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.
Multi-Stage Filtration System
While HEPA filter elements can last for years without intervention, pre-filtering systems that remove larger particles before they reach the HEPA filter need to be treated (most often by cleaning or replacement) as often as once a week. These treatments can be resource-intensive and expensive, especially in extreme environments. NASA's Glenn Research Center developed a multi-stage filtration system to collect a wide range of particle sizes with minimal filter changes. This breakthrough capability keeps high-efficiency media and devices from becoming overloaded with larger particles. uses an impactor filter to capture larger particle matter. After becoming heavily loaded, this filter can automatically through a unique feed system, thereby reducing maintenance costs.
Contact: Glenn Research Center
Supercapacitor for Fast Charging of Mobile Phones
Supercapacitors promise recharging of phones and other devices in seconds and minutes rather than hours for batteries. But current technologies are not usually flexible, have insufficient capacities, and for many, their performance quickly degrades with charging cycles. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the University of Cambridge developed a polymer electrode that achieves energy storage close to the theoretical limit, but also demonstrates flexibility and resilience to charge/discharge cycling. The technique could be applied to many types of materials for supercapacitors; devices could be made in soft and flexible freestanding films, which could power electronics embedded in smart clothing, wearable and implantable devices, and soft robotics.
Contact: Rupert Marquand, Queen Mary University of London
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7882 3004
Injectable Tissue Patch to Repair Damaged Organs
Repairing heart tissue destroyed by a heart attack or medical condition with regenerative cells or tissues usually requires invasive open-heart surgery. University of Toronto researchers developed a technique that lets them use a small needle to inject a repair patch without the need to open up the chest cavity. The AngioChip is a tiny patch of heart tissue with its own blood vessels — the heart cells even beat with a regular rhythm. The patch features a shape-memory material that unfolds itself into a bandage-like shape as it emerges from the needle. The shape-memory effect is based on physical properties, not chemical ones, so the unfolding process doesn't require additional injections, and won't be affected by the local conditions within the body.