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.
Low-Cost RFID Torque- and Tension-Sensing Tag System
NASA's Johnson Space Center has developed a low-cost RFID-based torque and tension sensor for high-performance fasteners, such as bolts, that are used in high-tech equipment and systems. It offers the ability to remotely and quickly verify that a given fastener is torqued properly, resulting in potential cost savings over the life of the fastener and its host system. The system replaces traditional designs by using standard bolts in conjunction with an RFID ring integrated circuit (IC), antenna layers (top and bottom), a flat washer, and a spring washer. A new level of sensor telemetry is possible due to the system's ability to read longer ranges than present systems. Applications include aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, complex construction such as bridges, and heavy equipment manufacturing.
Contact: Johnson Space Center
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Process Produces Renewable Car Tires from Trees and Grasses
A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has invented a technology to produce isoprene, the key molecule in car tires, from natural products like trees, grasses, or corn. The new process begins with sugars derived from biomass, and combines them with biological fermentation using microbes with conventional catalytic refining that is similar to petroleum refining technology. Bio-sourced isoprene has the potential to expand domestic production of car tires by using renewable, readily available resources instead of fossil fuels. This discovery could also impact many other technologically advanced rubber-based products.
Contact: Rhonda Zurn, University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering
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Amorphous Wire Pressure Sensor
The US Department of Energy's Y-12 National Security Complex has developed the Amorphous Wire Pressure Sensor, a passive, wireless sensor for determining the internal pressure of a sealed container without the need for penetrations of the container for power or data acquisition. The sensor can be embedded inside a container and its data read through the wall by an external detector. Changes in pressure are detected based on changes in the magnetic switching characteristics of the ferromagnetic metal when subjected to an alternating magnetic field caused by the change in the tensile stress. The inductive signals can be detected through a variety of materials. Applications include sealed waste containers, gas cylinders, and for measuring tire pressure.