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If you are like me, you enjoy a good list, and the folks at Popular Mechanics just released their 2012 Breakthrough Awards to recognize “world-changing innovators” in two categories: innovation and products. Two additional awards are made to innovators, one for leadership and one to recognize a “next-generation” innovator.
The PM Breakthrough Leadership Award went to Elon Musk, the barely forty-something, South African-born billionaire who made his fortune as the inventor of PayPal. Now, he has turned his entrepreneurial talents and drive to transportation—space-bound and earth-bound. His company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), was the first private company to successfully build and launch a spacecraft that docked with the International Space Station. You may be more familiar with his other company, Tesla Motors, manufacturer of premium all-electric automobiles. PM’s editors interviewed Musk, which you may find interesting.
While you may have heard of Musk, or at least his companies, you probably never heard of Katherine Bomkamp, winner of the PM Breakthrough Next-Generation Award. Bomkamp, a junior at West Virginia University, got PM’s attention with her prototype prosthetic limb designed to address the problem of phantom limb pain in amputees. She was awarded a patent for the device earlier this year and is working toward starting human trials. The device is powered by a solar-charged lithium-ion battery that runs an automatic temperature regulation system with embedded thermoresistive wiring.
The award winners were showcased at an Oct. 4 gala held in the Hearst Tower in New York City. PM is a Hearst publication.
Here are the ten Breakthrough Innovation Award winners, followed by the ten Breakthrough Product Award winners.
Breakthrough Innovation Awards
Breakthrough Product Awards
If you are thinking of building a new home for your family, you might want to watch this TEDx talk by a USC professor who has engineered a way to build a house using additive manufacturing methods.
Behrokh Khoshnevis, though, is thinking way outside the 3D printing box with his “automated construction,” which he calls Contour Crafting, and has developed the equipment and programming to “print” concrete buildings.
Khoshnevis is a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering, as well as director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies. According to the CRAFT website, his vision is to revolutionize housing construction, and the team has set an audacious goal for itself-the ability to build a custom-designed house in a day. The new approach is expected to “drastically [reduce] the costs, injuries, waste and environmental impact associated with traditional construction techniques.”
The professor thinks the approach could be used to construct dignified, affordable housing to replace slums, as a rapid response option in disaster areas and for extraterrestial construction. (Some of his funding comes from NASA).
However, just like smaller-scale rapid prototyping manufacturing, the method offers flexibilities that are difficult to achieve with traditional stick or brick-and-block construction, for example, buildings designed with “curved organic designs.” (Which means Frank Gehry might be able to muscle in on the housing market. Sign me up!)
The video of his TEDx talk is about 12 minutes. He shows simulations of the process starting at about the 2:20 mark, and a demonstration of the system comes in at the 6:40 mark. He says the concrete they use is reinforced with composite fibers, has strengths in the 10,000 psi range (the standard for traditional construction is 3,000 psi) and that all the mechanical systems—plumbing, electric, windows, etc.—can be built in along the way.
Khoshnevis admits that rapid prototype construction may be a disruptive technology for the $1 trillion construction industry and might mean hefty job losses in the sector. He estimates that costs of financing could be reduced by 20-25 percent, materials costs could be reduced by 25-30 percent and labor costs could fall by a whopping 45-55 percent.
But he is unapologetic, citing agriculture as an example. A century ago he says 62 percent of Americans were farmers; now fewer than two percent are. We still eat; we still work. He also points out that a technology like this could open opportunities for groups of people that tend to be sidelined by the construction industry, like women and the elderly.
The Obama administration, too, hopes additive manufacturing will be disruptive in a positive way and open new opportunities in the nation’s manufacturing sector. Just yesterday, the announcement was made that an Ohio–Pennsylvania–West Virginia-based consortium will be the “pilot institute” of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation. The NNMI is envisioned as a private-public partnership network of 15 institutes supported with $1 billion of federal investment and consortium matching funds. Five federal agencies agreed to contribute up to $45 million to the pot to fund the pilot institute—DOD, DOE, Department of Commerce, NSF and NASA.
Things moved pretty fast. The NNMI proposal was announced by the president on March 9, and the RFP for the pilot institute was announced on April 13. According to a press release from DOE yesterday, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute will receive $30 million in federal funds which the consortium will match with $40 million. The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (Latrobe, Pa.) leads the consortium of 40 companies, nine research universities, five community colleges and 11 nonprofit organizations (listed below).
A NCDMM press release says that the bulk of the cost sharing funds are from industry and the state governments of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It says, “This I-80/I-79 corridor with nearly 32,000 manufacturers, commonly known as the “TechBelt,” represents a smaller geographic area but larger manufacturing output with more combined average production workers per year (1.01 million) than the two largest manufacturing states (TX, CA).” (That is, the “TechBelt,” formerly known as the Rust Belt.)
The winning consortium beat a field with twelve other competitors from across the country, including some with big research universities involved, including MIT and Georgia Tech. The NAMII will be headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio, according to a newspaper report.
And now, because this is a blog, I am allowed to opine, which I shall now do.
When I first moved to Northeast Ohio over 25 years ago, Republic Steel’s mills were pushing out tons of steel. That’s gone, and I think, finally, everyone has pretty much figured out that commodity steel is mostly manufactured offshore now. (The US is still a leader when it comes to production of highly engineered steels, like high alloy stainless steels.) But, I have long argued that we need to get over the loss of steel and look at what our region’s competency is. And that is, the “Rust Belt” knows how to manufacture.
We have the infrastructure and know-how to get materials in and products out. We have lots of smaller manufacturers that know how to heat treat, form, machine, coat, assemble, etc. Let’s stop pining for what we’ve lost and watch for and adapt to new opportunities that capitalize on what we’ve been doing for the better part of a century. Industries like renewable energy and medical devices need us. Let’s make sure they know it.
Companies: Allegheny Technologies, AlphaMicron, Applied Systems and Technology Transfer, Autodesk, Boeing, Catalyst Connection, Energy Industries of Ohio, ExOne, FMW Composites, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, IBM, Johnson Controls, Kennametal, Kent Displays, Laser Technology Assts, Lockheed Martin, Lubrizol, M-7 Technologies, MicroFab Technologies, Morris, Northrop Grumman, nScrypt, OSRAM Sylvania, Optomec, Oxford Performance Materials, Paramount Industries / 3D Systems, Parker Hannifin, Plextronix, POM, RTI, Ruger, Sciaky, Stratasys, Stratonics, Timken, Touchstone Research Lab, Westinghouse Nuclear, Wohlers Associates
Research Universities: Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Kent State University, Lehigh University, Penn State University, Robert Morris University, University of Akron, University of Pittsburgh, Youngstown State University
Community Colleges: Eastern Gateway Community College, Lorain County Community College, Northampton Community College, Penn College of Technology, Westmoreland County Community College
Non-Profit Organizations: Association for Manufacturing Technology, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, JumpStart Ohio, Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, MT Connect, NorTech, National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium, Ohio Aerospace Institute, Robert C. Byrd Institute, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers
The White House held a special Materials Genome Initiative workshop this week that involved about 170 representatives of industry, academia, national labs and government, and the event served as a background for several significant new announcements related to the MGI.
A post on the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy blog (OSTP is responsible for coordinating MGI activities) divided the new developments into five categories: Broad Industry Partnership by Over 60 Institutions; Regional Partnerships to Accelerate Work; Open Access Made Available to Millions of Molecules; New Tools for the Classroom; and Predicting the Properties of Nanomaterials.
The administration released a comprehensive “Progress on Materials Genome” fact sheet, which is well worth reading, but here are a few of the highlights:
• Harvard University, via the school’s Clean Energy Project (led by the Aspuru-Guzikto) says it is using IBM’s World Community Grid to accelerate the testing of millions of new, simulated organic molecules to conduct and store solar energy. Harvard says it also will be working with Wolfram Research to make the data associated with these molecules publicly available by the end of 2012. David Turek, IBM’s vice president of High Performance Computing Scalable Systems, has some comments about IBM’s MGI plans here.
• Members of the University Materials Council have pledged to pursue innovative new methods to train future materials scientists and engineers in ways that are consistent with the MGI vision. The 33 schools that are members of the UMC say they will be developing new courses on the use of computation tools and new degree programs.
• Autodesk is making new simulation technology and a library of properties for more than 8000 materials available via ‘the cloud.’ Apparently, the technology/library initially will be available to the company’s design customers, but Autodesk says it is committed also to making this new materials information available to the US educational community for use in the classroom. Autodesk recently released “Simulation Workshop,” a product that is described as “a free online source of education modules that can be used to train the next generation of engineers in advanced materials use.” (Simulation Workshop was developed in cooperation with Pacific Northwest National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.)
• Lockheed Martin says it will establish an industry-led, multisector “Carbon Nanostructures Consortium.” According to the company, the consortium will focus on accelerating the development of transformational carbon nanostructure-enhanced materials for energy, aerospace and electronics.
• GE Global Research says it will convene a Summit on Additive Manufacturing in July to drive faster adoption of this technology. GE Global Research says it will follow the summit by launching a lecture and workshop series specifically devoted to MGI beginning this year. GE also says it is sponsoring post-doctoral experts in the field on the topics of the MGI. The company says it hopes its efforts help to target “high priority material problems of national importance” and contribute to building a community that emphasizes workforce training and embraces a more collaborative approach to developing advanced materials.
• Argonne National Lab is working in collaboration with Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and private sector companies to create an “MGI Ecosystem” in the Chicago area. The vision is to develop cross-disciplinary teams with access to an important asset: ANL’s new “Mira” 10-petaflop supercomputer. Northwestern would leverage its strong materials research faculty and ties with the advanced materials industry and will work to expand the Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science and Technology. UC’s strength would be offering collaborations with its new Institute for Molecular Engineering.
• Like ANL, Berkeley National Lab will be leveraging its supercomputer. The lab says its National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center will be tripling supercomputing hours for the already successful Materials Project. Lab officials say this will amount to 40 million hours by 2013.
• The National Nanotechnology Initiative, which has been something of a model for MGI, says it will be working to ”stimulate the development of models, simulation tools, and databases that enable the prediction of specific properties and characteristics of nanoscale materials. Also, approaches, protocols, and standards developed through MGI activities may be initially explored, tested, or evaluated specifically for nanoscale materials under NNI efforts.”
• The DOE is evaluating proposals for up to $12 million (from FY 2012) “of research in predictive theory and modeling for materials and chemical sciences. This research will combine computational tools, experimental tools, and digital data to advance materials and chemical processes; provide user-friendly software that captures the essential physics and chemistry of relevant systems.”
• In parallel, the DOE’s Office of Science says it is launching new “SciDAC” (Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing) partnerships among materials and chemical researchers, applied mathematicians and computer scientists to develop new algorithms and computational approaches. The OS already funds the Computational Materials and Chemical Sciences Network of interdisciplinary teams that develop and test new software of relevance to materials and chemical processes.
• DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says it is using MGI principles as part of a $14 million Lightweighting effort in its Vehicle Technologies and the Fuel Cells Technologies programs. The EERE says the latter has already screened millions of unique material compositions computationally.
• NIST says it is now developing “(1) standards and tools for the representation and interoperability of materials data, whether from simulation or experiment; (2) techniques and standards for the interoperation of modeling systems operating at multiple length and time scales and techniques; and (3) tools for the quality assessment of models, simulations, and the materials data generated from them.” NIST’s Advanced Materials for Industry program says it will also participate in a series of workshops to identify and develop MGI measurements and standards.
• NSF notes that it has launched its Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future program in support of the MGI. The DMREF program, led by its Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering Directorates, will fund “transformative approaches to accelerate materials discovery, development and manufacturing, and to advance fundamental materials understanding so that material properties can be predicted, optimized, and ultimately controlled through design.” The first DMREF awards are expected this summer and NSF intends to continue the program in upcoming years.
• One challenge for all MGI efforts is whether the infrastructure to handle MGI-related data can keep up with the various materials exploration initiatives. Along these lines, the NSF says it is also funding a project it calls Cyber-infrastructure for the 21st Century (CIF21), plus a program called Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering.
• The DOD’s Office of Naval Research has awarded basic research projects to “improve the prediction and optimization of materials properties through new approaches to modeling material characteristics.
• The Army Research Laboratory recently launched two basic-research collaborative enterprises “to design materials suitable for the unique requirements of the nation’s soldiers.” One is a consortium led by Johns Hopkins University to develop new materials “designed to protect soldiers in extreme dynamic environments.” The other will by led by the University of Utah to develop “electronic materials through multidisciplinary and multi-scale modeling.”
• The Air Force Research Laboratory will be awarding a university center of excellence “focused on developing the fundamental science of computational and experimental methods common to all structural materials.”
I am particularly happy to see that the announcement from the University Materials Council regarding how to prepare a new generation of scientists, engineers and IT professional in how to support and use Big Data in materials development.
However, one glaring piece that seems to be missing are proposals to offering new training in modeling and computational methods, and data management for early- and mid-career professionals in materials science, a significant problem identified by a federal panel just a few weeks ago. (This topic deserves much longer discussion, but I do wonder if some of this could be accomplished by developing quality online coursework based on some of the emerging models, such as the new Coursera and Udemy initiatives.)
Check ‘em out:
Broken bones in humans and animals are painful and often take months to heal. Studies conducted in part by University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center researchers show promise to significantly shorten the healing time and revolutionize the course of fracture treatment.”We have been successful in formulating a product that contains mesenchymal stem cells and allows them to survive in the environment of the fracture long enough to elicit the rapid formation of new bone,” says said Steve Stice, director of the Center. This year, the group showed bone can be generated in sheep in less than four weeks. The speed in which bone is formed is one of the truly unique features of this study.
This issue (pdf) focus on “Homes: A Match for Concrete Innovation.” In general, the LCA’s research aims at moving LCA in the design space of architects, engineers and developers, by quantifying the link between energy costs and architectural, materials and construction technology design parameters. This research makes it possible to match specific material solutions with structural tightness levels that need to be implemented in order to enhance the energy efficiency of homes in the United States.
IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory-where several groundbreaking microscopy tools have been invented-has created a tough new coating for the tip of an atomic force microscope, a device that can be used to capture nanoscale imagery as the tip is run over a surface on the end of a microscopic cantilever. The coating could expand the range of ways that AFM can be used to include making lithographic masks for electronic manufacturing with features 10 nanometers in size-beyond the limits of traditional processes such as e-beam lithography.
Nanodiamonds designed to toughen artificial joints also might prevent the inflammation caused when hardworking metal joints shed debris into the body, according to a new study. In the race to create longer-lasting and less-painful artificial joints, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers are exploring whether nanodiamond coatings can reduce wear on joints made of metal alloys. Based on the way nanodiamonds interact with macrophages in a dish, the study authors suggest that the usual size and concentration of wear debris should cause neither inflammation nor toxicity. The macrophages that engulf smaller nanodiamonds release fewer inflammatory chemicals than those encountering larger particles shed by the metal and polymer surfaces of conventional implants.
Japan, the world’s biggest importer of rare earths, will provide 5 billion yen ($65 million) in subsidies for projects that reduce the need for the elements as it aims to cut its reliance on imports to meet demand. The funds will support projects that reduce consumption of magnet products that use dysprosium and neodymium, improve recycling and develop new technologies, according to a statement from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. An additional 3.5 billion yen will be allocated for use from May, according to the statement.
Check ‘em out:
Although the fracture rate of third-generation alumina-bearing couples is low, we believe that it may not be possible to eliminate the actual risk of alumina head fracture. Patients should be informed about the potential for this complication before receiving an alumina-bearing couple.
Polymer nanocomposites represent a new class of multiphase materials containing dispersion of nano-sized filler materials such as nanoparticles, nanoclays, nanotubes, nanofibers etc. within the polymer matrices. These multifunctional nanocomposites exhibit excellent mechanical properties, but also display an outstanding combination of optical, electrical, thermal, magnetic and other physico-chemical properties. It is believed that the molecular level interactions between the nanoparticles and polymer matrices along with the presence of very high nanoparticle-polymer interfacial area play a major role in influencing the physical and mechanical properties of nanocomposites.
The smallest magnetic-memory bit ever made-an aggregation of just 12 iron atoms created by researchers at IBM-shows the ultimate limits of future data-storage systems. The magnetic memory elements don’t work in the same way that today’s hard drives work, and, in theory, they can be much smaller without becoming unstable. As the semiconductor industry bumps up against the limits of scaling by making memory and computation devices ever smaller, the IBM Almaden research group, led by Andreas Heinrich, is working from the other end, building computing elements atom-by-atom in the lab. Data-storage arrays made from these atomic bits would be about 100 times denser than anything that can be built today.
With bankruptcies an unwanted but increasingly common feature of the photovoltaic landscape, questions abound as to what to expect from 2012. Lux Research’s Matt Feinstein investigates and picks a list of winners from the up and downstream markets. Innovation it seems, and not just when it comes to technology, is the key
Microscopic water droplets jumping between surfaces that repel and attract moisture could hold the key to a wide array of more energy efficient products, ranging from large solar panels to compact laptop computers. Duke University engineers have developed a new way of producing thermal diodes, devices which regulate heat to preferentially flow in a certain direction, effectively creating a thermal conductor in the forward direction and an insulator in the reverse direction.