Honors Gallery

Fiber Optic Amplitude Modulated Sensors (FOS)

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2017

Award Type: National

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

A suite of Navy-patented fiber optic amplitude modulated sensors (FOS), transferred to industry by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is the up- and-coming game changer within the “Smart Grid” sector of the massive U.S. electric power industry.

The innovative sensors accurately measure pressure, strain, temperature and other parameters capable of monitoring and controlling electrical power generation, distribution, and storage. This Navy technology also has proven its superiority in industrial control systems, and is the basis of highly sensitive fiber optic microphones that can detect unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or help the acoustic design of buildings. Assembled in arrays, the high performance microphones also can diagnose function problems in rotating machinery, computer hard drives, aircraft engines, and other multi-movement components.

The NRL team was responsible for the FOS technology transfer via two patent licensing agreements (PLAs) with Fiber Optic Sensor Systems Technology Corp. (FOSSTEC) of Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2010 and 2013. Both parties recognized that more adaptability had to be built into the technology transfer agreement conditions to meet the ebb-and-flow funding issues typical of a startup company. They established an exceptionally open and flexible two-way communication that continues today. As a result, NRL helped amend licensing to incorporate the additional research areas that have yielded marketable company products in a much shorter timeframe than that required for the original PLA field restriction to energy grid applications.

FOSSTEC spun off its affiliated company, SmartSenseCom, Inc. (SSC) of Silver Spring, Maryland, specifically for the purpose of marketing two product lines (electric power and acoustics/vibration) based on the Navy-patented technology, each of which had several products available to customers. The NRL invention has led to relatively inexpensive, yet very precise, sensors that are ideal for applications requiring small size, very low frequency measurement, and/or the absence of electromagnetic noise. The sensors’ LED light source provides long life and low power requirements. Other advantages include greater durability and secure transfer of data.

The FOS have also performed well in a wide range of hostile environments during testing, showing little signal degradation under temperature fluctuations, water submersion, or chemical environments.

The use of the NRL patents licensed by FOSSTEC distinguishes all SSC products from other sensors on the market, proving simpler, cheaper, and more robust products while yielding very sensitive, consistent measurements. Driving the future market for FOSSTEC’s products is the pressing need to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, along with the rise of computerized buildings, smart homes and appliances, and other consumer goods for which sensing will play an important role.

Contact: Amanda Horansky-McKinney, (202) 767-1644, [email protected]

Team Members:

Christopher Vizas Dr.Nicholas Lagakos Vasilios Lagakos Cameron Childs