Quasar Leads Development of Advanced Sensing Technologies for Government

2/25/09Follow @bvbigelow

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the technology to meet specific government requirements. Beyond the government-funded work, Eric Duff, Quasar’s vice president of business development told me, “We’ve been trying to mine these opportunities to see which ones turn out to be practical.”

Much of the work falls into two general categories. QUASAR Federal Systems specializes in sensors used mostly for military surveillance and monitoring while QUASAR itself develops  technology used in biomedical instrumentation. Many of the R&D projects underway at QUASAR seem like the stuff of science fiction, so much so that a sampling may be the best way to describe the spectrum of the company’s government-funded work. For example:

—The Army Research Laboratory has sponsored development of a low-cost sniper detection system capable of pin-pointing the miniscule electric field generated by a bullet as it moves through the air. Using dime-sized sensors developed by QUASAR Federal Systems, the company says its system “easily detected bullets from common sniper rifles.” Work remains to be done, though, to develop “detection algorithms” that can eliminate distortions caused by the human body or vehicles where the sensors are mounted.

—The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a contract to develop a sensing system capable of detecting electrically powered appliances, such as fans and lights, inside underground tunnels. The technology developed by QUASAR Federal Systems could potentially be mounted behind Customs and Border Protection vehicles to detect smugglers tunnels beneath the U.S. border

—Under the Pentagon’s Warfighter Physiological Status Monitor program, QUASAR has developed what it calls “capacitive sensors” that can be sewn into fabric to remotely monitor soldiers’ heartbeats. The technology is so sensitive that the sensors can measure electrical signals generated by the heart without requiring stick-on electrodes that make electrical contact with the body. In addition to applications for the military and NASA, the technology has potential medical uses, and QUASAR says it also has an exclusive deal with Germany’s Adidas to explore commercialization of its sensors for the sports market. The company will not provide further details, but the usefulness of a heart monitor while jogging is easy to imagine.

—With funding from a variety of military and civilian agencies, QUASAR developed a compact electric field sensor with enough potential uses in geophysics to justify forming QUASAR Geophysical Technologies. Uses for the technology range from detecting underwater mines and submarines in the ocean to systems that detect low-frequency signals suspected as earthquake precursors. In a potential commercial application, the geophysical group also has developed a trash-can sized sensor that can be placed on the ocean bottom to detect subsea oil and gas fields.

In each case, though, QUASAR’s scientists say the challenge is advancing from “a research and development” knowledge base to technology that is “production capable” with clear commercial applications. As Duff, who oversees business development put it, “What we’re finding is the broader context (of commercial development) that exists beyond the technology is where the roadblocks are.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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