Success Story

ARL licenses rate-activated tether technology to disabled veteran-owned firm to help rehab patients

ARL licenses

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Per Vivo Labs, Inc., a disabled veteran-owned company, entered a patent license agreement allowing the company exclusive rights to commercially field ARL technology for rehabilitation resistance bands and other physical therapy aids.

The ARL technology, rate-activated tethers, incorporates shear thickening fluid into an elastomeric tube to create a stretchable, flexible material with an unusual property: when stretched at low speeds, the strap is elastic like a rubber band, but at higher extension rates it becomes up to 100 times more resistive in a fraction of a second. These speed-triggered materials have wide range of potential applications, from self-adjusting helmet chinstraps to ankle braces that are both supportive and comfortable.

Under the agreement, negotiated with assistance from the non-profit DoD TechLink, Per Vivo will have exclusive rights to apply ARL's technology to create improved equipment for physical therapy.

Dr. Eric D. Wetzel, ARL's research area leader for Soldier materials, has been studying shear thickening fluids since 2000, and is a co-inventor on a 2016 patent for the rate-activated tethers.

Per Vivo and ARL also signed a cooperative research and development agreement to further develop the Army's technology for physical therapy, rehabilitation or exercise applications for Army use as well as commercial applications. Per Vivo is in discussions with academic experts in rehabilitative health sciences to create a formal study for evaluation of the technology.

Russ Hubbard, president of Per Vivo Labs, said the speed sensitivity of the rate-activated tethers opens up new rehabilitation concepts that could be more effective than existing protocols, while providing improved safety.

Hubbard credits ARL's Open Campus initiative with access he's granted to "come up and work, and learn from Dr. Wetzel and his team." He recently visited ARL's Rodman Materials Laboratory on Aberdeen Proving Ground to learn the steps involved in the fabrication of the tethers.

"Our intention is to go back and to set up our manufacturing facility based on the lessons that we learned," said Hubbard, who served seven years in the U.S. Army.

DOD TechLink, a partnership intermediary for the DOD that operates nationally and supports the entire defense laboratory enterprise with technology transfer, facilitated the license agreement between ARL and Per Vivo labs, said Dr. Austin Leach, a senior technology manager. He said ARL is one of the "more prolific laboratories" that produces a high volume of inventions that TechLink markets to the private-sector for further development and commercialization.

"DOD doesn't manufacture its own goods; we depend on the private sector to do that," Leach said.

"ARL is paving is the way with its Open Campus (business model) by showing its ability to be open in the post-911 world, when fences went up at different labs and it became more difficult for military scientists to work with those outside of the government. Scientists are only as good as their own ideas but discussing our ideas with others opens many new possibilities," said Leach, a former research scientist.

"This agreement signals an ongoing commitment from ARL to the Open Campus business model. This license is part of an ongoing expansion in ARL intellectual property marketing and licensing activity to better fulfill our mission to transfer the results of our ingenious research and development back to the commercial marketplace for the benefit of the taxpayers who fund our endeavors," said Jason Craley, general engineer/technology transfer specialist, who works in ARL's Tech Transfer Office. "The Per Vivo Labs license and CRADA in particular represent a critical avenue of engagement with a veteran-owned small business seeking to apply this technology to novel problems which may in turn offer market-based cutting-edge solutions for better care of our warfighters. It is a win-win situation for everyone."

Per Vivo Labs is a veteran-owned small business that provides simple solutions to healthcare problems by manufacturing, assembling, packaging and distributing custom medical supplies and devices.

DOD TechLink ( is a Montana-based nonprofit that helps the Department of Defense to establish licensing and other technology transfer agreements with US industry.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.