The toroidal propeller, designed for quadrotor-type drones, has a lower acoustic signature than that of traditional propellers.

Innovation Across the Laboratory

The Technology Office works to enhance inventiveness and innovation at the Laboratory through various opportunities and Laboratory-wide activities that sustain a culture of creative problem solving and innovative thinking.

 

During the Technology Office challenge to develop an automated system that detects fake news, a team of "hackers" evaluates the reliability of news items.
During the Technology Office challenge to develop an automated system that detects fake news, a team of "hackers" evaluates the reliability of news items.

Imagine being invited to participate in a hackathon focused on detecting fake news, or a drone race where you program the drone to fly itself through an obstacle course. These activities are two examples of the technology challenges issued to the Laboratory each year.

To promote innovative thinking, we encourage staff members who have novel technical ideas that just need a little time and funding to get started to consider initiating a seedling project to explore the concept within a matter of days. 

 

Seedlings

We fund staff to conduct novel, small-scale studies and feasibility demonstrations that allow us to see where a radically new approach could take the Laboratory. Funding is available throughout the year and can be initiated quickly.

Stimulated Brillouin Scattering (SBS) lasers represent a game-changing technology that combines high coherence with small size, weight, and power for new capabilities in lidar, atomic physics, communications, and sensing.

Example Seedling

Stimulated Brillouin Scattering (SBS) lasers represent a game-changing technology that combines high coherence with small size, weight, and power for new capabilities in lidar, atomic physics, communications, and sensing. With seedling funding, a team demonstrated a SBS laser with record low 20 Hz linewidth, identified a path for a chip-integrated SBS laser, and started the fabrication and measurement process.

 

Technology Office Challenges

A drone navigates the obstacles in the Autonomous Drone Race challenge.
A drone navigates the obstacles in the Autonomous Drone Race challenge.

Each year, we design scenarios that challenge multidisciplinary teams to invent creative solutions to emerging problems affecting national security. The goals of these challenges are to promote innovation, encourage people to work in new areas, and have fun.

In 2017, we sponsored two challenges. In the Autonomous Drone Race, each team programmed a quadrotor to autonomously fly a challenging race course. In the Fake News Hackathon, teams used machine learning techniques to build automated detectors of the reliability of online media.

 

Best Invention and Best Paper

The toroidal propeller, designed for quadrotor-type drones, has a lower acoustic signature than that of traditional propellers.
The toroidal propeller, designed for quadrotor-type drones, has a lower acoustic signature than that of traditional propellers.

Annually, we recognize an invention that demonstrates an innovative solution to an engineering problem and a paper that presents the results of creative, high-caliber research.

The 2017 winners:

Best inventions: Toroidal Propeller and Field-Programmable Imaging Array

Best paper: Large-Format Geiger-Mode Avalanche Photodiode Arrays and Readout Circuits, B. Aull, E. Duerr, J. Frechette, K. McIntosh, D. Shuette, and R. Younger, IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics, vol. 24, no. 2, March/April 2018.
Download 2017 Best Paper Winner

View Previous Years' Winners

The innovative prosthetic arm seen here was developed with components fabricated in TOIL.
The innovative prosthetic arm seen here was developed with components fabricated in TOIL.

 

TOIL

The Technology Office established and operates a makerspace for researchers who want to experiment with designing and building inventive new hardware and systems.

More about TOIL