10.807/15.371 Innovation Teams


Luis Perez-Breva

Advisors to the Program:
Fiona Murray and Noubar Afeyan

TA: Bryan Haslam

Spring 2017 Projects


Detection of Foodborne Pathogens Using Dynamically Reconfigurable Liquid Colloid Particles (LCPs)


"Spectrometer-on-a-chip: enabling rapid, portable, reliable chemical analysis"


   Given the high costs associated with foodborne illnesses, developing a simple, inexpensive, and selective device that can be used on-site to rapidly test large amounts of food samples for the presence of hazardous pathogens should be highly marketable to the food industry. The Swager lab recently reported on a new class of dynamically reconfigurable liquid colloid particles (LCPs) that are particularly powerful in liquid phase detection schemes. These particles are simple to make, scalable, and can be easily tuned to specifically detect different analytes, like pH, light, magnetic fields, and enzyme activity. Our laboratory is developing a biosensor that utilizes sensory LCPs to detect preselected pathogens, taking advantage of well-studied carbohydrate-pathogen binding interactions (bioreceptor) and detection by naked-eye or emissive-based optical readouts (transducer). The design is modular and we believe that we will be able to selectively detect a large number of bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens that commonly cause food poisoning.    Infrared optical spectroscopy has long been established as the gold standard technology for identifying materials and chemicals in complex environments. Spectroscopic interrogations, however, are typically performed in a dedicated laboratory environment using costly, fragile bench-top instruments, which severely limits application of the technology. In the Photonic Materials Research Group, we have developed a disruptive spectrometer-on-a-chip technology which uniquely combines high performance, small footprint, low cost and superior ruggedness. We anticipate that the compact size and manufacturing scalability of our technology will enable a wide array of consumer, defense, industrial, and medical applications.  
  Reference Links: Nature Paper (including videos), Science Daily news article, Swager Group Website   Reference Links: IEEE Paper, Lab website  
  Prof. Timothy Swager and Prof. Alexander Klibanov

Department of Chemistry

  Prof. Juejun (JJ) Hu

Department of Material Science and Engineering






Spray that stays

   Many applications make thin materials by attaching a membrane to a tape or other carrier system, performing manufacturing activities on that membrane (metallizing, grinding, dicing, polishing, etc.), and then releasing them onto another carrier or to stacking onto another membrane to create a finished product or “package”. Currently, manufacturing is limited by these membranes fracturing during release due to adhesion or surface tension forces. Debond’s carrier adhesive system provides strong handling while allowing a near stress-free release. We believe there are substantial applications for this technology. We already have some traction in parts of the semiconductor market, but see opportunities in energy production and storage, biomedical, photonic crystals, and many other Advanced Manufacturing and Nanotechnology applications. Right now, our most pressing need is to identify and define the market opportunities for licensing or development and flesh out our business plan to address these opportunities.    Spraying of pesticides and other chemicals in agriculture is very inefficient with 98% of sprayed chemicals going to waste, and one of the main reasons is that many plants are water repelling. Therefore impinging droplets from sprays, which are usually water-based solutions, can easily bounce or roll off plant surfaces and end up in the soil. To solve this problem, we have developed an additive, based on natural polymer extracts from plants and animals, that can be mixed with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals before spraying to change the liquid properties and make it stick much better on plants. In our invention, we use charged polymers that can locally attract to the surface and precipitate, creating sparse hydrophilic spots on the surface that prevent droplets from bouncing and, thereby, highly increase retention of sprays. We have shown a tenfold increase with dilute concentrations of our product, even on the most water repelling surfaces such as lotus leaves. The objective for this project would be to understand the supply chain and cost structure of agricultural chemicals, identify the beachhead market and the most pressing customer pain points and develop a commercialization strategy.  
      Reference Links: MIT News Article, Nature Communications paper  
  Prof. Henry Smith and Corey Fucetola

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

  Prof. Kripa Varanasi

Department of Mechanical Engineering




Robotic Leak Detection System


Novel Hydrogel Scaffolds and Devices

   Pipe Leaks cause a significant loss to the clean water supply around the world. It is estimated that around 20% of the clean water produced in almost every country is leaked from their distribution network. The US and Canada reported 15% to 25% of water leaked every day, while Saudi Arabia, being one of the countries constantly stressed by water scarcity, lost 30% or more than 500 million dollars worth of clean water every year. Leak detection, repair and prevention present great opportunities to resolve the world water challenges. Water leaks must be fixed fast while at a reasonable cost, and leak detection is the first step. However, current leak detection practice by every water authority is manual, and it is slow and inaccurate. It is common that the leak is located inaccurately and thus a wrong hole is dig and additional cost is billed. We have developed a smart in-pipe leak detection robot that can detect leaks accurately and consistently. When the robot travels inside the water pipes, its innovative mechanical sensors can accurately detect leaks ranging from small pinholes to large cracks. Furthermore, this sensor works in both plastic and metallic pipes and it can detect leaks even when the pipe pressure is very low and the pipe diameter is as small as two inches. With this robot, leaks in water distribution system will be located accurately, and thus they can be fixed without unnecessary cost incurred by detection errors.    Hyedrogels are gels where the liquid used is just water. Typical hydrogels are weak and brittle though, limiting their scope of use. The Soft Active Materials laboratory has developed a durable hydrogel that even though it can contain 90% water it is tougher than cartilage. They have additionally developed methods for bonding the hydrogel to a variety of solids and even for 3D printing the hydrogel. It is alos possible to tune the rigidity of the gel with different polymers depending on the application. Some initial applications the technology has been proposed for is wound healing, a smart glove or soft robotics.  
  Reference Links: Lab website   Reference Links: Lab website, Popular Science article, Gizmodo article, MIT News article  
  Prof. Kamal Youcef-Toumi

Department of Mechanical Engineering

  Prof. Xuanhe Zhao

Department of Mechanical Engineering