The years most significant innovations address

R&D 100 Awards have been presented to six technologies that were developed either solely by technical staff from MIT Lincoln Laboratory or through their collaborations with researchers from other organizations. These awards, given annually by R&D Magazine, recognize the 100 most significant inventions introduced in the past year.

A panel composed of R&D Magazine editors and independent reviewers selects the recipients from hundreds of nominees from industry, government laboratories, and university research institutes worldwide. The awards were announced during a banquet at the 2017 R&D 100 Conference last month in Orlando, Florida. The six winning technologies from this year bring to 38 the total number of R&D 100 Awards that Lincoln Laboratory has received since 2010.

Measuring metabolism to guide health decisions

Lincoln Laboratory, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad, developed a low-cost personal sensor that allows individuals to make on-demand metabolic measurements simply by breathing into the apparatus. The Carbon dioxide/Oxygen Breath and Respiration Analyzer (COBRA) measures the respiratory exchange ratio in exhaled breath (i.e., the ratio of carbon dioxide produced to oxygen consumed) and the volume rate of oxygen consumption. These measurements enable the calculation of both energy expenditure and the levels of carbohydrates and fats burned by the body to meet energy-expenditure demands.

This information about the rate of energy expenditure and the dietary sources of metabolic energy can help military commanders, doctors, physical trainers, and coaches set reasonable standards for physical exertion. For example, limits on the distance and speed of foot marches can be established by quantifying metabolic workloads of soldiers. Clinicians could also use COBRA metabolic data to tailor dietary and exercise regimens for the one-third of Americans who are struggling to manage obesity and avoid the high blood glucose levels that precede the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

“The COBRA system promises to cost-effectively provide RER and energy-expenditure measurements comparable to those provided by clinical sensors costing as much as $40,000, and with ease of use that makes personal ownership feasible,” says Gary Shaw, principal investigator on the Laboratory’s COBRA team.

Enabling remotely piloted aircraft to avoid mid-air collisions

Lincoln Laboratory worked with the U.S. Army, SRC Inc., and Kutta Technologies to develop a system that enables remotely piloted aircraft to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and international standards for seeing and avoiding other aircraft.

The Ground-Based Sense-and-Avoid (GBSAA) System for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) uses both existing FAA radars to locate transponder-equipped airplanes that communicate with air traffic control personnel and 3-D radars with special processing algorithms to locate general-aviation airplanes that do not carry transponders. The GBSAA system’s purpose-built algorithms process the surveillance data from the various radars to track aircraft and to estimate the risk the remotely piloted systems pose to nearby aircraft; the system then issues warnings and provides maneuver guidance for UAS pilots.