Ultrasound that does not require touching patients. A web-based tool that reinvents crew scheduling for the Air Force. Cryptographic hardware that protects sensitive data. And the world’s first practical memory for quantum networks.
These four technologies developed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in whole or with collaborators, received 2023 R&D 100 Award. The ultrasonic technology also received a second prize in a special category recognizing revolutionary products on the market. Granted by R&D world magazine, the awards recognize the 100 most significant innovations that have been used or made available for sale or license during the past year. This global competition is judged by a panel of science and technology experts and industry professionals.
“Lincoln Lab has been fortunate to receive 86 R&D 100 Awards over the past 14 years. Our unclassified technology transition rate continues to be very high, and we have an equally high transition rate for our classified programs. The lab is truly changing the world through its successful technology development and transition. We congratulate everyone involved,” says Lincoln Laboratory Director Eric Evans.
Medical imaging with non-contact ultrasound
Many people are familiar with the ultrasound process: A sonographer presses a transducer to a patient’s skin and moves it, collecting images of tissues and organs. Although a well-established technology, ultrasound suffers from sonographer variability, making accurate comparison of repeated measurements difficult and is limited by the need to contact the skin. For these reasons, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, despite their high costs and lack of portability, remain the predominant imaging technologies for disease monitoring.
THE Non-contact laser ultrasound (NCLUS) for medical imaging overcomes these limitations. The skin-safe laser system acquires ultrasound images without touching the patient. It uses a pulsed laser that emits optical energy, which is converted into ultrasound waves when it hits tissue. The returned echoes are detected by a laser Doppler vibrometer and are processed to generate images. Laser positioning on the body can be precisely reproduced, eliminating variability during repeated scans. This repeatability could allow ultrasound to be used to track disease progression, such as changes in tumor size over time.
Its non-contact design also opens up entirely new uses for ultrasound: “NCLUS could image burn or trauma victims, patients with open regions of deep tissue directly during surgery, premature infants requiring intensive medical care , patients with neck and spine injuries and people contagious from safe distances,” says Robert Haupt, co-inventor of NCLUS.
With NCLUS, medical personnel without ultrasound training might be able to perform ultrasounds outside of a hospital, in a doctor’s office, at home, or on a remote battlefield. Due to its revolutionary potential in the medical imaging industry, NCLUS also received the R&D 100 Silver Medal in the Special Recognition: Market Disruptive Products category, in addition to the R&D 100 Award.
Both awards are shared with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Ultrasound Research and Translation and Sound & Bright LLC.
An optimizer for flight crew planning
The US Air Force has intense planning needs. Its fleet of C-17s, the cargo plane that transports troops and supplies around the world, logged 4 million flight hours last year. Until recently, Air Force aviators, such as pilots and loadmasters, had to manually schedule the crew for each flight, on a whiteboard.
Whore changed that. The web application provides intelligent, training-based planning for the first time since military flight planning began approximately 80 years ago, and saves Airmen valuable time to focus on their primary tasks.
Puckboard’s collaborative tools provide planners with assignment recommendations while allowing team members to volunteer for events that work best for their personal lives. In addition to providing a digital calendar function, Puckboard applies artificial intelligence techniques that take into account parameters such as the progress of crew training, the distribution of flight hours, the prevention of overqualification and the fragility of missions to recommend optimal schedules. Today, Puckboard hosts 24,000 users and has scheduled over 315,000 events across 87 squadrons.
“Puckboard’s impact is a direct reflection of the breadth and depth of skill and sincere passion of all contributors. From designers, software engineers, and algorithm experts to active-duty squadrons and aircrew members, to senior leaders, everyone is committed to increasing the readiness of the U.S. Air Force with the goal of improving the quality of life of soldiers. our Airmen,” said Michael Snyder, principal investigator on the project. “Planning is a complex subject, made even more difficult when there is uncertainty, and this effort is a testament to our ability to solve any problem with the right team.”
This R&D 100 award is shared with MIT, RevaComm, Department of the Air Force – MIT AI Accelerator, Air Force 15th Wing, 60th Air Mobility Wing, 437th Airlift Wing, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Assistant Secretary of Air. Force (Facilities, Environment and Energy) and Raytheon-BBN.
A device to secure data on unequipped platforms
For the U.S. military, the use of unmanned systems is growing to minimize harm to human operators. Because these systems often transmit sensitive data over the air, their radio components must be certified by the National Security Agency (NSA). For years, this certification process has posed an insurmountable obstacle for many small businesses and for potential innovators in radio and robotics technology that could benefit the military. Now, these developers can use an already NSA-certified security solution, developed by Lincoln Laboratory, ready to deploy and deploy for a wide variety of vehicles and missions.
The Security Module/Cyber Module (SCM) Cryptographic End Unit (ECU) is a compact device that secures the tactical data links of unmanned systems. The module modernizes security by bringing together several cybersecurity technologies, including a technique called Tactical key management which establishes secret keys on the fly for secure communication. The module is the first cryptographic device designed for a broad range of unmanned systems within the Joint Communication Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JCAUS), a recent U.S. Department of Defense effort to modularize radio links for unmanned systems and to enable the reuse of NSA certified components by standardizing capacities and interfaces.
Since delivery, the US Navy has awarded a full-rate production contract to Tomahawk Robotics to supply SCM ECUs for use in their Explosive Ordnance Disposal robots. “Although developed primarily for Navy ground robotics, the SCM/ECU’s membership in JCAUS ensures that it is well suited to airborne and underwater vehicles,” says Ben Nahill, principal investigator of the program.
The award is shared with the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.
Scalable photonic memory for quantum networks
In quantum information processing, memory receives and stores the state of a quantum bit (qubit), in the same way that the memory of a communications system or an ordinary computer receives and stores information in the form of binary states. Memory allows information to be sent and received reliably between separate systems, even over lossy transmission links. Lincoln Laboratory’s quantum memory is the first to combine, in a single module, the three capabilities required to network distinct quantum systems: a photonic interface, a means of correcting loss errors, and an architecture that scales up to dozens of memories in a single module. . Until now, quantum memory systems have lacked one or more of these capabilities.
“This module removes many of the barriers to deploying quantum memories in real-world environments and testbeds and actually using them to develop emerging advanced quantum applications, such as distributed sensing and networked quantum processing,” explains Ben Dixon, who is leading this work. .
A photonic interface allows qubits to be transferred via light particles (photons) between memory and optical fiber networks. The lab’s quantum memory uses silicon vacancy diamond color centers (SiV), which are atom-like structures that can be efficiently manipulated with light, even at the single-photon level. This SiV technology can also correct signal loss errors resulting from inefficient and lossy network links. Because it uses individual atomic color centers, this technology is compatible with efficient “advertised” protocols, in which a signal confirms the successful transmission of a photon through the array and the storage of the associated qubit in memory.
The SiV module is also scalable. The SiV memory cells are integrated into a custom photonic integrated circuit, a technology that allows signals to be sent and received and can be scaled up to hundreds of parallel channels. By combining this integration approach with a unique packaging architecture, the laboratory’s researchers integrated eight quantum memories into a single module. Additional memories can be integrated into this single module, which can be combined with additional modules for increased scalability.
In addition to these winning technologies, five other Lincoln Lab technologies were named R&D 100 Awards. finalists. A gala celebrating the 2023 honorees will take place on November 16 in San Diego, California.