Honors Gallery

Ultra-high sensitivity optical MEMS displacement sensor

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2011

Award Type:

Region: Far West

Naval Information Warfare Center, Pacific (NIWC)

1/1000th the diameter of an atom is small—really small. However, measuring movement that slight has huge implications for American energy independence. A new technology invented at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) and licensed by Lumedyne Technologies, Inc., is being developed to vastly improve oil, gas, and geothermal energy exploration and potentially enable advanced greenhouse gas mitigation techniques such as carbon sequestration.

The technology is an ultra-high sensitivity optical microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) displacement sensor for use in high-end accelerometers to detect the magnitude and direction of movement. Many common consumer electronics, including the Nintendo® Wii™ and the Apple® iPhone™, contain accelerometers. The ultra-high sensitivity of the SSC Pacific sensor makes it ideal for the precision performance accelerometer market, including energy exploration and the precision guidance of aircraft and spacecraft.

Dr. Richard Waters and Brad Chisum saw the market potential of the SSC Pacific sensor and formed a startup company, Lumedyne, to license and commercialize the technology. Both were SSC Pacific employees when they decided to launch the company. Dr. Waters had invented the sensor and championed its initial development by securing $6 million from various government funding sources. He now serves as Lumedyne’s Chief Technology Officer. Mr. Chisum has led external development efforts. His creative use of public relations has helped the company secure $11.6 million to further develop the technology in the fields of energy exploration, missile guidance, and next-generation spacecraft navigation. He is currently the company’s CEO.

Lumedyne’s commercial efforts have been recognized in a variety of ways, including having the honor of ringing the bell to open the NASDAQ stock market. The company recently entered into a partnership with The Planetary Society to supply accelerometers for use on the society’s LightSail-1 spacecraft.