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.

Cooling Glass

University of Maryland researchers aiming to combat rising global temperatures have developed a new "cooling glass" that can turn down the heat indoors without electricity by drawing on the cold depths of space. The new technology, a microporous glass coating, can lower the temperature of the material beneath it by 3.5 °C at noon, and has the potential to reduce a mid-rise apartment building’s yearly carbon emissions by 10 percent. The coating works in two ways: First, it reflects up to 99 percent of solar radiation to stop buildings from absorbing heat. More intriguingly, it emits heat in the form of longwave infrared radiation into the icy universe, where the temperature is just a few degrees above absolute zero. Unlike previous attempts at cooling coatings, the glass is environmentally stable — able to withstand exposure to water, ultraviolet radiation, dirt and even flames, enduring temperatures of up to 1,000 °C. The glass can be applied to a variety of surfaces like tile, brick and metal, making the technology highly scalable and adoptable for wide use.

Contact:Chris Bender
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Color-Based Sensor

Engineers at the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) in EPFL’s School of Engineering have developed a sensor that can perceive combinations of bending, stretching, compression, and temperature changes, all using a robust system that boils down to a simple concept: color. Dubbed ChromoSense, the RRL’s technology relies on a translucent rubber cylinder containing three sections dyed red, green, and blue. An LED at the top of the device sends light through its core, and changes in the light’s path through the colors as the device is bent or stretched are picked up by a miniaturized spectral meter at the bottom. Thanks to its simple mechanical structure and use of color over cameras, ChromoSense could potentially lend itself to inexpensive mass production. In addition to assistive technologies, such as mobility-aiding exosuits, the team sees everyday applications for ChromoSense in athletic gear or clothing, which could be used to give users feedback about their form and movements.

Contact: Celia Luterbacher
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Therapeutic Biobots

A team of researchers at Tufts has created tiny biological robots that they call Anthrobots from human tracheal cells that can move across a surface and have been found to encourage the growth of neurons across a region of damage in a lab dish. The multicellular robots, ranging in size from the width of a human hair to the point of a sharpened pencil, were made to self-assemble and shown to have a remarkable healing effect on other cells. The advantages of using human cells include the ability to construct bots from a patient’s own cells to perform therapeutic work without the risk of triggering an immune response or requiring immunosuppressants. They only last a few weeks before breaking down, and so can easily be re-absorbed into the body after their work is done. The discovery is a starting point for the researchers’ vision to use patient-derived biobots as new therapeutic tools for regeneration, healing, and treatment of disease.

Contact: Mike Silver
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