Scientists And Engineers Are Developing New Materials For Manufacturers To Make Advanced Technology And Everyday Goods [PHOTOS]

on April 23 2013 7:08 AM

Engineers are developing cutting-edge materials that manufacturers could soon use to make advanced products and everyday goods. Technologies that integrate foams, coatings, robotics, sensors and other substances could change the future of manufacturing by making cars, homes and gadgets more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. 

Scientific American recently looked at next-generation materials in development, such as flexible concrete cloth for construction projects, complex natural polymers meant to replace toxic plastics and super-insulating aerogels for spacesuits.

9_bio_plastic BIO-INSPIRED PLASTIC: Researchers at Harvard University have developed a new material called Shrilk to replicate the strength, durability and versatility of insect wings. Shrilk -- made from shrimp shells and silk -- could be used to make trash bags, packaging and diapers, as well as wound sutures or regenerative tissue.  Wyss Institute, Harvard University

1_wine_shipper FUNGAL FOAM: Ecovative Design uses agricultural crop waste and mushroom roots to create what it calls Mushroom Packaging, a high-performance alternative to Styrofoam. The material will have use in packaging, car bumpers, doors, roofs, engine bays, trunk liners, dashboards, seats, tabletops, surfboards and clothing.  Ecovative

3_waste_heat_converter WASTE-TO-ENERGY THERMOELECTRICS: New thermoelectric materials are efficient at converting 15 to 20 percent of waste heat to electricity. Waste-heat recovery systems could be attached to vehicle tailpipes or could process exhaust streams from glass- and brick-making factories, refineries, fossil-fuel power plants. They could be also be used as large transport ships and tankers.  General Motors

5_nanocrystals DESIGNER ATOMS: University of Chicago chemists have developed tiny crystalline arrays called nano crystals that are so small that new quantum phenomena are beginning to emerge from the process that are strong enough to provide building blocks for new functional materials and substances. Designer atoms could be useful in harvesting solar energy and delivering quantum computing.  University of Chicago/Chris Strong

2_electric_ink ELECTRIC INK: Electricity-conducting inks will help make display screens, sensors and batteries. Researchers have discovered that certain crystals, technically known as samarium hexaboride compounds (SmB6), can conduct electricity on the surface and also insulate it on the inside. University of Illinois scientists have used the metal-free material to create a silver-based electric ink that is easier to make than conventional electronic inks.  University of Illinois / S. Brett Walker

7_carbon_fiber LIGHTWEIGHT, LOW-COST CARBON-FIBER: An Oak Ridge National Laboratory team at the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility is working to produce cheaper, lighter carbon-fiber composite structures to enhance efficiency and driving ranges for autos. The lab uses polymer resin to create up to 25 tons a year of new carbon-fiber materials.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory

6_mega_magnets MEGA MAGNETS: Nickel-plated neodymium magnets like these are rare earth materials that can be used to produce incredibly strong magnetic fields at small sizes, allowing manufacturers to build smaller, lighter motors. Electron Energy Corp. and University of Delaware researchers are developing a manufacturing process that increases sintered rare earth magnets' electrical resistivity by at least 30 percent.

8_thin_platinum ATOM-THIN PLATINUM: A new method for quickly and cheaply depositing ultrathin layers of platinum might lower their cost significantly by making it practical to reduce the amount of metal used in fuel-cell catalysts. Shown here is an ultrathin film layer of platinum deposited on gold after five seconds.  Gokcen/the National Institute of Standards and Technology

4_coating NANOSHIELD COATINGS: Nano Super Hard Inexpensive Laser Deposited (NanoSHIELD) Coatings are extreme-duty, iron-based, glassy alloy coatings for industrial drill bits, bores and cutters that are used to make equipment more resistant to breaking, even under heavy loads. NanoSHIELD Coatings cost far less than conventional materials such as tungsten carbide cobalt, and their long operating life improves the efficiency of the tunnel-boring process.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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