NYU Abu Dhabi: A Decade of Innovation

Ten years ago, NYU Abu Dhabi opened with an ambitious vision to become one of the world’s great research universities, addressing complex challenges of local and global significance.

Over the last decade of growth and accomplishment, the University has produced a number of remarkable innovations, ten of which include, in chronological order:

1. Putting it on Paper
Researchers from the Division of Engineering have developed a new technique that utilizes filter paper to cryopreserve human cells, offering scientists an efficient alternative to conventional, long-term cryopreservation methods. This new approach produces comparable results but requires significantly less storage space and offers advantages over storing, managing, and distributing vials of cryopreserved cells.

2. Think Big Data    
Around the world, advances in the acquisition, organization, manipulation, and analysis of large quantities of information have created “a complete revolution” in recent decades, Professor of Economics Christian Haefke says. From physics to literature, research methods have been transformed. And professors are not alone in applying new tools to old problems. Governments, sports teams, social media companies, and others are equally enthusiastic. The consequences can be dazzling — and sometimes chilling.

3. Robots to the Rescue
NYU Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Airport Commission are working together on protecting the infrastructure at the city's international airport’s new terminal, and ensuring the safety of workers. A new, autonomous drone with a robotic arm has been developed to inspect inaccessible areas of the airport. This increases productivity, efficiency, and safety when accessing high spaces, and can lift heavy weights of up to 12 kilograms for a maximum duration of 40 minutes.

4. Keeping Hackers at Bay
NYU Abu Dhabi researchers have designed the Co-processor for Partially Homomorphic Encrypted Execution (CoPHEE), a microprocessor that provides support for data privacy using cryptography. CoPHEE is a first of its kind microprocessor aimed at mitigating data leakage and limiting the threats and vulnerabilities from hackers.

5. A Touch of the Future
The Applied Interactive Multimedia (AIM) research group at NYU Abu Dhabi is exploring the interface between man and machine. Working with interactive multimedia, the AIM lab is researching ways in which haptic feedback can influence emotions and mimic human touch.

6. The Unhackable Chip
Researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Design for Excellence (Dfx) lab have developed new innovations in computer chip technology that present landmark achievements in IT security.  Secured by a secret key so that only authorized users may utilize them and immune to reverse-engineering, ‘logic-locked’ computer chips will provide future users with new guarantees of security for their devices.

7. Space Data
The Center for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi will open the Space Data Center (SDC), the first location in the UAE that acquires, archives, and processes selected scientific data sets from space missions. The SDC will host observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Kepler, among other space missions, that are essential to performing research in solar, stellar and planetary physics. This data has now been made publicly available by NASA as a matter of its policy, but infrastructure in the UAE is needed to analyze the data locally. The Space Data Center will build relevant capacity for facilitating pre-launch studies associated with the 2020 UAE Mars Hope mission.

8. Work Away from Home
NYU Abu Dhabi students developed an app called Loga that could enable refugees to earn a meaningful wage by digitizing Arabic language documents using their smartphones. The Loga app converts Arabic text images into highly accurate transcriptions that can be copied, edited, and searched. Currently, millions of Arabic documents remain locked in image PDFs that can't be searched, copied, or analyzed. With Loga, refugees can remotely earn income by scanning Arabic print documents and converting them into digital text.

9. Smart Self-Healing Crystals
The Smart Materials Lab at NYU Abu Dhabi has developed the first smart self-healing organic crystalline materials that can heal after scratching, damage, or breakage without any chemical or biological intervention. The crystalline materials rely on the ability of their own molecular structure to repair itself within a short period of time, and are able to recover their integrity using only slight amounts of pressure to heal — similar to human skin. The efficiency of recovery of the self-healing crystals surpasses some commonly used polymers and rubbers. These materials are thought to hold an untapped potential for future smart devices such as flexible smartphones, screens, and electronics that will repair themselves overnight after being accidentally damaged.

10. Brilliance on Display
Four NYU Abu Dhabi students have developed an electronic touchscreen system to transform ordinary underpasses along the Corniche waterfront into bright canvases of LED public art. VersaTiles allows passers-by to express themselves on the walls of the underpass by pressure painting color patterns on a matrix of LED lights.