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The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Invention of the Year for 2009
Finalists

The Miniature Turbo Molecular Pump Motor Controller is a complete motor controller system for miniature turbo molecular vacuum pumps. The software-based controller system directs the strategic use of the back-electromagnetic force position location signal to reliably start the vacuum pump motor from rest and quickly ramp up its speed to 200,000 rpm, achieving a significant vacuum at the pump inlet.

Concentration, Purification, and Separation of Nucleic Acids and Proteins by Isotachophoresis: By using gel-based isotachophoresis buffer systems to separate and concentrate bacterial DNA, viral RNA, and bacterial/viral proteins from interfering, complex matrices such as food, selective enrichment media, and humic acids associated with soil samples, nucleic acids and protein targets are simultaneously co-purified and concentrated into either single or separate volumes for further testing. A greater than 40-fold concentration of both nucleic acids and more than a 100-fold improvement in polymerase chain reaction amplification efficiency and protein purity have been demonstrated by this simple solution that can be readily automated into a handheld, disposable device.

Use of BioNanoCellulose to Create Silicon Carbide (SiC) Nanofibril Mats is a processing methodology for synthesizing a strong, nonwoven, 3-D, randomly interconnected SiC nanofibril mat, which comprises long, nano-SiC fibers of arbitrary thickness and lateral dimensions. APL’s method produces sheets of nano-SiC from bacterial cellulose that, compared with other SiC processing approaches, will include fewer defects per unit length and, therefore, improved mechanical strength, as well as lower-temperature synthesis. Ultimately, APL researchers plan to utilize nanofibril mats to continuously strengthen composite structures.

APL researchers have already developed a prototype for High-Speed Error Detector for Fading Propagation Channels, which allows more precise characterization of the bit error rate of a communications link that has extensive fade and drop-out conditions, such as those that are found in free-space optical communications.

The Atmospheric Correction System allows the end user to subtract the radiative signature of the atmosphere from remotely sensed line-of-sight data to reveal the pristine signature of a target. The Atmospheric Correction System can be used by anyone desiring to improve the information gained by remote sensing systems.

Rateless Round-Robin Protocol for Error Control on Communication Channels provides reliable transport over a channel subject to significant outages. Analysis and simulation results show that the Rateless Round-Robin protocol achieves channel utilization very close to the channel availability.

Automated Detection of Intermediate Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration (as well as other anomalies of the eye) has been developed through the combined efforts of APL and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. A retinal scanner visualizes and characterizes small formations called drusen, which can indicate the onset of AMD. This device promises the identification of susceptible individuals who are currently identified through lengthy, manual grading methods performed by trained physicians.

No single engineering management software application provides the capability for integrated program health and status observation, informed decision making, interdependency identification, and requirements and risk management. The Systems Engineering Management Model is intended to fill this void, giving the user the capability for total executive management of systems and products.

Delay-Tolerant Wireless Communications Codes for Amplify-and-Forward and Decode-and-Forward Protocols: To improve wireless transmission, signals can be simultaneously copied and retransmitted using multiple antennas. As wireless devices become smaller, it is challenging to accommodate multiple antennas, so methods have been developed to allow devices to use nearby transmitters as relays. This novel protocol solves the challenges associated with synchronization of these independent transmissions, helping to reduce computing resources and the associated increases in power and size.

Coastal regions and ports around the world teem with commercial, pleasure, and military craft, and keeping track of them is vital to interdiction or engagement activities in support of law enforcement and peacekeeping operations. Sorting through the traffic has been a long-standing challenge for military and homeland protection personnel. The Ocean Surveillance Initiative is a set of integrated software components that have the ability to automatically detect, automatically initiate, and manage hundreds to thousands of maritime vessels.

Developed under the Revolutionizing Prosthetics Program for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Biofidelic Models for Somatosensory Stimulation in Sensory Neuroprostheses is a novel set of algorithms that converts mechanical, kinematic, and thermal stimuli experienced by a prosthetic limb into a series of activations of implanted electrodes that convey the appropriate sensations to the prosthetic limb user, creating a sensation of “real” or “natural” feelings for the user.

Measuring the Freshness of Attestation Values Using the Trusted Platform Module: Before computers and devices can safely access networks, they must be verified as safe and uncompromised. Enhanced by APL technology, attestation measurements can confirm the state of the computer at specific periods of time. Knowing when these measurements were taken may help determine the trust level in the attesting computer system, which may translate to the level of access granted to a network and other computing resources.

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The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu