This is the fifth signature intiative from the NNI. According to
the announcement, past sensor work has been held back due to
problems with lack of reliabilty, reproducibility, and robustness.
Sensors apply to a broad spectrum of industries, including energy,
health, and defense. Certainly, after 9-11, sensors were identified
as a key technology associated with homeland defense. Hence,
federal thrusts in this sector would seem to make sense.
Some references to commercialization are present. For example,
the announcement refers to
US Patent No. 7,889,954 as an example of the type of technology
upon which they want to build (from the Sailor group at University
of San Diego). However, as if often the case with the federal
government announcements, the commercialization issues at stake
lack detail. For example, no patent studies are noted as part of
what is important commercially in work to date. No analysis of the
Bayh-Dole system in this sector or of the history of licensing or
venture funding for sensor technology is noted. Brief reference to
nanomanufacturing is noted (nanomanufacturing is another NNI
The '954 patent, according to PTO records, is assigned to
University of California and the federal government, jointly.
Federal money apparently was used to develop the invention. The
patent abstract for this patent is below:
An embodiment of the invention is a remote sensor that has
an optical fiber terminating in a tip. A thin film porous particle
having a characteristic optical response that changes in the
presence of an analyte is optically coupled and physically attached
to the tip of the optical fiber. The optical response of the
particle changes in the presence of analyte, and the particle also
serves to concentrate analyte. The thin film porous particle can be
functionalized toward sensitivity for a predetermined analyte or
analytes. A method of remote sensing exposes the remote sensor to
an environment to be monitored for analyte. The thin film porous
particle is probed with a beam of light. Reflected light is
monitored through the optical fiber for a shift in frequency or
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