barrier. A second series of tests were made by introducing phosphine to the heated bed of iron powder. Although magnetic and tensile properties were significantly improved, phosphine is expensive, and safety precautions preclude its use. Red phosphorus is not a safety problem. If hydrogen is introduced to the heated iron powder, it will reduce the surface oxide. A clean surface would then be available to accept the phosphorus coating, and the particles could be coated inexpensively and with no safety concerns. It is believed that the same improvement in properties would result from this process.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: If the process is successful, Magna-Tech and Procedyne would consider construction of a plant to furnish coated phosphorus iron powder for commercial usage. Licensing of the process would also be considered. A market for the powder is already established. P/M phosphorus iron parts are currently widely used in fuel injectors and sensors in present day automobiles. They are also widely used for relays, solenoids and other magnetic devices. The introduction of a coated phosphorus iron powder to the marketplace would result in more efficient, reliable magnetic devices that would be lighter or more power efficient.
This project encompasses the research and development of a MM-wave sensor that remotely measures sheet resistivity in real time of Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) grown wafers. Manufacturing high performance semiconductor epitaxial wafers by MBE requires precision doping and layer thickness control to obtain optimum device and circuit performance. High reproducibility requires the precise doping and layer thickness to be the same every time. The wafer sheet resistivity is a key calibration parameter that indicates these variables are correct in the final wafer structure. The current approach used for monitoring this parameter is to measure the sheet resistivity on special calibration wafers outside the ultra-high vacuum (UHV) chamber of the MBE machine. If the sheet resistivity is out of specification, a new calibration run with adjusted growth conditions must be performed before the actual product wafers may be further processed. This entails extra loading and unloading of wafers through the load locks and generally results in production delays and lower MBE throughput. TLC's innovative MM-wave sensor approach eliminates all of this waste. The overall objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of in situ monitoring of sheet resistivity of GaAs or InP epitaxial wafers (typically used for MMICS) inside an MBE machine with an instrument located completely outside the UHV chamber. This capability will streamline the production process while providing superior performance and precise reproducibility of the epi-wafers at a reduced cost and higher throughput. This will allow consistent and reliable optimum devices and circuits (e.g., microwave and mm-wave integrated circuits) for various military and commercial system applications.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The development of a sheet resistivity sensor for in situ MBE measurements is of direct commercial interest to TLC for long-term product improvement and reduction of manufacturing costs for high volume production of GaAs and InP epitaxial wafers. The instrument's application, however, is not restricted to any one semiconductor material. It has potential use for any moderately to highly conducting epitaxial material grown on a host substrate including silicon.
Silicon carbide fibers stand out as a primary candidate among commercially available ceramic fibers that can be used as reinforcements to toughen ceramics for use at high temperatures. There are underlying sound technical and economic reasons why the presently available fibers have not made headway commercially. These fibers degrade both chemically and mechanically during manufacture of the ceramic matrix composite. The cost of these fibers can range from $500 to $1,000 per kg. depending upon the quality of the fiber and the quantity ordered. This high cost prohibits technical development of much needed ceramic matrix composites in a major way. The requirements for low-cost silicon carbide fiber manufacture by the procedures disclosed are rather simple: (1) low-cost silicon and carbon containing raw materials, (2) simple furnacing technique, and (3) complete avoidance of fiber spinning or drawing and sintering methodology or polymer chemical conversion technology and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) methods. This project addresses all of the above aspects including: (1) potentially low-cost production relative to existing technology due to the use of readily available, low-cost raw materials and novel furnacing technique involving relatively low technology that can be practiced worldwide, (2) potentially single-phase alpha or beta silicon carbide fiber that will withstand high temperature (>1400oC) use, and (3) relatively low risk in scale-up to large volume production methods.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Silicon carbide fibers made in this research will find application in ceramic composites used in heat exchangers and chemical reactors subject to high-temperature, high-pressure, and highly corrosive environments. They can also be used in ceramic composites for waste heat recovery air pre-heaters in aluminum re-melt facilities, ceramic radiant tubes in aluminum melting furnaces, and applications in high-temperature incineration of municipal and industrial waste systems. Other applications include hazardous and toxic waste containment vessels made of ceramic composites and high-temperature ceramic filters.
The primary objective is developing nonlinear optical (NLO) thin films on GaAs substrates. NLO films on GaAs offer a number of potential applications in integrated optics. With the thin film approach it is possible to develop an integrated optics technology in which light sources, nonlinear optical components and detectors may be developed on the same substrate. At present, the growth of device quality films on GaAs remains a major technological challenge. Until now, the performance of the NLO films on GaAs has not exceeded or equaled the performance of the bulk counterparts. Therefore an immediate need exists for an improved growth process for promoting superior quality films compared to those presently available. Also, for integration with GaAs, lower growth temperatures are required. The Phase I effort is to explore the potential of ion beam assisted pulsed laser deposition (IBPLD) as a new low temperature technique for the growth of high quality nonlinear optical films on GaAs substrates. The approach requires synthesis of NLO films by IBPLD technique and identification of critical process parameters that are compatible with GaAs processing leading to optimum nonlinear optical properties. As a prototype, KTa 0.52Nb0.48O3 films with a Tc of 88 C will be epitaxially deposited on GaAs substrates with MgO buffer layers and their nonlinear optical performance will be evaluated.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The nonlinear optical films on GaAs offer unique device possibilities in optical signal processing, optical computing and beam steering. The film process technology is generic and could lead to a new generation of integrated optical devices. For Neocera, the nonlinear optical thin film technologies and commercial IBPLD systems, as commodity products, could further expand the existing market base.
The primary objective of this project is to develop high temperature superconducting (HTS) films with a high power handling capability for high power RF and microwave components. RF and microwave passive components derived from HTS thin film technology offer several advantages in performance over the conventional metallic components. However, even though HTS thin film components exhibit very high-Q values, their power handling capability is often limited, imposing restrictions on the range of possible applications. Innovative approaches in HTS thin film process technology are required to obtain the film quality needed to overcome this problem. The approach combines improved thin film processing techniques with the design flexibility offered by a low dielectric constant substrate (MgF2) in achieving this goal. Ag-doped YBCO films on low dielectric constant MgF2 substrates (dielectric constant ~5.4) with Sr2(A1,T)aO6 structural template, addressed in this feasibility effort are expected to result in at least an order of magnitude enhancement in the RF power handling capability of the films relative to those currently available. Successful completion of Phase I will establish the materials base for a continuation Phase II effort wherein prototype devices will be fabricated.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: HTS films with a high power handling capability would enable the design of high power HTS filters, multiplexers and filter banks. The major reduction in volume and weight together with improved performance of such devices in emerging high performance transmit/receive systems is expected to outweigh the cost of cooling HTS circuitry to 77K.
The program studies the feasibility and develops the processing procedure for the construction of a high performance, high density, magneto-optical, reversible information storage media based on multilayer structures composed of a magnetic layer and a nonmagnetic metallic layer. A number of multilayer structures have been developed in the past. These include Pd/Co, Pt/Co, Pd/Fe, Tb/Fe, and Au/Co. These multilayer systems have shown performance superior to the traditionally used rare-earth-transition-metal alloys. All the multilayer structures proposed in the past use the conventional thin film deposition processes of evaporation or sputtering to deposit the thin films. As the required structures must consist of ultra-thin (one or two monolayers) with ultra-sharp, ultra-smooth interfaces and no interdiffusion between the layers can be tolerated, the vapor deposition processes, currently in use, cannot achieve the surface roughness requirements of RMS values in the single Angstrom range. The proprietary deposition process, WIT-TIFID, developed by World-wide, can provide all the above required thin film qualities essential for high performance devices. This program will develop the WIT-TIFID deposition process for magnetic metal multilayer structures (MMMS) to be used in magneto-optical (MO) recording media applications and show the advantages and superior performance capabilities of the WIT-TIFID magnetic metal multilayer structures (MMMS) for applications in high performance, high density, reversible, information storage media technology.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: High density reversible (read/write) memory; digital videodisc (DVD) high density compact disc; memory systems; gas sensors/hydrocarbon sensors; photoelectrods; and water decomposition are among the commercial applications possible.
The project addresses novel vertical Bridgman growth of ferroelectric tungsten bronze materials which are known to have large electro-optic and photorefractive effects. They comprise a class of optical materials that are very promising for applications such as tunable holographic wavelength filtering, holographic mass data storage, electro-optic modulation and beam steering, phase conjugation, and integrated optical switching. Most tungsten bronze crystals are currently grown by the Czochralski method where the main problems are refractive index striations, diameter instability, and susceptibility to volatilization loss of hazardous constituents. Striations can cause significant light scattering and degrade device performance. They arise from spurious growth rate fluctuations, principally due to temperature variations at the melt-solid interface. The dominant source of these variations is crystal rotation in a non-axisymmetric temperature profile. A vertical Bridgman system for growing SBN and PBN is being developed because this method inherently avoids crystal rotation and minimizes buoyancy-driven melt convection, thereby minimizing striations. Furthermore, the crystal diameter is determined by the crucible walls so that diameter instability is not an issue, and volatilization can be eliminated by using a sealed-crucible technique.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Vertical Bridgman growth of SBN, PBN, and other tungsten bronze crystals provides higher optical quality samples with larger sizes and significantly lower cost. This technology will help to further advance numerous electro-optic and photorefractive applications.
Developers are synthesizing a C3N4 phase and developing a method to stabilize the C3N4 films. The synthesis and processing of superhard materials based on sound theoretical predictions and preliminary experimental results are being reassessed and it is believed that the hardest material which can be synthesized is based on a combination of B, C, and N. However, materials and compounds based on these elements are metastable at standard pressures and temperatures. Therefore, a novel, nonequilibrium method is needed to process and synthesize them. Such methods, including ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD) and deposition from electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) are being developed. Based on theoretical work at the University of California at Berkeley, ß-C3N4 should be harder than diamond. At the TMS meeting the synthesis of C-N films with a hardness about half that of diamond and a smoothness of about 0.5 nm was documented. These films are adherent on most substrates, including steel and magnetic thin-film materials (as in computer disks), however, there is no direct evidence of a carbon nitride phase. IBAD is an advanced, low-temperature, thin-film deposition process combining evaporation with simultaneous ion bombardment; it is capable of depositing adherent films on virtually any substrate. Carbon nitride films using IBAD are deposited with an ionized-vapor source for carbon. Stress is the major obstacle in the formation of thick films with the theoretically expected hardness value; stress reduction is being addressed by a number of methods, including the introduction of a third element such as boron.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A process designed to deposit super-hard films on essentially any shape substrate has extremely high commercial promise. Carbon nitride films are inexpensive, extremely hard and scratch resistant, and easily applied to metal surfaces or polymers.
Developers are performing research relating to superior reinforcing agents in a robust structural composite. This concept fosters a new class of reinforced materials with superior resistance to fracture when compared to conventional materials reinforced with platelets, whiskers, and continuous fibers. These conventional materials have failed to deliver the strength and toughness necessary to overcome market resistance to so-called "brittle" materials. Major increases in fracture resistance of matrix materials by close-packing these novel particles so that, unlike the two-dimensional or planar toughness of conventional reinforcements, true three-dimensional toughness is obtained. Unlike platelets, whiskers, and continuous fibers, these reinforcements are inherently sound architecturally, and nest, or pack together, on a co-planar basis. The resulting crack path between these reinforcements is highly tortuous and three-dimensional. This solution to the strength and toughness problems of conventional ceramics offers lower cost manufacturing possibilities as well as improved lifetime.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Potential uses of the results of this research include: (1) refractory composites for the heat treating industry for bricks, castables, gunnables, and monolithic linings; (2) cementitous matrix composites for radioactive or hazardous waste containment; (3) high strength-to-weight composites for critical load-bearing industrial construction applications; (4) road repair materials; and (5) critical aircraft takeoff and landing area materials.
The project is aimed at developing an understanding of, and modifications to, the surface state, surface chemistry, and development of sizings for vapor-grown carbon fibers for interface control in composites. Polymer matrix composites generally require a high degree of fiber-matrix adhesion in order to provide good composite strength and toughness. The majority of commercial reinforcing fibers, both carbon and glass, are treated during or after manufacture with various surface treatments as well as a sizing to increase compatibility with and bonding to the matrix polymer. A new class of carbon fiber is being developed and produced in pilot scale quantities. This vapor-grown carbon fiber (VGCF) holds the promise of a highly graphitic fiber reinforcement at costs significantly lower than other carbon fibers. However, due to the high graphitization of this fiber, the fiber surface is generally unreactive and will not bond with polymer matrices. Various treatments are being evaluated for their effect in enabling fiber/matrix bonding in polymer matrix composites. Specifically, various degrees of surface oxidation are being effected onto the fibers followed by application of commercial sizings. The surface chemistry is being quantified and verified from composite testing.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: As a low-cost fiber, VGCF can be used as a composite reinforcement for many elastomeric and polymeric matrices. The solution of the problem of low fiber-matrix adhesion allows for the development of, at least one, commercially viable material for use in automotive parts, materials requiring EMI shielding, and innovative composites requiring small diameter fibers.
New glassy, high free volume fluoropolymers which show very high permeability to permeant gases, low permeability to volatile organics, good selectivity and excellent stability are described. The glassy nature allows easy fabrication into high flux non-porous thin film membranes. These unique fluoropolymers allow fabrication of novel and valuable membrane structures. Researchers are evaluating various fabrication techniques to develop a three layer super thin film composite membrane with both high selectivity and high flux. An ability to fabricate thin films (less than 0.5 micron) of glassy fluoropolymer onto microporous supports is being demonstrated. By placing a super thin layer of high selectivity polymer on top of the non-porous glass fluoropolymer, researchers are fabricating membranes with both high selectivity and high flux. Techniques to establish this super thin layer include: (1) chemical modification of surface, (2) coating of ultra-thin layer on surface, and (3) densification of top layer.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Based on the excellent film forming capability, excellent gas flux, and high selectivity of this glassy fluoropolymer, applications include production of oxygen enriched air for: (1) industrial applications (i.e., glass/steel); (2) enhanced automotive power, fuel efficiency, and reduced pollution; and (3) enhanced heating efficiency. The excellent chemical stability is being used in harsh chemical gas separations like H2/Cl2 in chlor-alkali processes, or HF-fluorine.
Researchers are exploiting a new type of neural net called a Fuzzy CMAC to improve the accuracy of images captured using scanning probe microscopes (SPMs). Scanning probe microscopes provide the ability to view materials down to atomic dimensions, and this ability is becoming increasingly important in many industries. A primary source of error in the images obtained from atomic force microscopes is caused by probe geometry. Probe calibration systems use mathematical models to compute the geometry of the probe based on measurements of known samples. The force sensed by the atomic force microscope does not depend only on the interaction between the surface of the probe and the sample. All of the forces involved depend nonlinearly on the shape, size, magnetization, electrostatic charge, and on other characteristics of the probe. Researchers are validating the feasibility of the fuzzy CMAC based error compensation approach for atomic force microscopes. The beauty of using a neural-net approach, and particularly a Fuzzy CMAC, is that it is not necessary to develop a closed form relationship between the measurements made on the standard sample and a model of the probe geometry. All that is necessary is to scan the standard sample providing enough learning sets to train the net. Likewise it is not necessary to develop closed form relations to exploit a computed error model to correct measured data. The output of the Fuzzy CMAC generates the correction values in real-time based on the learned relationship between ideal and measured data.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Scanning probe microscope worldwide sales are increasing at approximately 40 to 60% per year, and they are being used in an increasing number of industries. The technology will improve the accuracy of these machines and increase a user's ability to observe the atomic structure of whatever they are producing.
Researchers are developing new materials for optical recording. At present, no optical-recording material is available that meets all of the requirements for important applications such as optical data storage, high-resolution spatial light modulators, and reconfigurable optical interconnects. The ideal optical-recording material would have high resolution, permanent information storage, read-without-erase capability, high sensitivity, high photochemical and thermal stability, and optical erase capability. Photochromic materials are promising optical-recording materials since they exhibit high resolution, are easy to fabricate, are inexpensive, and are relatively sensitive to recording light. However, information recorded in current photochromic materials cannot be read without erasure unless a different wavelength of light is used for reading and recording. The recorded information also tends to fade with time and use, and the materials photodegrade. The researchers are overcoming the limitations of existing optical-recording materials through the development of a novel photochromic material that meets all of the requirements for optical recording. They are demonstrating that information can be permanently recorded into this material and subsequently read without erasure using the same wavelength of light. This is being accomplished by developing a novel, reversible fixing method. In addition, they will show that recorded information can be erased and rerecorded.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The successful development of the optical-recording material enables the production of high-density optical memories with the potential to store 1 terabit of information within a volume as small as 1 cm3. Very-high-resolution spatial-light modulators, reconfigurable optical interconnects, holographic recording materials, and optical-switching materials would also benefit from this material.
Displaytech is synthesizing materials with negative birefringence which can be used to decrease the birefringence of LC mixtures. This allows thicker cells, which will increase the yields and minimize display problems due to minor variances in cell thickness. The birefringence of liquid crystals generally falls with increasing wavelength (a property called birefringence dispersion), but the optimal birefringence for a fixed pathlength rises with increasing wavelength. This leads to chromatic behavior in LC displays. Also addressed is synthesizing LC materials with negative birefringence dispersion, which can be used to greatly decrease the chromicity of LC displays. There are many immediate ramifications of developing a liquid crystal with negative birefringence dispersion. For instance, liquid crystal shutters would no longer suffer from such severe chromatic disturbances; optical filters would be much more color-balanced and provide more free spectral range; polarization interference filters would need fewer stages and be less expensive while transmitting more light; and Fabry-Perot tunable filters could be made using liquid crystal SLMS.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The following are applications of the research: creating liquid crystal shutters without chromatic disturbances; making optical filters more color balanced and having more spectral range; providing benefits to polarization interference filters; and making Fabry-Perot tunable filters using liquid crystal SLMS.
This project investigates plasma polymerization as an alternative to spin coating of organic antireflective coatings (ARCs). In this method, the ARC is being formed directly on the substrate to alleviate the problems associated with spin coating. Phase I focuses on achieving defect-free, highly conformal coatings on semiconductor substrates using existing plasma-depositable polymer materials and processes. The studies will answer the basic process feasibility questions and establish material and process benchmarks for product specific technology advancements in Phase II. IC manufacturers have consistently pursued the use of larger wafer sizes and smaller device features to improve product yield, reduce unit cost, and increase on-chip computing power. Reducing substrate reflectivity to less than 1% during photoresist exposure will be critical for maintaining dimensional control at these feature sizes. Spin coated ARCs offer excellent reflectivity control but are limited by uniformity, defectivity, and conformality problems stemming from the spin coating process. The long-term goal of this work is to introduce a turn-key ARC product package containing: (1) a dedicated deposition tool, (2) a set of plasma-depositable polymer materials designed specifically for ARC applications, and (3) processes for depositing organic ARCs on a variety of device structures.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The availability of high performance organic ARCs is critical for the successful implementation of deep UV(248 and 193 nm) microlithographic processes by U.S. and foreign chip makers over the next 10 years. The international market for deep UV ARC materials is estimated to grow to $25 MM by 2005. The effort will build a technology platform for assuring the availability of organic ARC processes after the usefulness of spin coated ARCs has been surpassed.
The goal of this project is to identify and demonstrate a new idea and design for an ellipsometry mapping instrument, which will be applied to processing control of semiconductor wafers and flat panel displays. The conventional point-measurement-based ellipsometry is widely used for semiconductor thin film thickness and dielectric constant characterization. However, fast in-line wafer mapping by ellipsometry, which should be desirable in semiconductor processing control, has been impractical.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The idea and design, if proved, will originate a new generation of ellipsometry instrumen-tation, which is non-destructive, fast for in-line mapping, suitable for any large size semiconductor wafers or flat panel displays, and will be a breakthrough in the semiconductor instrumentation market.
This project is developing and evaluating independent strategies for extending operating lifetimes of SQUlDs fabricated from YBa2Cu3O7 step-edge junctions. Two strategies are being evaluated in Phase I. The first strategy is to find a coating that is suitable for protecting Josephson junctions and is compatible with flip chip technology. The second approach is to fabricate step-edge junctions from the corrosion resistant phase of Yl-xCaxBa2-yLayCu3O7 and Gdl-xCaxBa2LayCu3O7 compounds. Corrosion is particularly problematic during the fabrication and operation of step-edge Josephson junctions and the strategies developed in this work will be applicable to a large range of devices fabricated from cuprate superconductors. One of the most serious problems that has limited the commercialization of YBa2Cu3O7 devices are their lack of environmental stability. The cuprate superconductor YBa2Cu3O7 tends to degrade rapidly when exposed to the ambient atmosphere through corrosion reactions caused by H2O and CO2. These corrosion problems severely limit the lifetimes of electronic devices fabricated from YBa2Cu3O7. The current generation of cuprate-based devices are very susceptible to corrosion and have a very limited lifetime. The research is intended to lead to new technologies for the fabrication of robust superconducting electronics.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: These devices may find application in a number of diverse areas such as MRI, NMR, magnetic sensing, and low noise electronics.
This project is developing high-power mid-IR CW semiconductor laser diodes. The mid-IR laser diode is being grown via MOCVD on an InP substrate using a novel technique that overcomes the strain limitation on wavelength in the InP system. By making use of the well-developed technology for the growth and fabrication of InP-based lasers, high power, low-threshold and efficient lasers will be obtained in this previously inaccesible wavelength range.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The development of mid-IR lasers will have important applications for gas monitoring, LIDAR systems, and Infrared countermeasures. Growth of these long wavelength lasers by MOCVD will enable large scale production and, hence, reduce the cost of these devices.
This project is elucidating the relative and absolute importance of materials and process hardening on the superconducting performance and microstructure of Bi-2223 composite tape using a fundamental approach and a simple conceptual framework. Commercially viable high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wire must have high Jc performance and low cost. In this program, American Superconductor Corporation is partnering with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a novel deformation processing scheme through which this goal can be achieved. If successful, this information will be used to develop an innovative deformation process that provides the benefits of pressing while maintaining the cost advantages of rolling.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Successful completion of this program will have broad impact on all HTS conductor applications, and especially those that require long and continuous lengths with high Jc performance. HTS applications have a multibillion dollar market potential in products integral to electric power generation, distribution, transportation, machinery, energy storage and other uses for both military and commercial systems. Specific HTS systems and components include power transmission cables, motors, generators, fault current limiters, and transformers.
A low cost process for producing low carbon content, submicron scale HTSC powders is being developed. The work is based on modifications to a patented PSIT process for producing nanophase ceramic powders, a process which allows chemical flexibility, chemical purity, and high yield. In Phase I, efforts will be exerted to the production of bismuth-based BiSrCaCuO family of superconductors (BSCCO). The discovery of high temperature superconductors (HTSC) produced from mixed metal oxides has opened new possibilities for improving the efficiency of power generation and transmission and developing energy-efficient transportation devices as well as sensitive and accurate instrumentation. Extensive commercial application of HTSC components, however, depends on maintaining acceptable production costs along with the appropriate physical properties. In Phase I, a mixture of appropriate HTSC precursor inorganic compounds with organic carrier liquid will be sprayed into a combustion system that includes a gas flame and an externally heated furnace. Oxidation of the organic carrier liquid in the mixture droplets will allow the decomposition of the chemical precursors, followed by vaporization and/or diffusion into the gas phase. Subsequent condensation of submicron particulate will lead to the formation of HTSC powders. Because of the expected submicron size of the HTSC powder, fabrication into thin HTSC wire using the powder in tube technique is expected to be straightforward.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The development of a low cost process for the production of low carbon content, submicron high temperature superconducting powders has potentially broad applications: superconducting wires for power transmission, motors, generators, magnets for commercial and industrial use such as medical diagnostic and radiofrequency devices. Other applications include high speed magnetic levitation trains and advanced ship drive systems, infrared sensors, etc.
The first turn-key, self-shielded accelerator-based intense positron beam source for use in research and industrial laboratories is being developed. Positron beams are powerful diagnostic probes for the nondestructive evaluation of metals, semiconductors, and polymers as well as for fundamental investigations of materials structure. A major impediment to the further development and use of positron-based diagnostics is the present lack of suitable sources of intense (>107 e+/sec) slow positron beams. Presently-available radioisotope or electron LINAC sources are much too large and expensive for use in a laboratory or industrial environment. The source being investigated is based on a new approach to the generation of intense slow positron beams: the production of the short-lived ß+ -emitter 13N via the light ion reaction 12C(d,n)13N. A compact, low energy deuteron accelerator with a specially-designed target and tungsten moderator will provide slow positron fluxes of greater than 107 e+/sec. A field assisted moderator which has the potential for providing >108 e+/sec will also be investigated. The Phase I study will determine the maximum positron beam intensity which is feasible with this source. The availability of the source facilitates the more widespread use of positron-based diagnostic techniques for semiconductors and metals.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The initial market for the 13N-based intense slow positron source will be university and industrial laboratories in the U.S. and abroad which are already using positron beams. If these techniques come into routine use, the customer base for a diagnostic instrument based on this source may include the majority of semiconductor manufacturing facilities.
This project further develops the use of Pr:YLF as a unique lasing crystal specifically for pulsed laser holography. In this project a method of pumping Pr:YLF with pulses of blue laser light derived from the frequency doubled output of a Cr:LiSAF laser is outlined. Outputs in red, green and blue will permit true color pulsed laser holography for the first time.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Applications for a pulsed laser capable of producing color holograms are extensive. Medical imaging, particularly for diagnosis of the human eye, as well as display holography and replacement of helium cadmium lasers are just a few of the applications this firm plans to explore.
A technology for vacuum deposited high temperature SMA thin film for micro-electro-mechanical (MEM) systems is being developed. During the past seven years, the company pioneered and refined the process for producing sputtered films of Nitinol. These films exhibit physical and mechanical characteristics identical and even better than those of conventional forms of TiNi. Perhaps most importantly, the process of thin film deposition is compatible with that for Si micromachining offering a unique possibility for the mass production of highly integrated microdevices using SMA actuators. The objective of this Phase I research effort is to take advantage of the benefits of sputtering technique to obtain high temperature SMA actuators. Foils with a wide range of thickness (1 to 20 microns) and composition will be produced for testing purposes and for use as actuators for fluid and gas microvalves designed by TiNi Alloy. The experimental program includes: variation of deposition rates; choosing an appropriate crystallization temperature for optimizing transformation intervals, thermal stability and mechanical properties; films thickness measurements; four probe resistivity measurements for localization of transformation ranges; testing of high temperature actuators in real devices. The Phase I final report will provide detailed information about the above-mentioned items and a recommendation as to possible applications for high temperature thin film actuators.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Production of high temperature sputtered thin films will result in a great increase in application suitable for shape memory alloys. Reliable and fast acting latching/release mechanisms, miniature resetable circuit breakers, safety devices, strip and membrane valve actuators are just some of the potential uses for this material.
46. High Pressure Sintering of Nanocrystalline Diamond Compacts-
This project addresses sintering of "binderless" Nanocrystalline Diamond Compacts (NDCs). Sintering is performed using an advanced high pressure/high temperature synthesis method with capabilities of 15 GPa at 1800oK. Currently, Polycrystalline Diamond Compacts (PDCs) are produced commercially from 20-70 micron size diamond powder by high pressure compaction methods, using metal binders (Co, Si, Ni). Use of the metal binder reduces the thermal stability of the compacts, while use of large diamond powder particles reduces the toughness and ductility. This limits the applications for the PDCs. Diamond Materials is developing an economical method for fabricating Nanocrystalline diamond Compacts (NDCs), without any binder from diamond nanoparticle powders. The hardness and toughness of the material should match those of naturally formed polycrystalline diamond-"carbonado." The ultra-fine grained diamond compacts are candidate materials for precision manufacturing tools, which can be used for high rate machining and fabrication of hard materials. In Phase I, they are demonstrating the feasibility of producing test samples of NDCs using highly purified nanodiamond powder as starting material, and their in-house ultra-high pressure unit for powder compaction purposes. They will determine the physical and mechanical, properties of the NDC samples, and develop Phase II processing strategies.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Routine production of large volumes of binderless nanocrystalline diamond compacts will significantly improve the performance of cutting tools in terms of high temperature stability and precision.
This project is preparing bilayers and trilayers of thin film electrochromic metal oxides and analyzing their spectro-electrochemical properties. In particular, the feasibility of achieving a flat gray scale electrochromic modulation and a three color electrochromic element is being explored. These materials are being incorporated into electrochromic window and display configurations currently under development. Successful completion will lead to at least two novel electrochromic products: (1) a high readability information display with two or more color capability, and (2) a neutral gray scale light transmission modulation coating for windows and other glass products. Electrochromic materials change their optical spectrum reversibly when electrochemically cycled between oxidized and reduced forms. Addressed is a new concept in electrochromic material design in which the selection of light attenuation wavelength range is much broader than is presently possible. The innovation is based on using bilayer and multilayer contiguous thin films of electrochromic inorganic oxides. It is anticipated that the multilayers will be in thermodynamic equilibrium, so that the total spectrum will be determined by the electrochemical potential of the assembly and the thicknesses of the contiguous layers. These considerations result in the possibility for design of electrochromic color and achievement of several colors depending on the applied potential.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The major commercial applications of electrochromic technology include: information displays; filters for optics, photography and electronic imaging; military low observable applications; ophthalmic eyewear and sunglasses; automobile mirrors, sunroofs, and glass; atria glass; and architectural glass for all kinds of buildings from passive solar dwellings to large office complexes.
This project examines a new material, indium-thallium-phosphide (InTlP), which has been suggested as an alternative to mercury-cadmium-telluride (HgCdTe) for long wavelength infrared (8-12 micrometers) detectors for infrared focal plane arrays applications. Theoretical calculations suggest that addition of Tl to InP can reduce the bandgap of InP from 1.35 eV (0.9 micrometers) to less than 0-0.1 eV, i.e., around 8-12 micrometers. Though these theoretical predictions have yet to be verified (since InTlP has not been made by any growth technique), preliminary results for InT1Sb have demonstrated that InT1Sb films can be grown by metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) and that addition of Tl to InSb can reduce the bandgap to 0.15 eV (8 micrometers). InTIP is expected to have properties superior to InTlSb, including complete solid solubility over the entire alloy phase diagram, a near lattice-match to InP, and the potential for integration of detector arrays and InP read-out circuitry. Further, InTlP offers many potential advantages over HgCdTe and III-V quantum well infrared photo-detectors (QWIPs); it has higher mechanical strength, lower substrate cost, and better compositional uniformity than HgCdTe. In comparison to QWlPs, it offers normal incidence detection and higher quantum efficiency. The objective of Phase I is to demonstrate InTlP photoconductive detectors operating at two different wavelengths beyond 2 micrometers (less than .5 eV). High performance detectors based on T1-based alloys will provide a low-cost replacement for HgCdTe infrared focal plane arrays.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: In addition to yielding a new class of more economical IR detectors, this material system can be useful for lasers operating in the mid-wavelength infrared (MWIR) and long-wavelength infrared (LWIR) regions, and for industrial and biomedical thermography.
A novel z-axis connector technology using microporous materials is addressed. Aluminum plates, ~0.05-0.5 mm thick, would be anodized to form microporous alumina with densely packed, straight vertical (z-axis) pores of submicron diameters, and length to diameter ratios exceeding 500. When the pores are plated up with metals, the plates would have very high resistivity along the plane of the plate, and very low resistivity through the plate thickness, thereby enabling reliable z-axis connections between two planar circuit arrays, on submicron circuit elements. Such a mass connector between two semiconductor circuits would be low cost, scale-to-large areas, provide micron-scale connections, and require no precision alignment between the connected circuits. With development in microporous alumina and silicon, it may be possible to form z-axis connections between microcircuits in a growth/deposition process, forming the connection directly on microcircuits without mechanical placement steps between circuits.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Anticipated benefits include: (1) the connection of dense arrays of microsensors, such as pressure, temperature or light sensor "pixels," to a rear read-out chip containing signal processing, A-D conversion, etc. ("smart pixels"); (2) vertically stacked (z-stacked) VLSI circuits, such as memories, or processor and cache stacks of very high density; and (3) large flat panel displays, for example by connecting thin film transistor arrays to LCD active matrix pixels reliably over a large area.
Combustion Chemical Vapor Deposition (CCVDSM), which was invented by the principal investigator, is the only open atmosphere CVD technique for ceramics. The CCVD method has been shown to inexpensively and quickly apply dense, adherent, epitaxial thin films in a continuous manner. This technology can be used for the production of lanthanum phosphate and beta-aluminate coated thermostructural composite fibers for stability and toughened behavior in mullite matrix composites. The CCVD method is low cost, high quality and versatile. It does not require a reaction chamber or furnace, yet the thin films produced are comparable in quality to CVD films, and allows fibers to be easily passed through a deposition zone for multilayered, production line coatings. CVD quality films of numerous materials using CCVD in the open atmosphere have been produced. This allows for easy handling of fiber tows which is a major problem for other existing coating techniques. In this project, thin films of lanthanum phosphate and beta-alumina will be grown onto flat substrates and fibers using CCVD. The composition, morphology, microstructure, and mechanical properties of the films will be determined as a function of deposition conditions. A series of run studies will be performed to optimize the process and demonstrate reproducibility. This research will demonstrate the ability of CCVD to inexpensively deposit high quality lanthanum phosphate and beta-aluminate thin films for use in composite applications.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Traditional CVD coating of ceramic fibers is slow, difficult and expensive, and requires a specially designed furnace. In contrast, the CCVD technology offers the ability to coat multiple fibers without specialized equipment or environments. 3M needs a technique for the production of low cost, high quality lanthanum phosphate and beta-aluminate films on fibers for high temperature protective and structural composites in mullite matrix composites. For these reasons, the CCVD technology is well-positioned to be used in the development of composites for fan blades, cylinder inserts, brake rotors and related applications.
This project performs an in-depth investigation of the phosphorus implantation and the pulsed excimer laser annealing steps in order to make this approach a commercially viable process for producing thin n+ contacts on large HPGE detectors. High purity germanium (HPGE) detectors are the most widely used devices for high resolution x-ray and y-ray spectroscopy, and these detectors are currently used in diverse applications such as nuclear physics, environmental monitoring, high energy physics experimentation, materials science studies, geophysical exploration, and y-ray astronomy. One of the long-standing problems in the germanium technology is the lack of a thin n+-type contact, which prevents fabrication of detectors with high detection efficiency for low energy x-rays from p-type germanium crystals. It is important to solve this problem because p-type material is generally cheaper than n-type material and is more readily available in larger volumes. Also, p-type detectors have better charge collection properties in close end coaxial structures than n-type detectors. Recently, this firm has successfully produced thin n+-type contact on HPGE detectors by implanting phosphorus in germanium, and then using pulsed laser annealing to remove implantation damage.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Successful fabrication of the contacts would increase the energy range over which p-type germanium detectors can be used and would also allow fabrication of complex detector designs such as monolithic arrays. Thus the HPGE detectors with the new n+ contacts can be used in nuclear physics, astronomy, environmental monitoring, synchrotron studies, nuclear safeguards and verification, and geophysical exploration.
Topic 4-Mathematical Sciences
This project provides an innovative method that can be used to solve multidimensional (4-D) inverse scattering problems (ISPS) in diffusion tomography, without artifacts. In this program, Physical Optics Corp. (POC) addresses a new inverse technique with rigorously established global convergence, called the Globally Optimized Inverse Method (GOIM). The GOIM is based on the globally convex cost function (and Carleman's estimates). This will provide for the first time, the solution of time-dependent inverse problems in 3-D space for strongly-scattering media. A backscattering inverse problem for Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is used as a quantitative example, and potential application scenario in Phase II. In Phase I, POC is developing a time-effective inverse numerical technique based on layer-stripping procedure, applicable to real-life opto-medical, Radar, NDE and seismic scenarios. Its features will be evaluated in the context of electromagnetic wave source type, specific technical parameters of a sensing device (including the grid structure of the boundary value set), and the computer power required (for either workstations, PCs, or parallel computers).
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The GOIM can be applied to novel diffusion tomography (DT) devices that can effectively (i.e., with a minimal number of grid points) evaluate, for the first time, either backscattered GPR waves, or diffuse photons in turbid media; thus, providing an entirely new category of advanced DT devices applicable to nuclear waste monitoring, seismic activity monitoring, aging aircraft NDE monitoring, and early breast cancer diagnostics.
Researchers are developing a parallel algorithm for a newly developed adaptive Cartesian/prism grid flow solver on distributed memory parallel machines. A global Generalized Minimal RESidual algorithm (GMRES) is being utilized in combination with an explicit multigrid preconditioner to drive flow to steady state. A hybrid domain decomposition method, i.e., a recursive eigenvector bisection (RSB) method on the coarsest grid and a divide and conquer type local cell migration method (LCM) on the finest grid, is being implemented to balance load on the finest grid. The strategy ensures that the original structure of the coarsest grid is not destroyed with domain decomposition. Overlap of one cell deep at each multigrid level between domains is provided for data communication. Message passing will be provided through PVM. In addition, a novel communication and computation overlap (CCO) procedure is being developed to achieve data synchronization and zero wait time by processors. Since both the GMRES algorithm and the explicit multigrid preconditioner can be effectively parallelized, the overall approach performs very well on distributed memory parallel machines, both homogeneous and heterogeneous.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The automatic grid generation and load balancing approaches drastically reduce the overhead cost associated with grid generation and domain decomposition for parallel computers. The parallelizable GMRES multigrid solution algorithm is ideally suited for distributed memory machines and is expected to further speed up convergence of flow to steady state.
Investigated is the implementation of a detailed model of turbulent mixing and reaction into a comprehensive reacting flow code. The overall objective involves demonstration of the feasibility of coupling the Linear Eddy Model (LEM) of scalar transport in turbulent flows with a model for momentum transport based on the Reynolds averaged Navier Stokes equations. The LEM has been shown to provide a physically realistic representation of turbulent mixing in a number of geometries involving reactive and nonreactive flows. Finite-rate kinetics is being implemented using an approach based on the intrinsic low-dimensional manifold method or a reduced mechanism. Feasibility of the overall methodology is based on a comparison of model predictions of species concentrations, temperature distribution, and effects of changes in mixing parameters to existing experimental data for a jet diffusion flame.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Reaction Engineering International (REI) currently uses and markets three software packages for the computer simulation of turbulent reacting flows. REI continuously develops and applies these tools to aid in the design and manufacture of advanced combustion systems. Incorporating the mixing and reaction submodel, that is the subject of this research, into the reacting flow codes will provide more accurate predictions of trace pollutant species generated in a combustion process. This improved capability will increase the applicability of the tools and the potential to attract additional outside investment to further develop and demonstrate these modeling tools. These tools will be particularly useful in the development of new low emission burner systems for process heaters used in Chemical Process Industry. The improved tools will be accessible to industry via product sales and consulting services provided by REI.
This project develops, formalizes, and extends the mathematical theory and computational algorithms for the h-p adaptive meshless analysis method. The feasibility of the method for removing all need for a computational mesh to solve discrete forms of mathematical models of interdisciplinary physical systems is being determined. Asymptotically correct error estimation techniques and combined refinement and higher-order adaptivity are being developed. The combination of error estimation and adaptivity within the context of a meshless environment will eliminate the need for the analyst (scientist/engineer) to determine numerical accuracy of computational simulations. The method's mathematical properties include full polynomial reproducibility, local interpolation, high-order (spectral) accuracy, and Coo basis functions; moreover, the spatial (and potentially temporal) discretization is represented by a simple open covering of the physical domain, and thus can be fully automated. Completion of this research effort will result in a major advance in the area of computational simulation, with the potential for replacing existing software using finite element and finite difference techniques. Solution of difficult problems involving moving/deforming domains will be enabled by the new technology due to its meshless properties. Commercial benefit to the U.S. economy is enormous due to the removal of the manpower-intensive mesh generation process, and the ability to quantify and minimize the error in computational simulations. Emerging concepts such as Virtual Testing and Virtual Prototyping will be enabled by the research.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The research and development effort will result in new mathematical theory, computational algorithms and prototype implementations of all object-oriented problem-solving environment implementing the method for emerging high-performance computer architectures. Commercial applications of the technology will include a suite of object-oriented, interdisciplinary, scientific and engineering analysis software systems for structural analysis, computational fluid dynamics, computational electromagnetics, multidisciplinary optimization, environ-mental sciences, climate modeling, and semiconductor simulation. All computational simulations being performed using traditional techniques can potentially benefit from the research.
This project is developing compact, low-cost, ultra-narrow bandwidth holographic filters for solar imaging at the Call line. This addresses a key requirement for narrow bandwidth filters in this wavelength region because of the difficulty in fabricating Lyot and similar interference filters with sufficient spectral resolution and optical quality in the blue to UV region. The feasibility of recording high efficiency and low f-number (f/15 or lower) holographic imaging filters using photorefractive LiNbO3 crystals is being demonstrated. Recording holograms at other blue to UV wavelengths in processed LiNbO3 crystals is also being investigated.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The anticipated commercial applications of this technology include filters for solar astronomy, emission spectroscopy and pollution monitoring using optical remote sensing, and filters for free-space optical communication.
The feasibility of applying advanced nonlinear fringe tracking algorithms to enable astronomers to track dimmer stars is being demonstrated. Ground-based stellar optical interferometers are limited in the amount of sky coverage achievable by the lack of stars bright enough to serve as guide stars. This problem cannot be solved by Adaptive Optics (AO) means alone. The fringe tracking subsystem has been identified as the performance limiting subsystem for optical interferometric arrays. State-of-the-art data processing algorithms utilized for fringe tracking functions use linear correlation filters and make limited use of atmospheric turbulence information. This situation presents an opportunity for advanced fringe tracking algorithms that make use of all the available statistical information and can naturally handle the measurement nonlinearities. The algorithms have the additional advantage of being complementary to AO systems. The goal of the Phase I effort is to establish the possibility of coherent tracking with reduced signal-to-noise requirements through the use of advanced algorithms, and thus to enable the observation of dimmer (by two or more bolometric magnitudes) target stars.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The resulting software product would be invaluable for current and planned interferometric arrays worldwide, both military and scientific. This technology would also be of use to optics manufacturing houses with a need for interferometric metrology testing of precision surfaces for large optical components.
Topic 6-Atmospheric Sciences
The main objective is the development of a solar telescope and detector capable of imaging heat flow inhomogeneities at the sun's photosphere, with uniform photometric response over all wavelengths between the ultraviolet and infrared. Such a Solar Bolometric Imager (SBI) would provide an innovative new tool for identifying mechanisms of long-term solar luminosity variation. These variations are of great interest in studies of climate fluctuation, an issue of central importance in Global Change studies. The opportunity for innovation identified here arises from recent advances in uncooled, relatively high-definition (80,000 element) thermal arrays. The main aim in Phase I is to determine whether the spectral absorptance of these arrays can be modified by careful deposition of gold blacks, to provide uniform response over the wavelength range between 0.33µ and about 2µ containing most of the solar radiation that reaches the Earth's surface. If this can be achieved while retaining the detectivity and time constant of the array, CRI will design in Phase I an all-reflecting telescope to complete the design of the SBI. The SBI will be constructed and operated for one year in Phase II, during the period of increasing solar activity in the forthcoming sunspot cycle 23.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Commercial applications of bolometric imaging with relatively high angular definition include remote sensing and industrial metrology (calibration of thermographic cameras, lighting design, combustion research and monitoring). A high definition, uncooled array with good response in the near-IR could also provide the focal plane for a convenient and inexpensive false color spectral imaging camera with many niche applications in biomedical imaging, process control and non-destructive testing.
This project utilizes two emerging technologies to produce a high resolution, tunable spectrometer with no moving parts. A small, solid state high resolution spectrometer with the unique imaging capabilities provided by a CID is a perfect solution to many problems ranging from process spectroscopy where a spectroscopic analyzer is used on a production line to "remote sense" an industrial process to the problems facing the space sciences, in particular NASA's initiatives to develop lower budget spacecraft capable of answering unresolved questions while fiscally and educationally benefiting the greatest number of Americans. The spectrometer can also be used in ground-based optical aeronomy, where smaller budgets are forcing new instruments with expanded capabilities that are fully automated and capable of surviving in harsh environments. The LC-FPS design capitalizes on the technology of a major liquid crystal vendor to grow precision nematic crystals onto the surface of traditional etalon plates and to control etalon resonant wavelength by application of a controllable electric field. The innovative spectrometer features the highest spectral resolution and throughput of any instrument in its class, permitting not only abundance measurements but also dynamic measurements, so important to ongoing research in planetary and cometary atmospheres. Scientific Solutions is convinced that the liquid crystal technique that is the centerpiece of the instrument will be an essential component of spectroscopy well into the next millennium.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The LC-FPS is an ideal tool for problems ranging from: (1) the remote sensing of regulated environmental pollutants; (2) augmenting current aeronomical instrumentation at major national facilities; (3) a replacement for current laboratory FTIR spectroscopy systems commonly used in molecular biology and biochemistry; and (4) an essential tool in any field that utilizes spectroscopic remote sensing or process spectroscopy.
In situ measurements of the global stratosphere are needed to quantify long-term changes, to improve the observations and parameteorization on which global numerical models are based, and to calibrate/validate indirect probing methods from ground or satellite sensors. Radiosondes routinely and inexpensively monitor the stratosphere, but provide only limited information; research aircraft, at great expense, operate sporadically and cannot reach the upper stratosphere. BLAG (Balloon Launched Autonomous Glider) expands on the radiosonde concept, and on the 1965 development by MacCready of the automatic homing miniature glider, with the aid of modern technologyæespecially GPS navigation; miniaturization of sensors for turbulence, water vapor, and other parameters; and advanced aerodynamics and structures. The small instrument package is raised by balloon; it descends as a glider, covering substantial traverse distances, and lands at a pre-designated spot.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The economic potential is to sell, and continually upgrade, these sophisticated BLAG systems that could substitute for (and expand the usefulness of) a large percentage of radiosondes. The approach is consistent with the AV motto of "doing more with less." BLAG will provide vital information that is at unobtainable in spite of giant past and planned investments in high altitude research aircraft programs.
Topic 7-Earth Sciences
This project focuses on a new and innovative approach for formation evaluation at the drill bit. Radioactive Measurement-While-Drilling (MWD) tools are currently in use for measuring formation density and neutron porosity. However, these have limited capabilities and involve safety and environmental risks. The objective of this project is to develop an electrical Neutron/X-ray (N/X) tool which will replace both of the existing radioactive tools. This novel instrument is expected to offer: (1) improved measurement capabilities; (2) lower costs; and (3) greatly reduced safety and environmental hazards. The objective of Phase I is to demonstrate proof-of-principle for the N/X MWD tool concept by: (1) designing and assembling an N/X source experiment; (2) operating the experiment to demonstrate high neutron output; (3) developing the conceptual design for an N/X tool integrated into a 17 cm (6.75 inch) drill collar; and (4) performing computer modeling studies to assess and maximize tool performance. A leading MWD company is participating in the Phase I project, thereby initiating the commercialization process.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This project will provide an advanced non-radioactive MWD logging tool with numerous advantages relative to existing tools. It will provide for measurement of: (1) density and lithology; (2) thermal neutron capture cross section; and (3) neutron porosity through spatial measurements of the neutron population. This will be valuable for safe and economical development of oil and gas wells, and for research.
This program is testing a novel method for detecting chlorinated hydrocarbons, and has particular application to monitoring soil, subsoil, and vadose zones. Chlorinated hydrocarbons comprise one of the most widespread, chemically long-lived classes of hazardous waste. The compounds are denser than water and migrate downward through groundwater and vadose zones. It is often difficult to verify the effectiveness of subsurface remediation methods because remediation activities, such as soil washing and solvent extraction, may exacerbate the migration. Thus, improved methods are required to monitor concentrations of these compounds. Any new analysis technique must be field deployable, provide rapid (real time) response, and must be selective for chlorinated hydrocarbons in the presence of large backgrounds of inorganic chlorides. Southwest Sciences is developing a novel monitoring method that can provide continuous determination of changes in the local concentrations of the chlorinated solvents during remediation. The approach can be engineered for use with cone penetrometers or can be implemented in fixed locations including well headspace areas. Vapor including chlorinated organic compounds is sampled through a membrane used to exclude liquids, then is decomposed in an electric discharge. The concentration of discharge-produced HC1 is measured by near-infrared diode laser spectroscopy. Fiber optics bring the laser light to the measurement region from a miniature diode laser that is kept above ground and that can be multiplexed among numerous measurement points. This approach guarantees rapid time response and low operating costs. Part-per-million detection limits for chlorinated hydrocarbons are anticipated, with a 1 second response time and a measurement dynamic range of 104.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The technology is designed to be compatible with cone penetrometry in order to take advantage of the market for remediation diagnostics that has already been created around the use of cone penetrometers. Chlorinated hydrocarbons account for 35 to 40% of contamination in soil and groundwater at thousands of sites requiring remediation.
The reliability of current methods of identification of asbestos depend upon the raw skill and experience of microscopists, the variations caused by sample heterogeneity based upon a few micrograms of materials examined under a microscope, or the need for extremely expensive and often slow equipment to overcome the variable human error that arises from variable skills of microscopists. Standard Geological Services is developing an approach which uses polarized light microscopy preceded by a major-minor elemental analysis of at least 100 mg of ashed sample. The major-minor elemental analyses can be done rapidly with inexpensive, low maintenance, non-specialized equipment such as atomic absorption spectrophotometers. A pilot study that was done with a few samples shows that this combined system easily eliminates the most common sources of error that microscopy alone produces in analyses of building materials for asbestos. It is believed that many individual building materials will have mineral fillers that come from a restricted paragenesis based upon local sources. Thus mineralogy, major-minor, and trace elements should be indicative of a rock source that is or is not likely to contain asbestos minerals. The researchers are extending the elemental analysis in conjunction with the microscopy to back-calculate likely mineral percentages present based upon the most reasonable of several computer models that are written to calculate minerals from analyses based on assumptions of particular paragenetic suites. This would tend to eliminate many false positives, especially in the difficult samples that contain asbestos at low levels.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Inexpensive, time-saving procedures which improve the reliability of asbestiform mineral analysis have immediate commercial application. Entities performing asbestos analysis such as government agencies, industrial hygienists, consulting laboratories, and educational institutions are a potential market.
This project focuses on developing pH sensors that are thermally robust (stable over 100oC) for geochemical and environmental applications. Existing pH sensors are of glass electrode design and are widely used for process control and research applications. Despite their simplicity, rapid and stable Nerstian response, the glass electrode pH sensors exhibit acid and alkali errors, sensitivity to monovalent cations, mechanical fragility, undesirable impedance, and instability at high temperatures (>100oC). These characteristics seriously impair the use of commercially available pH sensors in a wide range of applications, and geochemical and environmental applications in particular. Nanomaterials Research Corporation (NRC) is demonstrating a pH sensor based on nanostructured materials that overcomes these limitations and is economical. NRC expects to establish the proof-of-concept of the sensor during Phase I, optimize and field test the sensor with lead customers during Phase II, and commercialize the sensor to niche markets during Phase III.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The pH sensor would assist earth and geological studies and enable efficient and reliable operation of caustic scrubbers for acid gases, detoxifiers of chromates, boilers in utility plants. The improved sensor would help explore geological reserves, conserve raw materials, improve the environment, and help produce safer and reliable products.
Topic 8-Ocean Sciences
The development of a Supercritical Water Oxidation (SCWO) based Total Organic Carbon (TOC) analyzer is being undertaken for the determination of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) in seawater. This innovation takes advantage of the unique chemical properties of supercritical water to achieve an extremely rigorous and thorough oxidation of complex organic substances. It is anticipated that this new methodology will provide chemical oceanographers with a useful alternative to current instrumental techniques. On occasion there has been relatively poor agreement among the DOC results derived by different measurement techniques when applied to seawater samples. Current analytical instruments for the determination of DOC in seawater suffer from inconsistent carbon recoveries, degradation of performance with time, calibration difficulties, and deleterious matrix effects. The SCWO based DOC analyzer (SCWO-DOC) is intended to provide a means for the mitigation of these difficulties. In principal, the SCWO-DOC analyzer utilizes oxygen saturated water which has been heated and pressurized to values greater than the respective critical points for the complete "deep oxidation" or mineralization of dissolved organic molecules, resulting in the formation of inorganic species including: CO2, H2O, NO3-, SO4-, and PO4-3. The CO2 is then removed in the vapor phase and quantified very accurately using a non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) detector. The analyzer embodies a simple, reliable, reagentless, rapid, one-step method of DOC determination with strong potential for extremely rigorous oxidation of refractory dissolved organics and with minimal susceptibility to interferences. The Phase I effort will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept for the analysis of seawater samples.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A more accurate and reliable instrumental means of determining total organic carbon (TOC) would find wide application throughout analytical chemistry. This new technology will be of particular interest in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and oceanographic analytical applications which require quantitation of very low levels of uncharacterized and often refractory dissolved organic substances.
A laser device for the measurement of the dissipation rate of turbulent kinetic energy in the sea as well as in the laboratory is being developed. The sensor would be valuable in a number of oceanographic/fluid dynamics applications. For example, since the dissipation rate scales typically with the third power of the friction velocity, it is the most sensitive measure of dynamics in the ocean bottom and surface boundary layers; it is similarly vital to observations in the ocean interior where mixing in the ocean is of strong fundamental interest as well as of applied interest in the study of carbon cycling via organic and geochemical particulate transport. The new sensor concept is based on the unbiased, direct estimation of acceleration variance for short-time segments, and subsequent conversion to spatial gradients using Taylor's hypothesis for each segment. The laser device will not only be able to operate from a fixed platform providing Eulerian measurements of dissipation, it is also suitable for much higher dissipation rates than can be measured with existing sensors. Finally, the capability described will not only provide measurements at a single point, it will be a simultaneous multipoint sensor based on work in progress in another SBIR grant. Because of the combined capabilities of extension to Eulerian measurement, high range in dissipation rate and multipoint capability, the development could make significant contributions to a broad range of science in oceanography/fluid dynamics. The resulting instruments will also be useful in the study of dynamics of marine aggregates which are postulated to break apart depending on the dissipation microscales.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The dissipation sensor resulting from this development will be of broad use to scientists studying boundary layer processes on the ocean's surface and floor, to other scientists studying biological primary productivity and its interaction with turbulence, and to those studying mixing processes in the ocean interior.
This project seeks to determine the suitability of Stimpson's Surfclam (Mactromeris polynyma) for aquaculture development in northern New England from biological, technical and commercial perspectives. Presently, there are too many unanswered questions about this surfclam's biology, environmental requirements and marketability to encourage aquaculture development. The objectives of this project are to: (1) determine the environmental requirements necessary to optimize growth and survival of M. polynyma in northern New England waters; (2) develop management techniques to efficiently grow this species to market size within two-three years; (3) determine the impact of toxic algal blooms on the culture and marketability of this species; and (4) conduct a marketing survey and consumer preference study in order to predict market acceptance and demand for this new product in the United States and Japan.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The results of this research will provide aquaculturists with the information they need to decide whether or not to commercially cultivate this species. Potentially, a new seafood product could be developed and marketed in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Results from this project will also provide fishery managers and public health officials with much needed information about the impacts of toxic blooms on this commercial species.
This project is developing instrumentation and methods for in situ determination of small-scale phytoplankton distribution in the ocean. The system is based on measurement and analysis of multidimensional chlorophyll fluorescence parameters which will eliminate the uncertainties of previous methods caused by quantum yield variability of chlorophyll fluorescence in vivo. The sensor system will be compact rugged, low-power consumption (operable from a battery or solar panel) and will be suitable for unattended deployment at a mooring of for shipboard deployment.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Potential commercial applications range from oceanographic sensing to laboratory research. Potential markets include plant nursery, breeding, tissue culture, plant genetic engineering, online process analysis in bioreactors, and aquaculture.
This project demonstrates that a spectral imaging device with high spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution can be created by combining a charge-coupled device (CCD) array with an integrated array of volume holographic micro-mirrors. In POC's Spectral Imaging Micro-Mirror Array Sensor (SIMMAS) device, the micro-mirror array will filter the scene imaged onto the detector array, allowing the spectral characteristics of the scene to be determined after simple numerical post processing. Since the filter array is passive, the speed of the system will be limited only by the detector and post processing system, which will operate at video frame rates. The band-rejection nature of the device will result in high signal throughput, yielding a large signal-to-noise ratio and allowing its use of low light levels. The specific innovations in the project are the creation of an integrated holographic micro-mirror array and the application of this array to spectral imaging. Physical Optics Corporation's extensive experience in the fabrication of holographic optics will be utilized to fully develop this device.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The SIMMAS device can be broadly applied to those commercial scenarios where compact and low-cost spectral imaging is advantageous, such as hand-held field inspection systems, robust industrial inspection systems, plasma engine diagnostic systems (for NASA applications), medical biosensors, and remote sensing (satellite) systems.
This project is designed to determine if a specific Demeter Peptidyl MIMTM can be used to control Perkinsus marinus in Eastern Oysters, Crassostrea virginica. This pathogen is the primary cause of oyster mortalities along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. From Massachusetts to Florida the average harvest is about 10% of what it was prior to the 1960's. As a result, the Gulf of Mexico has become the main source for oysters in the Eastern United States. However, in those waters there has been an ongoing problem with the bacterium Vibrio fulnificus, which is carried by oysters. Immunocompromised consumers have become ill from eating raw oysters and each year there are some deaths. For this reason many oyster processors in the mid-Atlantic region now refuse to buy from the Gulf and are forced to buy Pacific oysters (C. gigas) from the West Coast for the "raw bar" trade. Demeter BioTechnologies, Ltd. has shown that its proprietary compounds and technologies are effective in vitro against an array of procaryotic and eucaryotic microbial pathogens at levels which are non-toxic to healthy cells. The PI has demonstrated this effectiveness against Perkinsus marinus in vitro without killing C. virginica hemocytes. The objective of Phase I is to establish which Demeter Peptidyl MIMsTM "(Membrane Interactive Molecules) are most effective against Perkinsus marinus in live oysters. In an oyster culture facility specifically set up for this purpose, oysters will be exposed both to the pathogens and three prescreened Peptidyl MIMsTM at different intervals and doses to find out how effective is the killing of the pathogen, how long the organism remains unaffected by the pathogen when exposed to the Peptidyl MIMsTM and how toxic the Peptidyl MIMsTM are to the oysters.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: When P. marinus can be controlled, locally grown Eastern oysters may again dominate this multimillion dollar market. To commercialize, Demeter BioTechnologies, Ltd. will joint venture with organizations such as the Fisheries Development Foundation. Demeter's income will be in the form of profit sharing. Further, any topical anti-protozoal technologies developed as a result of this project may be spun off for other aquacultural applications internationally.
Topic 9-Polar Science, Engineering, and Operations
Remote sensing of the physical properties of Earth's surface and subsurface with radar systems is of generic interest to the geophysical science community and is important to a wide range of military and commercial applications. Recently, an experimental radar was used by researchers from the University of Kansas to map the thickness of the Jacobshavn Glacier in Greenland. This radar produced high range resolution measurements of ice thickness but suffered from very coarse cross-track resolution. Researchers describe a novel nadir-looking imaging radar system that can provide three-dimension volume images of the structure and depth of glaciers and icebergs to depths of several km by utilizing a conformal array of many antenna elements mounted on the underside of an aircraft sing. Digital beamforming techniques are being employed to generate up to 40 beams in the cross-track direction, each with a narrow 1.4 to 3 degree beamwidth. A long track resolution is being achieved by unfocused SAR processing. The resultant volume images generated by this radar have spatial resolution on the order of 30m x 30m x 30m at ranges of 1 to 2 km, sampled from the top surface down to ground level several km below the surface.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Potential commercial applications include surveying ice in polar regions, as well as subsurface imaging of metallic objects, hazardous waste, tunnels, and detection of hard targets through foliage.
A proof-of-concept prototype of a complex compound heating system for divers in Polar regions is being developed. The heater consists of an innovative design of a compact and lightweight complex compound thermal storage unit which provides a heat output to a liquid circulating garment that is worn by a diver under a wet or dry suit. The project will result in the construction, testing, and delivery of a 0.5 to 1 hour capacity complex compound heater demonstration prototype.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The complex compound heater developed can be used by underwater search and rescue personnel and even sport divers in cold water situations. The heater can also be applied to thermal blankets for keeping people warm in situations where electricity is not available such as in disaster areas, refugee situations, mountain rescue and ambulatory services.
Small crystals known as frazil ice form when heat is removed from a turbulent water body that is at, or below the freezing point. This process proves a major factor in ice formation of northern lakes and exposed polar oceanic bodies, and plays an important role in numerous physical and biological processes. In addition frazil ice formation can severely impact various cold-climate industrial water use processes. Yet the mechanism, its prevalence, and the associated dynamics remain poorly understood, largely for lack of effective instrumentation. Researchers recently successfully tested a measurement technique in which the differential absorption of water and ice were determined to yield ice crystal concentration. This technique shows great promise in becoming an accepted method if an instrument can be developed to effectively exploit it. WET Labs is developing a differential absorption meter optimized for frazil ice detection. Phase I effort focuses upon the development and testing of a proof-of-principal prototype.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Commercial uses of the meter range from research applications to environmental and process monitoring. Potential customers include scientists, government agencies, hydroelectric power authorities, municipal water authorities, shipping companies and other industrial concerns.
Topic 10-Integrative Biology and Neuroscience
This project targets the creation of enhanced strains of algae for the production of stable isotope biochemicals. Tools developed in the project can then be extended to generate improved algal strains for manufacturing vitamins, oils, fuels, foods, and pharmaceuticals. Phycotechnology, the application of biotechnology to improve algae-based systems, has great potential but is still in its infancy. This research will make it possible to develop new strains of algae of commercial interest that cannot be produced by standard genetic crosses. The feasibility of making hybrid algae strains that maintain the combined properties of the two parental strains that would not otherwise hybridize will be demonstrated.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The technology developed here to produce new strains of commercial algae will be applied to lower the costs of production for algal derived stable isotopes and increase the variety of economically feasible compounds. Also, the enhanced strains will be licensed to industry and academia for use in aquaculture, energy production, nutritional supplements and elsewhere.
Economic losses in excess of $5 billion result from nuisance mammalian pests (USDA estimates). An ideal method to control these pests would: (1) specifically target and depress the population in a nonlethal, reversible manner; (2) use a safe, biological method that is environmentally friendly; and (3) be inexpensive and easy to use. This project will develop a biological control method that meets all of these criteria. An immunocontraceptive product, using a rodent specific zona pellucida antigen previously shown to immunize mice is being developed. The antigen is expressed in alfalfa linked to the immuno-adjuvant protein cholera toxin. Preliminary studies demonstrate that mice fed spinach infected with tobacco mosaic virus carrying the ZP3 antigen fused to the TMV coat protein developed ZP3 specific antibodies and became infertile. Because the conceptual basis of this idea has been reduced to practice and a patent has been submitted, the next step and the primary objective of this project is to develop a commercially viable means to deliver the immunocontraceptive vaccine. The overall goal is to demonstrate that transgenic alfalfa plants expressing ZP3 epitopes are immunogenic in mice and that these mice have reduced fecundity. To this end, a plant expression vector will be constructed comprised of the cholera toxin A and B chains with a selected ZP3 epitope fused to the cholera A chain and a selectable marker between the CTA and CTB chains. The expression of the CTB chain will be augmented by fusion of a KDEL sequence to the C terminus. Transgenic alfalfa plants will be generated and antigen expression demonstrated. Mice will be immunized with transgenic alfalfa to demonstrate immunogenicity of the fusion protein and feeding experiments to demonstrate oral vaccination will be initiated. Hence, the overall goal is to demonstrate feasibility of using transgenic alfalfa as a means to deliver contraceptive epitopes for oral immunization as a means of pest control. Based on preliminary work, the probability of success is high.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This work will result in the generation of a novel, safe and effective means to control nuisance pests. Nuisance pests cost billions of dollars worth of economic loss and endanger human lives. An effective means of control will generate a commercially viable business opportunity worth >$100 million.
Topic 11-Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
This project is for developing the tools necessary for the molecular manipulation of diatoms and, potentially, other marine algae (e.g., green algae, brown algae and chrysophytes) that have commercial potential. The molecular biological manipulation of algal systems has seriously lagged behind other systems. Many of the techniques that have been developed for the introduction of DNA into bacterial, yeast, insect and animal cells have not been transferred to algal systems. Much of the reason for this has been a lack of sufficient funds for the study of algal systems. As Martek Biosciences Corp. discovers diatoms (and other algae) that synthesize valuable molecules, it is crucial to establish sophisticated methods for their genetic manipulation, which in turn, will enable development of economical production methods. In Phase I, they are evaluating the potential of each of the diatom target organisms chosen for this study by examining their susceptibility to antibiotics and herbicides. They are also constructing and evaluating potential marker and reporter genes (some of which will be isolated directly from diatoms) in diatom transformation. Transformation protocols that have shown promise in other systems are being tested in transient expression systems and the best methods for transformation identified. They are also attempting to use various marker genes for the stable transformation of economically promising diatoms. Phase I research should demonstrate if transformation is possible and set the stage for the use of molecular technology in the development of commercially important products from marine algae.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This research should lead to the establishment of methods for enhancing the production of specific products in marine algae. Martek is currently marketing two oils, one from an alga and the other from a fungus. They have identified diatoms that produce oils of considerable value; markets for these oils would be in the fields of nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals. However, the existing production costs for these oils are prohibitive. This study is to decrease the costs associated with its production. They have also been trying to develop diatom cultures as inexpensive aquaculture feeds. The genetic manipulation of these algae to provide a better product (e.g., higher oil content, more balanced protein composition, antibiotic production) and/or to develop a less expensive method of production would lead to significant advances in the manufacture of higher quality and more cost-effective aquacultural feeds.
This project involves the development of biosensors for measuring trichloroethylene (TCE) and related chlorinated solvents in groundwater. The project involves creating whole-cell biosensors by fusing reporter genes with chlorinated solvent-induced toluene oxidation genes from Pseudomonas mendocina KRI and Pseudomonas sp. ENVPC5. A variety of reporter genes will be evaluated, but the work is focusing on the use of bioluminescence genes that have been widely used for the creation of biosensors. Initial biosensor development involves creating transcriptional fusions between the reporter genes and cloned toluene oxidation structural genes. Once created, the fusions will be transferred back to the original host organism via marker exchange. Additional biosensors will be created by cloning the entire regulons of the toluene oxidation pathways into E. coli and inserting the reporter genes so it is expressed in response to TCE. This approach will allow an evaluation of the most appropriate host organisms for use as biosensors. The biosensors will be tested for their sensitivity for measuring TCE in groundwater, and the expression of the reporter genes will be compared to expression of the wild-type toluene oxidation genes in response to TCE. The biosensors will ultimately be used for developing online sensors for monitoring TCE in groundwater, for developing TCE test kits, and for evaluating the in situ performance of TCE-degrading microorganisms.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This Phase I research will result in the development of living TCE biosensors that can be used to construct online monitoring devices and test kits. They will also aid in evaluating, monitoring and modeling the performance of TCE-degrading bacteria in situ. The development of an inexpensive biosensor system will reduce the cost of routine chemical monitoring, allow online monitoring, and increase the cost effectiveness of environmental remediation.
This project addresses the isolation of antibodies which demonstrate catalytic properties by encapsulating cells in gel microdrops and analyzing using flow cytometry. Fluorescent products are retained within the agarose microsphere and cells of interest can be recovered for cloning or gene analysis using fluorescent activated cell sorting. Successful completion of Phase I studies will lead to development of a rapid, automated method for isolating, analyzing and recovering cells producing antibodies of interest. This novel technology can be adapted as a back end screen for recombinant and chemical libraries currently used in a wide array of applications. Catalytic antibodies can be used to produce a virtually inexhaustible source of biocatalysts.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The ability to generate specific proteases would have a significant impact on biotechnology and medicine for use as therapeutics as well as industrial enzymes. The total estimated worldwide market for catalytic antibodies is estimated to be in excess of $ 1.0 billion.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) analysis is a critically important technique in molecular biology. The goal is the development of an ultra-sensitive method enabling direct measurement of endogenous mRNA in cell lines or primary cells present in a 96 well microplate. The procedure negates the need for mRNA purification, thermocycling, or other forms of target amplification such as required with Q-PCR. A defined biotinylated DNA oligonucleotide probe hybridizes to the target mRNA in fixed cells. Background or non-specifically bound signal is minimized by requiring two specific hybridization events; washing and subsequent release of the specifically bound probe which is then transferred and recaptured in a streptavidin coated plate. A sandwich-type assay is being employed with an ultra-sensitive, novel, enzymatic amplification system to increase the signal and yield a luminescent end-point. The method is sensitive enough to measure an mRNA with ten copies per cell, 10,000 cells per well, i.e., subattomole mRNA levels or 100,000 mRNA molecules per well. The method has generic utility since each new target mRNA simply requires synthesis of an appropriate oligonucleotide and use of standardized fixation, hybridization, and signal amplification procedures.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This research provides a powerful tool for the molecular and cellular bioscience research community.
This project addresses the scale up of a novel technology, the generation of periclinal chimeras. Tissue-Grown scientists have developed a novel method for combining the best characteristics of two varieties of potato by forming chimeras. The meristems of dicotyledons plants are organized into three distinct cell layers. Established in meristems, cell layers have set patterns of division and maintain their distinctive organization throughout the plant. Chimeric plants are composed of cell layers from different parents. Chimeras offer the ability to work with a much broader choice of genetic donor germplasm in new variety development. Chimeras provide a means for rapid incorporation of wild species epidermal traits onto commercial varieties, without changing the tuber characteristics of the original varieties. Breeders must use many generations of backcrossing, and must often begin with somatic hybrids from protoplast fusion, in order to bring a wild species gene into a commercial potato germplasm. Wild species contain a wealth of disease resistance genes and genes of horticultural interest, but they also come with a heavy burden of genes detrimental to potato tuber production, such as delayed tuber set, odd colors, shapes and sizes of tubers, and excessive tuber glycoalkaloids. Using chimeras, many well-established and valuable varieties can be enhanced without disturbing or damaging their primary tuber traits. The research would result in the development of methods for the mass production of new potato varieties. The specific germplasm targets of this would combine insect resistance form the wild Solanum species, S. berthaultii and the tuber qualities of a commercial potato variety, cv. Shepody.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Rapid generation of new potato varieties that can take advantage of wild germplasm traits for pest resistance without the undesirable wild tuber traits. Pest resistance is often a multigenic trait with consequently complex inheritance patterns. Candidates for improvement include fresh market (table stock), frozen and processed products (French fries, chips and dehydrated products).
Undecagold, 1.4 nm "Nanogold" cluster complexes, combined fluorescent and gold cluster labels, and platinum cluster complexes 1.8 to 3.6 nm in diameter are being covalently conjugated to protected amino acids suitable for supported peptide synthesis. Analogs of L-cysteine, L-lysine and glycine are prepared, in addition to labeling reagents functionalized to append the cluster labels to the N-terminal and C-terminal, and used to insert the labels at programmed positions in synthetic peptides during automated peptide synthesis. Chirality of the natural amino acids is preserved to retain maximum peptide bioactivity. The labels are synthetically modified for maximum solubility and stability towards synthesis and deprotection conditions by systematic variations of their coordinated ligands. Labeled peptide analogs of the C-terminal region of histone Hl protein, HMG-D and HMG-Z proteins will be prepared and micro-injected into living cells. Their distribution, function and macromolecular localization within the cell nucleus will be studied by fluorescence confocal and electron microscopy. Labels will also be incorporated into synthetic analogs of the hormone peptide leuteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH), then their sensitivity and specificity as immunoassay probes will be studied in membrane blot and microliter plate tests.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The reagents will be widely used by electron microscopists, cell and molecular biologists to prepare probes with the highest possible resolution, retention of bioactivity and sensitivity. The strategy for preparing labeled and unlabeled peptides simultaneously will reduce probe preparation time and cost. Rapidly growing applications exist in the selective labeling of combinatorial peptides. These reagents may also be used to prepare novel hybrid materials in which the unique electronic and catalytic properties of metal nanoparticles are programmed site-specifically into new biomaterials to yield new macromolecular devices.
The development of a method for producing seedless fruit from a hybrid variety while retaining seeded fruit production from the parental inbreds is addressed. The strategy is to allow fertilization, but to block seed development soon thereafter through the seed coat-specific expression of a cell lethal function, the ribonuclease barnase. Barnase expression has been shown to block cell growth and development in specific plant tissues. A normally monomeric enzyme, barnase is being synthesized as two partial peptides encoded by separate synthetic genes, each of which is present in one parental inbred. In this way, the commercial fruit product is seedless, yet commercial seed production of a seed-propagated crop would not be impaired. For the purpose of the initial test, tomato plants are being transformed separately with each chimeric gene, using different selectable markers for each gene. To determine whether cell viability is disrupted when the two chimeric genes are expressed together, one chimeric gene is being introduced through biollistics into leaf tissue already transformed with the other chimeric gene. Later, a pair of lines, each expressing one partial barnase gene is crossed to each other to confirm that no progeny are obtained in which both genes are expressed, based on resistance to the linked markers. The overall project goal is to apply this method to watermelon to create diploid hybrid varieties producing seedless fruits. To ensure that this can be achieved, the ability to transform watermelon, based on published methods, is being evaluated during Phase I research.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The use of fertile but seedless diploids should reduce costs of production since triploid seedless watermelon production requires that a portion of yield is sacrificed to a pollen source due to the pollen-deficiency of triploid varieties. In addition, the time and cost to develop new seedless watermelon varieties would be reduced by eliminating the need to produce a tetraploid parent. Finally, this method for creating seedless varieties will have value in other seed-propagated crops, such as cherry and papaya, and it may be extended to vegetatively-propagated crops such as grape.
This project is determining the feasibility of using a novel cloning and automated screening approach to assemble a library of genes encoding cold-adapted lipase. The approach is based on the construction of "environmental libraries" which represent the collective genomes of naturally occurring prokaryotes archived in cloning vectors that can be propagated in E. coli or other suitable host. Because the cloned DNA is initially extracted directly from environmental samples, the libraries are not limited to the small fraction of prokaryotes that can be grown in pure culture nor are they biased towards a few rapidly growing species. These libraries are then screened using fluor-linked substrates and high throughput robotics to identify clones expressing the activity of interest. In addition, specialized cloning vectors are being employed that allow the rapid identification of cloned DNA fragments containing signal sequences which target the gene product for export. Such signals frequently precede genes encoding hydrolytic enzymes such as lipases. These approaches are being used to screen environmental libraries constructed from DNA extracted from a unique environment: the bacterial mats encrusting lipid-rich whale skeletons in deep sea basins. Preliminary work suggests that these sites harbor a diverse bacterial community that subsist on the copious amounts of complex lipids that exude from the whale bones over a period of many years. By coupling the environmental library approach to high throughput automated screening, hundreds of thousands of recombinant clones from the whale bone bacteria will be screened for lipase activity. Candidate genes encoding lipases that display high activity at low temperatures yet remain stable at moderate temperatures will be overexpressed for evaluation as detergent additives. In addition, other unique lipases found will be evaluated for use in other industrial processes.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The researchers predict that many of the recombinant esterases and lipases will be suitable for applications in the detergent, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical intermediate markets. By reducing the need for high temperature wash conditions, the adoption of high specific activity/low temperature lipases in detergent formulations may significantly aid the nation's energy conservation efforts.
Topic 12-Environmental Biology
The project is evaluating the use of terrestrial plants for the removal of chelated heavy metals and radionuclides from contaminated water streams. Heavy metal pollution of water is a major environmental problem facing the modern world. Removing chelated heavy metals and radionuclides in water is one of the most recalcitrant problems in water treatment since conventional methods are not very effective against metals bound to organic compounds. The use of plant roots to remove toxic heavy metals from water (rhizofiltration) is an emerging environmental clean-up approach. This technology utilizes live roots of hydroponically grown terrestrial plants, e.g., Indian mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern.], sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) and various grasses to effectively remove radionuclides and heavy metals from aqueous solutions. While the treatment of soluble metal ions in water has been demonstrated, the use of rhizofiltration for the removal of chelated heavy metals and radionuclides had never been attempted. Researchers are using hydroponically cultivated plant roots to extract chelated heavy metals and radionuclides from water by exposing the roots to solutions of chelated metals and measuring metal accumulation in the roots, the rate of metal removal from solution, and the residual metal concentrations after treatment.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Scale-up and commercialization efforts immediately follow a demonstration of feasibility for rhizofiltration of chelated heavy metals in water. This technology leads to improved and lower cost methods for conserving water resources, restoring water quality, and providing a significant new use for existing crop plants. The expansion of this application to the treatment of metal contaminated soils is also being evaluated.
Chlorinated solvents, like trichloroethylene (TCE), are particularly prevalent aquifer contaminants. Depending on the degree of contamination, their physical properties may cause them to occur as DNAPLs and sorb to aquifer sediments, which make them difficult to remediate by pump-and-treat methods. For these cometabolic contaminants, biodegradation by indigenous bacterial populations may be limited by the lack of a suitable indigenous population or inducing cosubstrates for degradative activity. For many sites, especially aquifer contamination, remediation will require bioaugmentation or the introduction of degradative bacteria into the subsurface. Envirogen has developed bacteria specifically for the in situ remediation of chlorinated solvents. These strains are adhesion-deficient for enhanced transport; they express TCE-degrading enzymes constitutively, eliminating the need for inducing cosubstrates; and they can be grown with large amounts of energy storage polymers for prolonged degradation. The application of these strains, however, may be limited at sites that have extensive DNAPL contamination. Free product chlorinated solvents are toxic to these bacteria. To broaden the applications for these highly specialized organisms, Envirogen will combine these organisms with a foam technology which will act to disperse the microorganisms as well as the DNAPLs, thereby reducing their toxicity. This foam technology may also provide a mechanism for providing nutrients and oxygen to extend the degradative activity of the introduced strains.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The successful demonstration of the work will result in an in situ bioaugmentation technology for treating even the most highly contaminated aquifers. This technology is broadly applicable; chlorinated solvents are common groundwater contaminants at both government and private sites.
Topic 13-Biological Instrumentation and Resources
This project greatly simplifies and enhances the sensitivity of food inspection equipment. Toxins and pathogens, such as aflatoxin, T-2 toxin, zearalenone, E. coli O157:H7, and salmonella, have been responsible for outbreaks of food-borne illness, some cases of which have been fatal. Researchers are developing novel photonic techniques for detecting such organisms and reducing the time required for food testing. The novelty of the method lies in its use of disposable dipstick tapered fiber optic sensors (optrodes), long lifetime chelates, and a highly sensitive optical system to detect a small number of toxins and organisms in juices/milk and preenrichment cultures. The multiple tapered fiber probes with in situ multi-analyte rapid monitoring capability are designed for optimal optical delivery and collection efficiency and for maximal detection sensitivity. Evanescent wave sensing and long lifetime chelate eliminate the fluorescence from the bulk sample which is often the limiting factor of sensitivity. Food inspection directly benefits from the unique characteristics of this approach (modified in situ inspection, no biofouling, small sample size, minimal background, and high sensitivity) which give it specific advantages over existing chemical and biochemical sensing technologies. The project focuses on the feasibility demonstration of the technology based on the detection of E. coli in solution.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The technique can be adapted to detect various biological materials in foods including spoilage, pathogens, parasites, hormones, toxins, pesticides, and vitamins. The world food quality detection market is estimated to be $275M for 1995 and $475M by the year 2000, of which $15M and $100M, respectively, are expected to be directly addressed by online biosensors. The commercial potential of this device in health and environmental safety applications is immense. This technology also has potential for the detection of infectious agents such as HIV, staph, and ebola virus.
The feasibility of developing significantly improved laboratory-based protein crystallography instrumentation by incorporating multichannel capillary x-ray optics will be demonstrated. Crystallography is an important tool in molecular biology for determining the structure of proteins. Currently available systems require large and relatively perfect crystals. The collection of high resolution data sometimes necessitates the use of synchrotron sources. Monolithic multichannel capillary x-ray optics can efficiently collect a large solid angle from a laboratory x-ray source and focus the x-rays into a suitable, intense, well-collimated x-ray beam for use in protein crystallography. The Phase I project includes design, manufacture and characterization of a prototype capillary x-ray optic; evaluation of suitable x-ray sources; and modeling of the benefits to protein crystallography. If successful, the system will have an improvement of more than an order of magnitude in collimated x-ray beam intensity. This will make possible in the laboratory many protein crystallography measurements previously only possible at synchrotrons, or previously possible using laboratory sources by sacrificing resolution and requiring very resource intensive sample preparation. The new capability will greatly expand the use of protein crystallography, accelerate research, and reduce the cost of these measurements. The researchers involved are the world experts in developing and commercializing multichannel capillary x-ray optics and experts in protein crystallography.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Crystallography has proven to be a reliable tool for investigating the three-dimensional structure of important large biological molecules. Even with the limitations inherent in the current systems due to limited x-ray beam intensity, protein crystallography systems are in wide use. All pharmaceutical companies have crystallographers working on problems aimed at structure-based design of drugs. The x-ray optics would be able to be retrofitted into existing systems, and designed into optimized systems. Once demonstrated, the capability to form intense, small-diameter, collimated x-ray beams from laboratory x-ray sources would have applications in a wide variety of systems.
The feasibility of developing an improved set of research and education modeling tools which can be used by ecologists, water resource engineers, biologists, foresters, and others in related disciplines is being examined. These tools will help in the examination of issues such as: biological responses to climate change; carbon balance in tropical forests; agricultural productivity; water runoff, yield and quality analyses; and development of sustainable land use and forest management policies. The conceptual models guiding the development of these new tools are extensions of developments during the last decade in several fields, including energetics-based ecological modeling and gradient analysis, geographic information systems applications to spatially distributed hydrometeorologic modeling, object-oriented programming methodologies, and complex data visualization. The research objectives provide for the application of recent object-oriented techniques to the redesign of an integrated ecosystem model. Successful completion of this research will produce a software design document which will then be used to improve existing models, and to determine the feasibility of generalizing the software tools for other applications.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Improved ecological modeling tools are needed by researchers, engineers, and planners. Success of this research, followed by development of the newly designed tools, will result in a product which will find a global market among government agencies, universities, private engineering and planning firms, and ecology-oriented foundations.
Identified and developed are the materials required to make Large Area Fiber Optic Tapers for detectors needed to do macromolecular x-ray crystallography using rotating anode sources. Large area CCD based fiber optic taper detectors for x-ray crystallography have been successfully fabricated and tested using a synchrotron x-ray source. However, when using a rotating anode x-ray source, which is not as intense or as collimated as a synchrotron, the resulting images are not of the quality desired for optimum results. The problems encountered with these detectors are excessive background noise and low spatial resolution. Initial research into the problems indicate that materials presently used for Large Area Fiber Optic Tapers are not ideally suited for solving these problems. The objective of the research is to identify and develop the materials required to improve the performance of these detectors. If CCD based Large Area Detectors can be successfully developed for use with rotating anode x-ray sources, a significant step can be made in the field of x-ray crystallography. The speed of acquiring x-ray diffraction images with a CCD based detector can be up to 10 times faster with better resolution and data quality than is presently available with Image Plate detectors.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This project will have a significant impact on the development of a new generation of x-ray crystallography detectors to meet the ever increasing demands for analyzing complex crystal structure.
The feasibility of the development of a 600 MHz wide bore (89mm) high resolution NMR magnet with internal tin superconducting wires is being studied. Replacing bronze-processed wire by internal tin wire, high field NMR system cost will be reduced significantly. Phase I research objectives are to solve engineering problems related to construction of high field NMR magnets with internal tin wire. To achieve the objectives, Cryomagnetics, Inc. is developing model coils to experimentally determine the internal tin wire stability in persistent mode operation. Phase I research includes fabrication of NbTi and Nb3Sn joints, analysis of stress distribution in the coils, optimization of the annealing process, design of quench protection circuits, and evaluation of internal tin coil stability in persistent mode. At the end of Phase I, an engineering design of a full scale 600 MHz wide bore NMR magnet will be completed, and this design will be the starting point for Phase II research: to develop a full scale NMR magnet with internal tin wire. The anticipated results from Phase I are to demonstrate the stability of internal tin wire in persistent mode operation and apply internal tin wire to high field NMR magnets.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The new technologies developed in Phase I will generate great commercial impact on reducing NMR system cost. The wide bore NMR magnet systems will be ideal for micro imaging and in vivo spectroscopy as well as biological solid state NMR spectroscopy. The successful completion of Phases I and II of this project will make low price, wide bore, high field NMR magnets available in the market.
Topic 14-Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research
The focus of this project is on the current lack of integrated techniques and methods by which rock art data can be completely and accurately recorded three-dimensionally, managed within a three-dimensional database, and analyzed with respect to not only formal features of individual rock art elements, but interrelationships among figures, the rock on which they are placed, and associated sites, places, and views. The research investigates the feasibility of developing an integrated system for rock art data recording, management and analysis incorporating in-field three-dimensional digitizing, the use of electronic distance measurement (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) for control and site mapping, CAD and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies for data input and database management, computerized photogrammetry and such additional technical adjuncts as analog and digital photography, all linked by specially designed software and methods. Research objectives include an exhaustive survey of current data user needs, as well as an assessment of new data possibilities and theoretical directions that such a system would provide. The appropriateness and feasibility of integrating both off-the-shelf and modified technologies, including hardware and software, is also being investigated. Finally, the nature of software specifically designed to link systems components, as well as methods by which these will all be used as a consolidated system, is also being investigated. Systems components and integrative software and methods will be preliminarily tested in rock art data field situations.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Rock art researchers, cultural resource managers, Native American groups, anthropologists, art historians, and other rock art and rock art data usersæin the United States and worldwideæwill benefit from the development of such methods. An additional, related field of study and social concern, graffiti studies and control, offers another potential market.
The project addresses a need that arises out of the recent advances in probability modeling algorithms and software, and the increasing capabilities and decreasing costs of computer hardware: it is now computationally feasible to construct and apply large probability models but the elicitation of probabilities to populate those models is still labor-intensive and inefficient. The solution to this problem lies in an automated probability elicitation tool that can help the modeler to structure probability models (Bayes nets) in ways that require fewer and simpler probability assessments; that can support a variety of elicitation modes (numerical, graphical, verbal, etc.) for both discrete and continuous random variables; that can help avoid or remedy the biases, inconsistencies, and miscalibrations that may characterize various elicitation modes; and that can use test cases or scenarios as a global-level check on the consistency and accuracy of the locally assessed probabilities in the model. This effort is establishing the technical validity of the basic concepts underlying an automated probability elicitation tool. Researchers are studying: (1) a measure of the magnitude of an assessment task which can be applied to estimate elicitation requirements and to restructure the probability model for greater efficiency; (2) a characterization of random variable domains and the most appropriate elicitation modes for each; (3) potential biases and errors associated with each elicitation mode; and (4) an approach that uses test cases or scenarios to highlight and measure discrepancies between domain experts' global case-based judgments and the model-based computed values. A variety of analytic techniques are being used, including mathematical and statistical analyses, value-of-information analysis, fuzzy sets to improve the discretization of continuous distributions, Gaussian parametric approximations to continuous distributions, and empirical psychological research to characterize assessment biases and errors.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The potential applications of an automated probability elicitation tool extend throughout government and industry, virtually anywhere probability models are used. Current and near-term prospects include military intelligence analysis, medical diagnosis, fault diagnosis for industrial or transportation systems, and financial applications. The elicitation tool may be marketed as a stand-alone software product, licensed as proprietary to developers of probability modeling software, or used as a building block for domain-specific applications to be marketed directly to companies.
This project develops an economic model and accompanying software with which to measure the dollar value of an arbitrary international patent portfolio. The discrete choice to file a patent application in each of a set of foreign countries is held constant, and the cross-sectional variation in market size and the quality of patent protection is exploited to recover the underlying value distribution. Although this method is not without flaws, it possesses several advantages over the only other method that has been used to assign dollar values to the distribution, namely patent renewal models: for example, it generates ex ante value estimates of the worldwide return to patent protection, even for countries with zero renewal fees, rather than ex post estimates for a single country. The principal focus of Phase I research is determining the feasibility of transferring this method to the level of the firm. After appropriate modifications to the model, it is to be tested on a time series of pharmaceutical patents, collected at the firm level.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: There are as many potential applications for this method as there are current uses of R&D input data and patent statistics. The focus of this project is firm-level uses. Such uses include: estimation of firm and business unit-level productivity; valuation of patent portfolios for licensing, merger and acquisition, and securities analysis; strategic R&D management; competitive intelligence assessment; and policy analyses of "international competitiveness."
This project is developing a set of test procedures to evaluate after-effects in connection with exposure of humans to virtual reality systems. Virtual reality (VR) technology is currently being designed for broad availability in many segments of society. There can be a downside to the compellingly realistic presence and self-motion afforded from VR systems. After-effects resembling symptoms of motion sickness can occur, some of which indicate disorientation and unsteadiness. Users of virtual reality systems are at risk of illness and injury both during exposure to virtual environments, and afterwards due to the occasional presence of long-term effects such as flashbacks, oculomotor disturbances, drowsiness and disturbed motor control. The project is to develop a battery of methods, tests, and procedures in order to identify: (1) VR systems expected to cause sickness in users, (2) specific equipment and usage characteristics that may be improved or modified, and (3) users who may be at particular risk of injury and/or sustained illness following exposure to a virtual environment. The battery is intended for use primarily as a dependent variable, that is, to register the effects of exposure to simulated environments. Three tasks are being carried out in Phase I: (1) to determine which tests should be included in the battery and how the various configurations can accommodate the individual tasks; (2) to determine the sensitivity and psychometric characteristics of the tests in the battery in order to obtain insights into difficulties to be encountered and overcome; and (3) to repeatedly administer a representative set of tests to individuals to determine the stability of the tests.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: A need exists for a methodological battery of tests which can be used by manufacturers of virtual environment systems to ensure that minimal risk is associated with use of virtual reality systems. The availability of such a battery of tests which could be employed to certify that particular virtual environment systems produce no ill effects to humans would be extremely valuable to manufacturers, and users of such equipment either for research or commercial usage.
The aim of this project is to conduct basic research in risk perception that can be utilized in developing the final product, a training module for young novice drivers. Previous methods of driver training have proven to be unsuccessful in reducing crashes among young drivers. Currently, researchers and clinicians are stressing the need to incorporate hazard recognition in driver training endeavors. In the Phase I endeavor, two studies were conducted. The first was a laboratory study that determined where in the chain of driving events young novice drivers' judgments differ from more sophisticated drivers. The aim of the second study was to determine how young novice drivers evaluate the costs and benefits of their driving-related decisions. The results of the studies will be utilized in developing a driving training module that will be adaptable to a variety of settings (e.g., home, commercial driver training establishments, community sites, and testing sites).
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The product has commercial application for training young novice drivers to perceive risky traffic situations. It would have applicability to a variety of settings including high school health classes, commercial driver training, and community settings.
Phase I makes use of Cognitive Task Analysis to describe the reasoning processes of third-party intermediaries in conflict resolution. In-depth interviews with expert mediators center on expert-novice differences and mediators' use of analogical reasoning from prior cases. Based on the findings of the Cognitive Task Analysis, Klein Associates Inc. is developing a prototype to test the feasibility of supporting mediation through the use of case-based reasoning. The prototype includes a small case base of conflict resolution precedents which a mediator can retrieve and use.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Phase III commercial application will be two services. The first is a computer-assisted support tool designed to assist mediators within an organization. The second service will utilize descriptions of mediation cases which are made widely available to paying subscribers.
This project is investigating the use of speech recognition in language testing. The guiding objective is to demonstrate techniques that suggest that a feasible system for Automatic Spoken Language Assessment by Telephone (ASLAT) can produce proficiency scores that are reliable and valid with reference to good current tests. Phase I research is implementing a telephone-based system for pilot testing various interactions with populations of native and non-native speakers. The immediate objective is to investigate several interactive tasks that exercise a range of receptive and productive language skills which reliably predict a test-taker's level of functional oral proficiency in English. These automated interactions should, first of all, be quite simple for native speakers of North American English. That is, regardless of dialect or other demographic characteristics of a native speaker, an ASLAT system should return a high score. At the same time, the ASLAT should distribute non-native test-takers over a wide range of scores that reflect the range of their functional command of spoken English.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Current tests of spoken language proficiency are usually administered, scored, and reported by human operators. The labor cost to administer a typical test ranges from $10-$60. Computer-based tests of oral proficiency can probably be administered, scored and reported with less expsense, leaving more margin per test when tests are offered in large volumes.
Topic 16-Computer and Computation Research
The research deals with a new methodology for real-time testing of embedded controllers and other actual system hardware using simulation of major parts of the system. For example, a jet engine controller might be interfaced to the real-time simulation of a jet engine to test the engine controller over the full operating envelope of the engine. Simulations of dynamic systems involving "hard-in-the-loop" are commonly called HIL simulations. This new methodology involves completely asynchronous operation of processors and hardware subsystems and has the potential for producing enormous simplifications and gains in efficiency for HIL simulations. In this new methodology, variable step-size integration methods are being used for the first time in hard real-time HIL simulations. This is a major breakthrough for this type of simulation. The extrapolation techniques used in the asynchronous methodology compensate for latencies inherent in a simulation having multiple processors and external hardware, thus providing greater simulation accuracy. The basic concepts of the asynchronous methodology are being demonstrated in a multiprocessor environment. Developers envision a commercial software package containing a development shell, run-time system, and debug/monitor package that incorporates this new asynchronous methodology. The primary output would be a specification for such a software package. An example simulation with external hardware interfaced to it is being developed and used to test the asynchronous methodology concepts and in experiments that help define various aspects of the proposed software package, particularly in the areas of debugging tools and the interpretation of calculated estimates of dynamic errors in the simulation.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The use of embedded microprocessor-based controllers for all types of products has literally exploded over the past few years. HIL simulation is a proven tool for reducing time to market for new products, improving product quality, and reducing the potential for product liability claims by making it possible to test embedded controllers faster and much more thoroughly than through the use of other types of testing. The software product would enable the cost of developing HIL simulations to be reduced significantly, thus encouraging even greater use of HIL simulations in testing embedded controllers. This would be highly beneficial to the developers of both commercial and military products.
This project is improving the adaptability, maintainability, and robustness of software systems that operate in complex, ever-changing environments. Current practice requires the end users of many software applications to customize those applications to their own requirements and environments. Such customization is particularly problematic when those requirements are dynamic and difficult to predict. This project demonstrates the utility and feasibility of employing run-time monitors that detect failures to fulfill requirements and violations of assumptions about the operating environment upon which current choice of system configuration is based. Users describe requirements and assumptions in a language designed for this specific purpose. From expressions of requirements in this notation, a run-time monitor is automatically generated and installed to run alongside the monitored system in its normal operating context. Run-time monitors of this kind alert users about mismatches between expected and actual operating conditions, thereby providing vital data necessary for either human users or a piece of software to reconfigure the system appropriately.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Automated monitoring for reconfiguration has tremendous commercial potential in existing software products such as databases, spreadsheets, graphical user interface kits, system administration tool suites, etc. Commercial products from this research could be valuable additional "monitoring" modules packaged into existing products by their vendors; and stand-alone tools to monitor the requirements of systems from the outside environment. Both kinds of products have great commercial value.
This project is developing a sophisticated environment, based on computer assisted software engineering (CASE) techniques, for development of parallel programs. Although parallel programming is substantially more difficult than sequential programming, the tools available for developing parallel programs are typically even more primitive than those for sequential programming. This is partly due to the fact that the information available at the compile time to the system is inadequate to provide any substantial support during development. Parallel object oriented languages provide a potential solution to this problem. The specificity provided by objects is enhanced by other primitives in Charm++. The compile time system may be able to support development of programs more effectively. This project conducts research to determine the feasibility of such a parallel programming system, and to develop techniques that are necessary to building it. In addition to the novel exploitation of language-specificity, the research also involves CASE techniques for object-parallel software reuse. The research will lead to a cohesive and integrated environment for supporting all phases in the software life-cycle of programs.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The software market for high performance parallel machines is starting to expand. It is expected that parallel machines will be used in a more broad based set of applications beyond the current scientific computation niche that they occupy. Software development environments will fill an important need in this area, which remains unfulfilled as yet.
Topic 17-Networking and Communications Research and Infrastructure
This project is analyzing and designing a wideband wireless network for the transmission of transaction traffic, file traffic and digital voice traffic. Multiple access protocols are used to permit independent transmitters to share a single communication channel. When the number of transmitters is large or when the duty cycle of individual transmitters is small, a random access multiple access protocol is usually required. Spread ALOHA is a new random access protocol which can operate at a data rate 50 or more times that of conventional protocols. Spread ALOHA uses a single spreading code to transmit signals from an unlimited number of remote transmitters. In this project ALOHA plans to analyze and design an improved form of Spread ALOHA which uses two codes rather than one for all transmitters. By means of the second code it is possible to greatly increase the throughput in wideband wireless networks with significant amounts of file and voice traffic.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: This research can be used to build less expensive, more efficient personal communication services (PCS) networks integrating transaction traffic, file traffic and digital voice traffic.
Investigators are researching the application of a new, innovative, passive radio-based geolocation technique to the problem of locating and tracking cellular telephones and other emerging wireless personal communication devices without requiring modification to the mobile phones. The new signal processing method is based on a technique which was designed for use in locating wandering elderly and mental patients. The approach offers a potential order of magnitude increase in location accuracy over existing techniques and promises to permit location of in-building emitters. The new technique promises to be inexpensive in implementation and will not require costly wide-band dedicated line connection to a central processing facility, as do some current techniques, nor will it require signal processing at the mobile terminal as do existing GPS and Loran-C location determination devices. The new signal processing technique can be adapted to use existing control or voice channel signals that are normally emitted from cellular telephones. Such a proposal ensures that no modification of the cellular telephones or existing cellular infrastructure is required to implement a final system. Phase I of the program comprises the development of a computer simulation of a multiple-base station cellular telephone system. The simulation is being used to study the performance in terms of accuracy, building penetration, and required complexity under various realistic radio propagation conditions. The results will be used to determine the minimum hardware configuration for Phase II prototype implementation. Performance models for the system using cellular telephone transmissions will be developed and implementation costs estimated. The Phase I program will conclude with the preliminary design of the base station hardware, plans for remote monitoring and control of the base station units, and estimation of system costs based on the preliminary design. A competitive analysis comparing the proposed technique to other geolocation techniques and an in-depth commercialization plan will be developed.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The geolocation technique will have application in low-cost implementation of enhanced 9-1-1 services to locate wireless telephones in emergency situations, medical condition monitoring/location, low-cost vehicle tracking and navigation systems (including automated dispatch), tracking of mobile computers for network management, child location devices, criminal tracking, pet location devices, stolen vehicle recovery, lost/stolen cellular telephone recovery, and a wide range of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) location-based service systems.
The system architectures that can efficiently utilize the unique multifiber multiwavelength routing capability of Waveguide Grating Router (WGR) in a variety of application environments is being investigated. Wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) has been demonstrated as a feasible technology to more fully utilize the vast optical bandwidth in the point-to-point communications. The extension of WDM technology into a switched networking environment based on wavelength routing concept reveals a new set of challenging issues. In addition to device technology and algorithms on network topology, a critical issue here is the development of efficient and cost-effective systems or subsystems that use wavelength routing for performance enhancement. Combining wavelength multiplexers/demultiplexers with optical switches provides maximum flexibility, but the number of switch crosspoints generally increases linearly with the number of wavelengths used. The high cost, fabrication complexity, and large insertion loss make acousto-optic tunable filters unattractive for commercial application in the foreseeable future. An innovative approach is required which combines Waveguide Grating Router (WGR) with simple active devices. The Phase I effort is to design a system architecture that can exploit the unique wavelength routing capability of WGR device in a wide range of application environments. Results of the initial investigation are also presented.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Wavelength routing has enormous potential applications in high-speed computer networking or telecommunication infrastructure. By utilizing the unique feature of WGR devices, results from this research effort should greatly benefit the nation in the cost-effective realization of wavelength routing for performance enhancement in a variety of applications.
Topic 18-Microelectronic Information Processing Systems
This project will advance the implementation of Symmetric MultiProcessing (SMP) computers by providing a commercially available hardware scheduler to replace the inadequate scheduling software used by all operating systems. Belobox Systems believes that hardware scheduling is a critical enabling technology in the evolution of sophisticated parallel processing computing systems that simplifies scheduling of complex multithreaded applications, permits inter-SMP computer scheduling, eliminates the extremely complex scheduling software, and ensures that all processors are always executing applications code in place of scheduling. The objective of the research is to make a commercially available product that will benefit a wide range of operating systems and hardware platforms by specifying a simplified operating system interface to support any processor and validating that a full implementation of a sub-microsecond hardware scheduler is feasible using commercially available, large programmable hardware components. The research will include preparation of a software requirements document to permit any operating system to be easily interfaced to the hardware scheduler, preparation of a hardware requirements document for the hardware scheduler's behavior, investigation of commercially available, large programmable hardware components with the capabilities of meeting the requirements of the hardware scheduler, selection of several components, and verification that the required logic can fit in the components and obtain submicrosecond hardware scheduling. At the end of Phase I, it is expected that all objectives will have been met permitting the building of a cost effective, prototype hardware scheduler suitable for any processor running any operating system on any system bus. This prototype could then be put into production quickly and cost effectively.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The hardware scheduler could become a part of every computer system, including single processor systems, because they would also benefit from elimination of software scheduling code. Therefore, any operating system would be capable of running SMP and inter-SMP scheduling without writing and maintaining the extremely complex scheduling software required for SMP scheduling. In addition, because the scheduling is done by the hardware scheduler, the processors have more time to execute application code. In addition, it will enable the configuration of massively parallel computing systems with guaranteed scheduling behavior but no additional overhead. This technology is particularly applicable in the client/server environment and transaction processing.
The feasibility of parallel logic simulation for large deep submicron Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) designs using advanced UNIX workstations is being studied. The number of transistors implemented on an integrated circuit doubles every two to three years. This fact affects all the aspects of the design methodology, including design simulation that takes several days to weeks of computing to verify the correctness of a VLSI design. Moreover, designs that contain multimillion gates cannot be simulated as a single system since they are either too big to fit on today's workstations, or generate too many page faults making the simulation too slow. Tarek Parallel Systems (Tarek) is investigating a scalable architecture for performing distributed and parallel digital logic simulation on UNIX workstations. The distributed feature deals with the size and eliminates the page-fault problem. The scalable and parallel feature makes it possible to simulate multimillion gate designs. During Phase I, Tarek will establish architecture requirements, develop the architecture, derive necessary algorithms at the system level, develop a scaled version and analyze the potential performance that can be obtained. Tarek will use state-of-the-art logic simulation and parallel processing technology for this effort. Tarek will verify that the architecture is compliant with the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry standard so that commercialization is possible.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The architecture has the potential to develop and commercialize three products: (1) Scalable Distributed Parallel Verilog® Simulator; (2) Scalable Distributed Parallel VHDL Simulator; and (3) Scalable Distributed Parallel Co-Simulator.
Addressed is automated speaker verification (ASV). Speaker verification is the process of determining whether a given voice sample belongs to a particular person. ASV is useful for low-security access-control systems. A low-cost, compact ASV technology will find broad applications in existing consumer electronics as a component of the human-machine interface. Under Air Force and NSF funding, Tanner Research is developing analog complementary metal-oxide-silicon (CMOS) speech-recognition chips combining integrated silicon cochleae and neural networks based on auditory system modeling. ASV is a task which leverages existing Tanner Research, Inc. capabilities. ASV is a computationally intensive task and can be solved efficiently with massively parallel strategies. During Phase I, an algorithm is being developed that uses Tanner's front-end cochlear processor in conjunction with a focused-gamma neural network (FGNN) and a novel structure called a local receptive field gamma neural network. Tanner will also modify each gamma filter to behave as a speaker-matched filter.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: It is anticipated that automated speaker verification will provide substantial improvements to low-security access-control systems. Examples include security in answering machines, parental access control of specific channels on cable-TV set-tops or voice-trained toys for children. It is expected that a low-cost, compact automated speaker verification technology will find broad commercial application as a human-machine interface tool.
Accurate measurements play a critical role in the timely development of cutting-edge integrated circuits (ICs). In many aspects of the IC design cycle (e.g., design verification and fault isolation), direct electrical testing offers the only route to finding solutions. What is dismaying is that with progressive scaling in chip linewidths, speed and complexity, ICs are outstripping the capabilities of conventional systems to test them. Present technologies are lacking in measurement bandwidth, spatial resolution, and accuracy. Low-end probing solutions, such as contact probes, risk damage to the IC and perturbation of circuit operation. High-end solutions, such as electron-beam testers, have the disadvantages of great complexity and cost, low sequential throughput, and inflexibility. In response, PSI is addressing an elegant approach to internal-node IC testing. A newly patented invention allows the atomic force microscope (AFM) to be employed as a non-contact voltage probe for testing high-speed ICs. The AFM probe can be positioned and used to image the IC with nanometer accuracy. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated to measure signal frequencies up to 70 GHz. The probe works in air and can sense voltages through passivating dielectric layers. The technique works by detecting small electrical forces using a flexible micro-mechanical cantilever and an atomically sharp, conductive tip. The tip hovers over the IC and stroboscopically samples the voltage waveform on the metal trace below it. Phase I research focuses on demonstrating the technical feasibility of fabricating novel cantilever probes, to be optimized for IC voltage probing. The aim of the Phase I program is to develop a probe tip technology with repeatedly high performance with regard to spatial (<0.1 micron), temporal (<100 ps), and voltage (<10 mV) resolution. To accomplish these goals, the AFM probe will be modified from the standard design used for topography measurements. By the end of Phase I, the probe tips will be integrated with the scanning head assembly, characterized completely, and tested on real-world circuitry.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The main commercial application is an non-invasive IC probing system to be used by chip designers and engineers for device and circuit verification, first silicon debug development, and failure analysis work. There exists a large and expanding market for such an advanced debugging tool, which has the potential to stimulate significant advances in semiconductor technology. The strong technical and cost advantages of this novel approach make subsequent commercial products highly marketable to semiconductor manufacturers.
Topic 19-Information, Robotics, and Intelligent Systems
This project is determining the feasibility of developing a personal authentication system for database and network security based on dynamic signature verification. Previous work on database and network security has focused on cryptographic methods such as digital signatures, and various security management techniques to protect files and transmissions over the networkæall of which is important and essential to creating a secure database and network, but it is not enough. In any security system, the biggest weakness is ultimately the people who have access to the system. This problem has been recognized in such areas as health care, where new standards are being drafted that include personal authentication as well as cryptology for maintaining secure databases that meet legal requirements (ASTM draft E31.20). CIC believes that personal authentication based on signature verification best satisfies the requirements of compliance with legal regulations, low cost, high performance, and user acceptance. The Phase I work includes: (1) collection of signature data; (2) research into signature verification algorithms for enrollment, signature matching, and updating (with CIC's current prototype signature verification technology as a starting point and baseline); (3) development of a real-time prototype; (4) thorough testing and evaluation of performance and feasibility; and (5) investigation into how to effectively integrate signature verification into database and network security (in particular, integration with cryptographic methods such as digital signatures).
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The market for personal authentication systems is potentially very large, including database and network security, general computer security, access control to sensitive areas, financial transactions, and anywhere else sensitive information is electronically stored. For electronic transactions to become widely accepted, a computer-based personal authentication system such as signature verification is needed. CIC is in a strong position to pursue commercialization. Its licensees and strategic partners include major computer companies such as IBM, NEC, AT&T/NCR, and many others, all of whom are concerned about database and network security.
This project is investigating several potential system architectures that could be employed to develop a solid-state three-dimensional volumetric display based on two-photon upconversion (more specifically, two-step, two-frequency upconversion). A comparison of system designs is being made in terms of cost, complexity, and system performance. Those applications that are best suited to each particular design are identified. A design that shows strong market potential is recommended for development.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The potential commercial applications for a solid-state 3-D display include medical imaging, computer-aided design and manufacturing, engineering workstations, scientific visualization, air traffic control, geological and oceanic exploration, molecular modeling, hazardous environment evaluation, architectural design, education, entertainment, and defense.
This project aims at developing a new head mounted display in which a stereo pair of images is propagated by total internal reflection inside a visor or lens. The technology provides a new method for projecting an image in which a guided light wave propagates entirely within a thin transparent plate, exiting to travel directly to the eye of the user. The source of the image is a row of light-emitting diodes mounted at the edge of the plate outside the range of vision. It is transparent like ordinary eyeglasses, permitting the user to see through the displayed image and is a major improvement over currently available systems which are too bulky because all of them depend upon the propagation of light through a volume of space. If successful, the Phase I effort will lead to extremely compact systems which display computer generated imagery or remotely sensed visual data in three dimensions.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The technology can be used to make large flat panel displays and 2-D or 3-D eye glass displays. The technology finds wide use as a primary display device for small notebook computers, virtual reality games, augmented reality systems for military and medical applications, heads-up displays for aircraft and automobiles, and telerobotics systems.
The project is developing a low-cost, high performance, miniature pan-tilt pointing mechanism, called a spherical pointing actuator (SPA), that meets mobile robot active and foveal vision gazing requirements. Foveal active vision features imaging sensors and signal processing with graded acuity, coupled with context sensitive sensor gaze control, analogous to that prevalent throughout vertebrate vision. Foveal systems operate more efficiently than uniform acuity systems because resolution is treated as a dynamically allocable resource. Wide field-of-view and localized high acuity are simultaneously supported while sensor data is limited to that which is relevant. The development of high performance foveal systems is hampered by the need for pan-tilt pointing mechanisms, which must be faster and more accurate than those used in uniform acuity active vision. Conventional pan-tilt mechanisms couple one degree-of-freedom motors, and their kinematics chain imposes large weight (several pounds), torque (up to tens of foot-pounds), and power (several hundred watts) requirements that are impractical in small mobile platforms. The SPA reduces the kinematics chain and payload requirements by integrating both degrees of freedom into one rotary actuator. Its design consists of four coils mounted within the sides of a tetrahedral, damped magnetic circuit; the coils act upon a gimbaled magnet/armature combination, panning and tilting a visual sensor gazing out of the circuit's open base. This actuator features wider excursion and simpler control (damped dynamics, inherent centering force, no home position coil required) than spherical pointing motor designs that do not use magnetic circuitry. A prototype is being constructed that provides accurate, rapid (1000o/sec), wide-angle (± 45o) pointing of a small mass (tens of grams) with little power (22 W) and space (on the order of one cubic inch). Mechanical ringing is brief with a settling time of approximately 100 ms, and damping can be increased by affixing copper eddy current dampers to the magnetic circuit.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The SPA permits smaller and more reliable active vision systems for autonomous security, automatic target recognition, unmanned ground and air vehicles, commercial robots, smart weapons, and smart vehicles. An SPA combined with a foveal imager provides wide field-of-view to improve search and navigation, fast frame rate to improve tracking, and high localized acuity to improve recognition. Low-cost conventional components and fabrication procedures assure commercial feasibility.
The project describes the next generation of security cameras. These cameras provide two improvements over current technology. First, the "Smart Camera" provides higher resolution images in its field of view. Based on initial computations, for typical situations, thousands of fixed cameras with telephoto lenses would be required to reliably capture the same resolution image of a suspect as would be captured by a single "Smart Camera." The "Smart Camera" includes intelligence to recognize moving targets, zoom to capture a high resolution image of the moving object, and algorithms to recognize persons based on facial features gathered from the high resolution image. The second improvement is that researchers have developed a type of camera which captures images with high precision three-dimensional information. Accurately measured three-dimensional images of a person's face prove to be nearly as unique as a fingerprint. "Faceprints" could be captured as a subject walks into a building or along a street. Since three-dimensional images contain literally an entirely new dimension of data, images are able to be compared more quickly and reliably. Images of people entering major facilities such as train or bus stations could be automatically matched in real-time against most wanted lists, or suspects in recent crimes.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City has focused attention on the need for increased security. Potential criminals should be significantly deterred by better security cameras, and by automatic means to identify and apprehend criminals. For those that are not deterred, this system provides a next generation of tools for identification and apprehension.
The fundamental problem with the application of force feedback in immersive environments is immobility. Cybernet Systems is addressing this problem by examining an extreme innovation in force feedback technology: hand-held, spatially unrestricted force feedback. The state-of-the-art in force feedback devices are table mounted. These devices require mounting to generate leverage for forces/torques and to support large masses. Consequently, no existing force feedback devices allow mobility and force generation concurrently. This is a fundamental problem since many virtual reality applications require large working volumes and the ability to move freely within the volumes. Currently, the most immersive virtual reality systems provide realistic visual and audio feedback during walk through scenarios. These large environments lack one primary component, haptic feedback, primarily because the current technology will not support unrestricted motion. This innovation is fundamental for the use of force feedback in future human-computer interactions, better known as virtual reality.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The development of the innovation will have significant commercial success. Immersive force feedback has lagged behind other virtual reality technologies such as visualization and tracking. The project will advance force feedback such that it can easily be integrated with existing commercial applications.
Addressed are weaknesses in currently available groupware, conferencing, and workflow software. These software systems are changing the way organizations function in the 1990s, by providing environments for conveniently entering and retrieving information, communicating it among users, and, in the case of workflow software, tracking its flow through business processes. Lacking in these software systems are integral mechanisms for dynamically controlling the collaborative processes they support and for informing users of where and when their contributions are needed. Instead, such control must be collectively supplied by the individual users or be prespecified in workflow procedures. There is a need for "high-end" collaboration software tools which will have capabilities that are very distinct from today's "mass-market" tools. These high-end tools will provide technologies for handling more complex information exchanges, more opportunistic interactions among participants, and more intelligent control and monitoring of collaborative activities. To address the limitations of current collaboration software systems, Blackboard Technology Group is applying to human collaboration, the AI blackboard problem-solving approach that was developed to support opportunistic collaboration among software modules. The blackboard approach provides a robust core technology for collaboration softwareæone that explicitly deals with control separate from the individual problem-solving contributors. This project is demonstrating the effectiveness of applying the blackboard approach that has proven to be successful for integrating software "experts" in an environment for computer-assisted human collaboration.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: Controlling the collaboration process will become an increasing burden on users as the use of collaboration tools becomes pervasive. The research addresses this problem head on, by investigating the use of a core technology with explicit control capabilities. As a result, collaboration will become more effective (due to opportunistic control) and less burdensome (due to the reduced control required from individual participants). Given the cross-industry use of collaboration tools, the results of this project have wide commercial applicability.
Building on 10 years experience designing and testing the use of custom wearable talking computers for assisting people with cognitive impairments, this project focuses on research to develop a new and more powerful user interface for advice giving. Based on an inexpensive sub-laptop computer (TSION 3A), AugmenTech is developing a position sensing system that can be cost-effectively installed in schools and potential job sites. This research is to actively sense user location and gross motor activity to give goal-oriented advice based on task and user activity models. Using these models AugmenTech expects to be able to verbally give advice either after a user request or when there is sensed user difficulty. In their domain of gross motion, they will be able to determine whether or not computer originated advice is heeded. By actively sensing task progress, they will be able to offer encouragement when advice is heeded and provide more detailed guidance when initial cues are insufficient. Finally, they will be able to automatically radio for human supervision if they sense dangerous activities or an inability to follow computer generated guidance. This interface avoids the natural language understanding problems inherent in other active advice giving systems that engage in dialog with their users. It will explore the domain of understanding user needs from task related gross motor activities.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee: The application to enable cognitively impaired users to independently hold jobs rather than remain in custodial care is important to society. If affordable wearable computer technology and minor modifications to a worksite can enable a person to change from being a dissatisfied net consumer of public funding in custodial care to a more satisfied wage earner in competitive employment, it is obviously a win-win-win situation. Society wins by decreasing net care costs to cognitively impaired citizens, the citizens are more satisfied with their lives, and AugmenTech has a new, proprietary product.
For computer interfaces, practical finger- and hand-force sensors are necessary to provide force feedback control for positioning cursors, manipulating objects, etc., since they transmit the user's hand and finger motion. Other applications for advanced manufacturing and interaction range from medical applications to robotics; advanced manufacturing and virtual reality simulation; and any man-machine interaction where accurate positioning is required. Existing sensors cannot satisfy these needs. The sensors cannot be used in an array and are pressure sensors and cannot measure shear forces. The sensor array being developed can meet most of the requirements for a tactile array. It uses a magnetoelectric film with a resolution that could exceed 20 elements/inch. The sensor array under development is a totally new approach to a sensor system. It measures the strain in a magnetrostrictive film by the coupling between the magnetic field and the magnetoelectric element. The output is an amplitude modulated signal with good dc response and high sensitivity. It can also measure shear forces but the most interesting property is the ability to matrix address the array and actually measure all elements simultaneously. The Phase I program will design, fabricate and test a sensor array suitable for the tactile interfaces to a computer.
The potential commercial applications as described by the awardee:
The magnetoelectric material is a new material which can be used in arrays,
including ultrasonic imagers, sonar arrays, pressure mats, etc. The tactile
interface will have wide use in systems that require feedback from hand
motion, including robotics, smart manufacturing and numerous medical/diagnostic
applications as well as computer interfaces.