This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.

3D-Printed Lubrication System

Effective lubrication is es­sential to any mechanical sys­tem. For example, it is responsi­ble for providing a continuous flow of oil to the engine of the aircraft. As aircrafts have evolved, so have lubrication systems. A Florida-based start­ up Zulu Pods has developed the ZPod, a self-­con­tained, sealed, oil tank and pump that can be in­ stalled into existing low­-cost expendable jet engines. The ZPod is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand and is produced with 3D printing. The tech­nology promises to revolutionize lubrication sys­tems design for single­-use engines like those found in drones and missiles. In addition to its use in ex­pendable jet engines, ZPods can be used in helicop­ters as a lifesaving lubrication reservoir system. This emergency lubrication system significantly extends flight times in loss­-of-lubrication events.

Listen to a podcast with Co-Founder and CTO Daniella Sladen.

Renewable Energy Storage Technology

A Dutch­-based start­ up Ocean Grazer has developed an inventive way to store offshore renew­ able energy where it is produced: offshore. The “Ocean Battery” is a very large energy­-storage sys­tem designed to capture excess power from floating wind farms. With a combination of pumps, flexible bladders, and rigid reservoirs, the Ocean Grazer team took a tried­-and-­true energy concept — the hydrodam — and brought it to the sea. Excess pow­ er from nearby windfarms is routed to the battery, which is installed deep into the ocean floor. The battery pumps freshwater from the stiff under­ ground reservoirs to a bladder just above the sea­ bed. When there is a demand for power, the water, pressurized naturally from the sea, is routed back through hydroturbines to generate electricity.

Listen to a podcast with CEO Dr. Frits Bliek.

Aerodynamic Luge Sleds

Engineering improvements in luge design are difficult to make because of com­ plicated aerodynamics, complex sled geometry and unsteady, turbulent air flow around the sled. Traditionally, lugers design and build their own sleds, often through trial and error. Now, Clarkson Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Professors Doug Bohl and Brian Helenbrook, in collaboration with Colby Mazzu­ ca of Aeroworks, are using advanced computational and experimental methods to optimize sled geometries for developing faster, more aerodynamic sleds. A compu­tational method called adjoint-­based optimization helps find optimal shapes for luge design to improve perfor­mance, such as improving lift or reducing drag. The research will have applications beyond luge in other industries to optimize the design of vehicles like cars, trucks, ships, and advanced air vehicles.

Listen to a podcast with Professor Doug Bohl.