This case study is based on an article published by Purdue University. The original article can be found here.
WHO: Engineers at Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization
THE CHALLENGE: Optical-sensing technology allows for fast, reliable data collection across a diverse range of applications—from heart rate monitors, to glucose measurements, to brain imaging and even rapid testing for COVID-19. Although optical sensors have come a long way, challenges continue to keep engineers from realizing their full potential. Current methods for developing optical sensors are not entirely reliable, given engineers have little flexibility when it comes to materials selection and the dimensions of their sensors. This can hinder the accuracy of their measurements.
THE OPPORTUNITY: Improvements to handheld optical sensors, such as those created by Purdue University, have the potential to radically improve our quality of life; more efficient optical sensors can precisely detect the presence of molecules that signal whether food or water is safe for consumption, and can measure the level of white blood cells in a cancer patient, to name a few. These sensors enable the implementation of valuable safety measures, keeping people as healthy as possible, as accurately as possible.
HOW IT WORKS: Optical sensors are devices that convert light into an electronic signal. These sensors measure the quantity of light that is present and relays that information to an instrument, often resulting in an increase or decrease in electricity. This provides a readout that we can use to make those changes. Optical sensors are everywhere—one of the most common applications is controlling the brightness of your smartphone screen based on how light or dark your environment is.
Engineers at Purdue University have developed a patented technology that improves the selectivity of optical sensors, thereby increasing the accuracy and reliability of these devices. Their novel technology is simpler than existing methods of optical sensor development. The technology provides the option to customize the design of the optical sensor, giving engineers more control and flexibility to develop a device that fits their specific needs. This advancement can make food and water quality measures more precise, among other applications.
Critical to the advancement of this technology is robust intellectual property (IP) protections like patents. The innovators at Purdue University partnered with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent their newly developed technology and allow for potential partnerships and licensing agreements that could further advance their work. These public-private partnerships are made possible by legislation that enables academic licensing, allowing for the advancement of this cutting-edge technology that will have meaningful applications across many fields.