Invention of the Year Awards
Celebrating innovative campus research, the University of Maryland has been recognizing winners of the Inventions of the Year since 1987. In that time, 108 inventions have been awarded the high distinction, selected for their
- technical merit,
- improvements to existing technology,
- commercial potential, and
- overall benefit to society.
Beginning in 2016, the Innovate Maryland platform was established to form a series of programs, bringing together various departments at the University of Maryland, all supporting innovation and entrepreneurship.
In that spirit, we gathered once again for the
Invention of the Year Awards
to celebrate inventions disclosed in 2020-2021.
Read the full recap of the event on MarylandToday
Learn more about the finalist inventions
Nominated in the Information Sciences category
The tool uses affective cues such as eye dilation, raised eyebrows, speaking volume, pace, and tone from both audio and video inputs. Unlike prior methods that only use a single input, using cues from both inputs provides complementary information and leads to stronger inferences about the video in question. The relationship between cues from the audio and cues from the same video are analyzed to see if there is a strong correlation, which is used to determine if a video is “real” or “fake.”
- Trisha Mittal, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Computer Science
- Uttaran Bhattacharya, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Computer Science
- Rohan Chandra, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Computer Science
- Aniket Bera, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Computer Science
- Dinesh Manocha, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Computer Science and A. James Clark School of Engineering - Electrical & Computer Engineering
Researchers at the University of Maryland have invented a method and system that provides a cost-efficient, easily deployed, terrain independent and automated approach to mapping geophysical anomalies. Among other uses, the invention provides for detection and remediation of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The proposed solution couples geophysical and environmental remote sensing with a vehicle. Examples of the vehicle may include an aerial vehicle such as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or a ground-based vehicle such as an unmanned, autonomously controlled ground vehicle.
Combining environmental sensors with ground penetrating radar (GPR), forward looking infrared (FLIR) optical, LiDAR, and a 3 component magnetometer, an aerial platform can fly 1-3 meters above ground and leverage machine learning techniques with onboard computing to produce rapid-response information about detected munitions in a field area. Using data from ground-based geophysical sensors, the inventors have developed convolutional neural networks capable of detecting buried unexploded ordnance (UXO) with 95% accuracy. By remotely detecting where UXO are buried with high confidence in diverse environments, the invention will enable efficient demining, potentially saving thousands of lives each year, reducing the cost of geophysical munitions surveying, and increasing the speed of UXO remediation.
- Heidi Myers, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Geology
- Daniel Lathrop, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Physics; Institute for Research in Electronics & Applied Physics; Geology; and Institute for Physical Sciences & Technology
- Vedran Lekic, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Geology
The structural details of the 3D PUF tags can be extracted layer-by-layer using confocal laser microscopy. The tags are then re-constructed and stored in a database, serving as secure 3D PUF keys. A customized Siamese neural network framework authenticates the 3D PUF keys quickly and accurately, ensuring a safe anti-counterfeiting technology. This 3D PUF key-based anti-counterfeiting system has multiple advantages over conventional 2D PUF patterns, including storing more information, faster processing time, and higher authentication security. Additionally, a two-step pick-and-authenticate strategy was developed to enable high authentication robustness of this 3D PUF anti-counterfeiting technique. This hardens the method against external influences during throughout the entire manufacturer-to-customer distribution process.
- Po-Yen Chen, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
- Wei-Hsi (Ariel) Yeh
- Qian Xie, Anhui University of Technology
The algorithms - developed using weighted averages from a public dataset - analyze several thresholds on weather, climate, sociological, epidemiological, and environmental processes which are related to abundance, survival, and emergence of pathogens. The algorithms can also be applied to new pathways of pathogen emergence or transmission using common pathogen footprints. A tool such as this can give public health officials a much needed advantage to combat disease, and potentially save millions of lives.
- Rita Colwell, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
- Antarpreet Jutla, University of Florida
- Moiz Usmani, University of Florida
Nominated in the Life Sciences category
Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a wearable device to measure H2S produced by the human gut microbiota that can be worn autonomously for approximately two weeks. During this time, valuable data about gut microbial H2S production is collected. The technology is currently focused on quantification of H2S due to its importance as a human gasotransmitter and a biomarker for inflammation. This platform also has broader applications to measure the production of numerous volatile compounds produced by the human gut microbiota.
- Brantley Hall, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
- Santiago Botasini, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Institute for Systems Research
- Reza Ghodssi, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Electrical & Computer Engineering
Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a material for the closure of cuts and wounds and have demonstrated the ability to join severed arteries without using traditional suturing methods (needle, thread, staples). A specially engineered biocompatible polymer gel is applied across the tissues to be joined. Under a DC current of about 10V, the gel strongly adheres to tissue, creating a strong bond that rivals traditional sutures. However, unlike traditional sutures, the process is completely reversible – an opposite voltage may be applied to remove the suture strip, reposition it, and a second attempt made to correct the placement. This method has been demonstrated for tissues of the aorta, cornea, lung, cartilage, and certain types of skeletal muscle and bone, showing potential for an almost universal suturing method unlike any in history. The method and materials show promise in streamlining the suturing process by clinicians while reducing complications of current methods.
- Srinivasa Raghavan, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
- Leah Borden, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
The device includes reagents that are integrated into a millimeter-scale channel and initially partitioned by alkane waxes with moderate melt temperatures. In one design, melting of the partition causes it to breach, thus combining the initially partitioned reagents. In another design, melting of the partition causes it to liquify without breaching; it thus continues to partition while also becoming permeable to magnetic beads, which enables automated bead-based immunoassays controlled by an automated sliding magnet.
- Ian White, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Fischell Department of Bioengineering
- Michaela Everitt, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Fischell Department of Bioengineering
- David Boegner, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Fischell Department of Bioengineering
Aptamers offer strong promise as therapeutics and diagnostics as they have low immunogenicity. Aptamers are typically made from natural RNA or DNA. University of Maryland scientists have developed and demonstrated for the first time that the 2'-fluoro-arabino nucleic acid (FANA) aptamers can block the interactions between the S protein of SARS-CoV-2S and the ACE2 receptor.
- Jeffrey DeStefano, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences - Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Nominated in the Physical Sciences category
University of Maryland researchers, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, have developed an innovative technology that enables virtually anyone to record and triage a child’s ears’ symptoms and status confidently and competently. Additionally, this technology has the capacity to aid virtual healthcare (telemedicine) visits and improve the diagnostic accuracy of ear disease. The technology consists of 3 distinct components: (1) An AI algorithm which diagnoses ear disease from video; (2) a unique digital otoscope capable of capturing a high-quality ear exam even with a novice user; (3) an application for a smart device which records the data from our otoscope, uses the AI algorithm and can communicate with an electronic medical record (EMR). With this device, physicians, medical assistants, and even parents at home can safely and confidently probe and child’s ears and get results quickly confirming or ruling out ear disease.
- James Clark, Johns Hopkins University
- Therese Canares, Johns Hopkins University
- Mathias Unberath, Johns Hopkins University
- John Rzasa, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Fischell Department of Bioengineering
The device is built around an eyeglasses-integrated design which provides users with mobility and convenience while ensuring the user can breathe in a clean air environment without stress to their respiratory system. The glasses, which can come in multiple configurations, contains an airflow system that checks for contaminants, passively filters particulates using a high efficiency particulate air filter, and provides clean air to the wearer. This system is powered and controlled by batteries and electronics housed on the glasses or connected bands. By sensing particulates in the wearer’s local environment and providing filtered air to the wearer, the device can significantly reduce the amount of bioaerosols contaminants inhaled while keeping the wearer comfortable for prolonged use.
- Jelena Srebric, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Shengwei Zhu, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Nicholas Mattise, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Sebastian Romo, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Lingzhe Wang, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Avery Layne, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
- Nicholas Rabchevsky, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Mechanical Engineering
University of Maryland researchers have developed an innovative sensor-based technology that allows stores, warehouses and other end users to accurately determine the freshness of meat. The traditional process of stamping a set “use by” date on product is often inaccurate and results in large amounts of otherwise salable product being wasted every year or consumers purchasing and potentially consuming spoiled meat. This innovative technology, by accurately determining the presence of specific degradation compounds, supplants date-based labeling. Packagers and consumers are thereby afforded an accurate indicator of food quality resulting in greatly diminished waste.
- Cheng Gong, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Electrical & Computer Engineering
University of Maryland researchers have developed graphene-based sensor and system to report the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and other viruses in the breath of a subject, much like a traditional breathalyzer detects the presence of alcohol. Graphene is functionalized with SARS-CoV-2 S1 spike protein antibodies, the proteins created by the immune system in the human body during infection with COVID-19. When the SARS-CoV-2 S1 spike protein antigens, which surrounds the virus, comes in contact the surface of the sensor and binds with the functionalized antibody, a small strain is induced in the graphene layer which can be detected electrically by sensitive electronics in under one second. The resulting sensor can detect miniscule amounts of antigen (order of magnitude less than RT-PCR), leading to a highly selective, sensitive, and rapid test for COVID-19. The use of such a sensitive and rapid test promises to increase society’s ability to track and proactively manage the COVID pandemic.
- Kevin Daniels, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Electrical & Computer Engineering; and College of Computer, Mathematical, Natural Sciences - Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics
- Soaram Kim, College of Computer, Mathematical, Natural Sciences - Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics
- John Rzasa, A. James Clark School of Engineering - Fischell Department of Bioengineering
Special recognition for COVID research
Researchers have demonstrated in mice and hamsters that the vaccine antigen nasally delivered by a novel receptor can lead to efficient transfer of the antigen across the respiratory epithelial barrier. Specifically, SARS-CoV-2 antigens are targeted to this receptor to induce protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 virus infection.
- Xiaoping Zhu, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - Veterinary Medicine
- Weizhong Li, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - Veterinary Medicine
- Tao Wang, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - Veterinary Medicine