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April 20, 2021

Johns Hopkins APL, TNO Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Collaborative Research and Technology Development

A TNO staff member inspects a mirror designed using freeform optics

A TNO staff member inspects one of the freeform mirrors of the Sentinel-5P instrument, launched in 2017. Freeform optics is an innovative manufacturing method that designs lenses and mirrors so they can bend light in ways traditional geometries cannot. TNO will be contributing freeform optics for CHAPS, a groundbreaking instrument that will monitor pollutants in the atmosphere at an unparalleled scale.

Credit: TNO

Griffin Milsap, a computational neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins APL, uses a brain-computer interface

Griffin Milsap, a computational neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins APL, uses a brain-computer interface, or BCI, to request specific tools to assist him with a soldering task. The system analyzes brain signals from Milsap and then translates them into specific commands for the machine to perform. Such human-machine interface systems are one of several disciplines that will be fostered through the recently signed memorandum of understanding between APL and TNO.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, have signed a memorandum of understanding, officially establishing a transatlantic collaboration between the two organizations that has been developing for nearly a decade. Both APL and TNO focus on applied research, giving them a natural common foundation on which to build their new collaboration.

The memorandum, signed April 20, will enable technical experts from both organizations to work together either remotely or in person on internally funded projects that range from space technologies to artificial intelligence to human-machine interfacing. Through this exchange of expertise and information, APL and TNO aim to bolster creative international partnerships and accelerate progress in applied scientific research and technology development.

APL and TNO have worked collaboratively on various projects for government and business sponsors. Previous research collaborations have accelerated the science and technology development in the areas of defense and security. Most recently, the two organizations established a collaboration for monitoring atmospheric pollutants with unprecedented detail using the Compact Hyperspectral Air Pollution Sensor (CHAPS) instrument, the design of which combines APL’s expertise in hyperspectral imagers with TNO’s expertise in space spectrometers and freeform optics. The team is currently developing a demonstrator of this instrument, called CHAPS-D.

“We at APL are excited about our partnership with TNO,” said Timothy Galpin, assistant director for programs and chief quality officer at APL. “I have been impressed by our collaboration on CHAPS-D and am very pleased with our trajectory with TNO for additional exciting joint research.”

Through the memorandum of understanding, APL and TNO envision expanding collaborations to other space fields, including satellite communications, Earth and planetary science, heliophysics and exoplanet research, as well as other disciplines, such as precision medicine, chemical detection, autonomy, neuroscience and additive manufacturing.

The successes of previous collaborations between APL and TNO are based on the unique and complementary knowledge and expertise of the two organizations. This memorandum aims at fostering those successes by increased cooperation and exchange of information.

“Based on previous collaborations, we have experienced APL as a world-class research partner and a ‘soulmate’ in solving complex problems in national security and space science,” said TNO Chief Scientific Officer Peter Werkhoven. “With this MOU, I’m excited to further bridge the ocean between us and bring our partnership in solving complex societal challenges to the next level.”

Founded in 1942, APL has provided critical contributions to critical national challenges with systems engineering and integration, technology research and development, and analysis. The Laboratory’s scientists, engineers and analysts serve as trusted advisors and technical experts to the government, ensuring the reliability of complex technologies that safeguard our nation’s security and advance the frontiers of space. As a university affiliated research center, APL also maintains independent research and development programs that pioneer and explore emerging technologies and concepts to address future national priorities.

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) is an independent research organization founded by law in 1932. TNO connects people and knowledge to create innovations that boost the sustainable competitive strength of industry and well-being of society, now and in the future. That mission drives over 3,500 professionals at TNO in their work every day. TNO works in collaboration with partners and focuses on transitions or changes in nine social themes identified with its stakeholders. More information is available on

Media contacts:

Michael Buckley, 240-228-7536,
Maarten Lörtzer, TNO, +31 88 866 0888,

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit