Mano NanoTechnologies, Inc. (MNT) has received the second phase of a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop and demonstrate a new atmospheric monitoring system known as GlobalSense.
The system features an ensemble of disposable airborne drifters, called environmental Motes or eMotes, that will be carried by wind currents much like naturally occurring dandelion or maple seeds.
Once deployed from balloons or aircraft, eMotes will transmit ultra-low power signals in one of the industrial, scientific, and medical radio bands to avoid expensive licensing requirements. The fixed or mobile receiver platforms will contain hardware and software to gather and process sensor and other data from multiple eMotes within range and store or retransmit the information to other locations.
The novel eMote design leverages miniaturization as well as integration of micro- and nanotechnology-based components to minimize cost, complexity, size, mass, power requirements, and fall speed. Given such low mass and an aerodynamic shape, eMotes can remain airborne and make measurements for an hour or more depending on atmospheric conditions and release altitude. In addition to minimizing fall speed, these specifications also greatly reduce hazards to people, property, and aircraft as eMotes drift through the air.
The initial prototypes will be fabricated using commercial off-the-shelf materials and components that pose no significant environmental hazards. The longer range vision is to leverage biodegradable electronics including batteries so that eMotes have near zero environmental impact. This design goal is highly innovative and important if large numbers of eMotes are deployed around the world for different applications.
According to Dr. John Manobianco, MNI's founder and Vice President, "The GlobalSense system can revolutionize the gathering of in situ atmospheric data. We envision such capability benefiting a broad range of applications with weather sensitivity including energy, transportation, agriculture, forest fire management, construction, insurance, and tourism. Our initial focus is to improve weather analysis and forecasting of high impact events such as hurricanes and severe thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes."
With the appropriate chemical sensors integrated on eMote platforms, the GlobalSense system could monitor air quality and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane for global climate change initiatives. Even broader applications involve measuring parameters of interest for surveillance, reconnaissance, and related applications. The modular and interoperable system design makes it relatively straightforward to integrate other sensors that have the appropriate specifications. With such flexibility, it is possible to meet diverse customer requirements with minimal additional investments in time and money.