University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Hierarchically Ordered Nanoscale Electric Field Concentrators for Embedded Thin Film Devices
Resistance switching devices, also known as memristive devices, represent the next generation in computing. With a typical metal-oxide-metal structure, memristors change resistance under different external biases and retain this new resistance even when power is turned off. This allows memristors to store data without needing constant power like in traditional computer memory. Memristors have other desirable properties such as low power consumption, fast switching speed, and multistate logic potential. These properties open up next generation computing applications in non-volatile memory, reconfigurable switches, bio-inspired neuromorphic computing, and radiofrequency switches. However, before these applications are enabled, significant technical challenges in memristors must be overcome. These include cycle-to-cycle instabilities in operating voltage and resistance states, which cause memory retention and device endurance issues.


Professor Stephen Nonnenmann and his laboratory address these instability issues by embedding highly ordered metal nanoislands in the memristor’s oxide switching layer. Through a unique template-directed nanoisland embedding procedure, the nanoisland diameter, spacing, and area density can be precisely controlled. The Nonnenmann lab found that through precise control of these variables, the growth of conductive filaments formed through the memristor’s oxide layer, which enable its unique properties, can be more precisely controlled, leading to a nearly 100% improvement in uniformity performance in one device case.

Published: 5/20/2019   |   Inventor(s): Stephen Nonnenmann, Jiaying Wang
Category(s): Computers, Electronics, Engineering, Nanotechnology, Material science, Devices & sensors
Biosensors with a Direct Electrical Output
Current microbial fuel cell technology for estimating rates of microbial metabolism involve expensive and sophisticated analytical techniques which require samples to be incubated thus dramatically changing the rate of microbial activity. Previously, Dr. Lovley’s lab group developed a novel microbial activity sensor functions in situ for monitoring microbial activity in real time of anaerobic soils, sediments, and groundwater by demonstrating a direct correlation between current levels and rates of microbial activity of acetate consumption. Here, Dr. Lovley’s group improves upon the invention by broadening the chemicals that can be sensed through genetic engineering of the microbes. By substituting the native citrase synthase gene in Geobacter sulfurreducens for other genes, sensors customer designed to sense specific chemicals were created.


This novel invention can be applied to estimate rates in a wide range of soils and sediments as well as heterogeneities in microbial activity both horizontally and vertically. The monitoring system consists of a non-poised graphite anode that is embedded in the anaerobic environment connected to an inexpensive resistor that leads to a conductive cathode. The cathode is situated on the surface of the environment and is comprised of electrically conductive material. The anode is colonized by indigenous microorganisms capable of oxidizing organic compounds and hydrogen with electron transfer to the anode. The current between the anode and the cathode is then recorded with a commonplace device that measures electric current.

Published: 2/25/2019   |   Inventor(s): Derek Lovley, Toshiyuki Ueki, Kelly Nevin Lovley
Category(s): Devices & sensors, Environmental
Simple and Rapid Optical Detection of Bacteria Using a Mobile Device
This invention provides cost-effective substrates and a rapid method for detection of bacteria in food, water or other materials, or on material surfaces using a mobile device, such as a smartphone attached to an inexpensive smartphone microscope.
Published: 5/17/2018   |   Inventor(s): Lili He, Brooke Pearson
Category(s): Food technology & plant science, Nanotechnology, Research tools, Devices & sensors
WearID: RFID Wristband Reader
Advances in RFID technology are opening up a myriad of commercial applications related to identifying and interacting with objects, from home automation and health and wellness to augmented reality and tele-rehabilitation. Passive UHF RFID readers are a particularly attractive option due to their low cost and no maintenance; however, their limited range necessitates the use of many readers to cover a single large room, an expensive and labor-intensive process.

This invention, known as WearID, overcomes the traditional limitations of UHF RFID readers through end-to-end design innovation, optimizing the wearable reader for low power, form-factor, and performance. WearID is able to detect grasping, releasing, touching, and passing near tagged objects.

Published: 5/2/2018   |   Inventor(s): Deepak Ganesan, Pan Hu, Jeremy Gummeson, Ali Kiaghadi
Category(s): Devices & sensors, Communications & internet, Electronics, Engineering, Software & information technology, Healthcare
Graphene-Based Microfluidic Devices
This invention is the first example where large-area graphene has been harnessed as an architectural material in microfluidic devices. Incorporation of single-layer graphene enables a drastic reduction in device thickness. The resulting ultra-thin architecture facilitates on chip X-ray diffraction analysis. Graphene layers serve as a diffusion barrier to protect sample against evaporative losses and from external contaminants, e.g. such as oxygen for anaerobic work.


These devices have tremendous utility for applications in X-ray science, such as X-ray diffraction for structural biology and small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) as well as other lab- on- a- chip applications. 


Published: 12/21/2017   |   Inventor(s): Sarah Perry, Christos Dimitrakopoulos, Shuo Sui, Yuxi (nancy) Wang
Category(s): Devices & sensors, Research tools, Devices
Novel Systems for Improved Backscatter Tag Communications
A new fully asymmetric backscatter communication, which allows for battery-less sensors and readers, protocol where nodes blindly transmit data as and when they sense. This model enables fully flexible node designs, from extraordinarily power efficient backscatter radios that consume barely a few micro-watts to high-throughput radios that can stream at hundreds of Kbps while consuming a paltry tens of micro-watts.

Published: 8/11/2017   |   Inventor(s): Deepak Ganesan, Pan Hu, Pengyu Zhang
Category(s): Communications & internet, Devices & sensors, Electronics, Engineering, Software & information technology
Patterning of 1-D, 2-D and 3-D Nanostructures
This invention provides methods of manufacturing a nanotextured surface comprising disposing a nanoparticulate ink on a substrate.
Published: 8/9/2017   |   Inventor(s): James Watkins, Rohit Kothari
Category(s): Material science, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Devices & sensors
FS Backscatter Communication
The Frequency-Shifted (FS) Backscatter invention promotes practical backscatter communication for ultra-low power on-body sensors by leveraging radios on existing smart phones and wearables. This invention addresses the self-interference from the wireless carrier without relying on built-in capability to cancel or reject the carrier interference.  Utilizing this invention, the tag shifts the carrier signal to an adjacent non-overlapping frequency band and isolates the spectrum of the backscatter signal from the spectrum of the primary signal to enable more robust decoding.
Published: 9/14/2016   |   Inventor(s): Deepak Ganesan, Pengyu Zhang
Category(s): Communications & internet, Devices & sensors, Electronics, Engineering, Software & information technology
Braidio - Assymetric Transceiver for Mobile Devices
Traditionally in data exchange among devices, all devices equally share the energy burden incurred in signal transmission and reception, limiting you to the device with the smallest energy capacity. This invention was developed to address this asymmetric available energy mobile devices encounter, allowing one to shift the energy burden to the highest capacity device, allowing more data to be exchanged before recharging.  Braidio is able to dynamically switch the transmission carrier between transmitter and receiver and increases the number of bit exchanges between a transmitter and receiver by more than two orders of magnitude over Bluetooth, particularly in highly asymmetric scenarios. Braidio operates like a standard Bluetooth radio when a device has sufficient energy, but operates like RFID when energy is low, off-loading energy use to a device with a larger battery when needed.


This invention can extend battery life of the smaller device hundreds of times in some cases. Braidio capability can enable power-proportional wireless communication wherein two devices with different battery capacities can multiples between the different carrier modes, making it practical for a range of mobile devices from laptop to smart watch.

Published: 9/14/2016   |   Inventor(s): Deepak Ganesan, Pan Hu
Category(s): Communications & internet, Devices & sensors, Electronics, Engineering, Software & information technology
Rapid, Sensitive and Selective Sensors for Ionic Mercury
The ability to rapidly and selectively detect and quantify chemicals has profound implications for human and environmental health. As poisonous chemicals, such as mercury (from solid-waste incineration and fossil-fuel combustion), continue to contaminate land and/or water, the development of portable, convenient “in the field” chemosensors becomes critically important. This invention provides novel colorimetric sensors for rapid, sensitive and selective detection of ionic mercury (Hg2+). The detection can be implemented using paper strip, dipstick or solution based sensors that are easy and inexpensive to manufacture and convenient to use for “in the field” measurements.
Published: 6/25/2015   |   Inventor(s): Gregory Tew, Raja Shunmugam
Category(s): Chemicals, Devices & sensors
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