Aluminum has an incredibly high energy density — double that of gasoline and an order of magnitude greater than lithium-ion. However, an oxide layer forms on its surface when in contact with air; preventing it from reacting. Processes have been developed to circumvent this in order to utilize this energy density in applications such as rocket fuels, but they are very dangerous and create serious risks of combustion.

A new method safely activates aluminum by treating it with 2% gallium and indium. The treatment bypasses the oxide layer on the surface and allows the aluminum to react exothermically with water to produce hydrogen and aluminum oxyhydroxide. The reaction has the energy density of rocket fuel, with high levels of control and safety. Additionally, this fuel can be made easily and cheaply from scrap aluminum, while producing recyclable byproducts.

A 3-kW emergency power supply generates electricity from this fuel. In this system, the aluminum reacts with tap or wastewater, and releases its energy in roughly equal parts heat and hydrogen.The heat is then dissipated through a radiator and the hydrogen is put into a high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cell that generates electricity. This allows for a simple, small, and highly energy-dense power system for emergency situations. The reaction does not produce any toxic gasses or carbon emissions and can be run in enclosed spaces safely.

A 10-kW aluminum-fueled range extender was developed for a BMW i3. Similar to the emergency power pack, the aluminum was reacted with water to produce hydrogen and the hydrogen was fed into a fuel cell. This power system proved that aluminum fuel can both react and be controlled, even at high rates. It demonstrated its ability to produce power on the scale needed for vehicle propulsion or building-scale emergency generators.

Additionally, developing a system that can utilize the heat of the reaction, rather than dump it as waste heat, has the potential to increase the system efficiency even further. Imagine a hospital with safe generators that last twice as long, or a home basement generator without fear of carbon monoxide poisoning.

For more information, visit here .


Box-less, Omnidirectional and Full-Range Speaker

John Gaudreault, Planot LLC, Omaha, NE USA

The Planot® acoustic transducer diaphragm redefines the way sound is produced. The diaphragm pivots back and forth along its long axis. The long faces engage air to create the closest analogue of a pulsating sphere. Traditional acoustic transducers (TATs) require boxes to isolate back wave from the front wave — Planot needs no box. The motor utilizes a system of magnets for homing, and the speaker is supported at its pivot points by bearings. Its full-range configuration has no phase distortion.

For more information, visit here .

Transparent Armored Building Blocks for a New World View

George Sturmon, Joshua Medling, Susan Schmidt, and Glenn Harris, Bleeding Edge EnSys LLC, Sullivan, MO USA

No-Access Armor (NAA) transparent polymer provides increased safety while reducing weight/maintenance. Traditional safety glass is heavy, difficult to cut, fragments when impacted, yellows/ delaminates over time, and is limited in applications. NAA is ballistic/tornado/hurricane-resistant, load-bearing, and easily modified in-field. The liquid - cast polymer is poured in virtually any shape/size/thickness. These transparent building blocks transform how cities and vehicles will be built, increasing safety, visibility, and positivity/inspiration of inhabitants.

For more information, visit here .

Graphene-Based Inks for Printed Electronics

Kaustubh Agrawal, Chhattisgarh, India

Graphene and other electrically conducting materials with conventional water-based inks can be used to print with typical commercial equipment. The technique will allow electronic systems to be placed into entirely unexpected shapes. The procedure involves hanging tiny elements of graphene in a carrier solvent amalgamation and then adding them to conductive, water-based ink formulations. The technique was tested on a classic commercial printing press that required no modifications in order to print with the graphene ink. Applications include printable electronics, smart packaging, and disposable sensors.

Vara: Revolutionary Firearm Safety

Timothy Oh, Christine Tate, and Jorel Lalicki, Clifton Park, NY USA

Reach is a firearm security system for addressing safe gun storage and home security. It redesigns the concept of a safe, focusing on optimizing intuitive user operation and access. Using a form factor that is similar to a holstei, Reach enables access within 0.5 second. When an authorized user grabs the gun, their thumb naturally aligns onto a biometric fingerprint sensor unlocking the gun from the safe. Reach is supplemented with a connected application that provides features for suicide prevention and home security. These features include friend/family verification before the safe unlocks, contacting emergency dispatch/911 when a gunshot is detected, and tamper alerts.

For more information, visit here .

See the rest of this year's winners: