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.
Permeable Concrete Pavement Can Cool Cities
Impermeable pavement made of concrete or asphalt covers more than 30 percent of most urban areas and can exceed 140 °F in the summer. It heats the air, posing human health risks and surface runoff, threatening aquatic life. Rutgers University has developed permeable concrete pavement that can help reduce the urban heat island effect. The permeable pavement contains large connected pores, allowing water to drain through, reducing pavement temperature. Water in pores will also evaporate, reducing pavement surface temperature. Moreover, permeable concrete pavement does a better job reflecting heat than asphalt pavement. The design of permeable concrete was improved with high thermal conductivity — meaning it can transfer heat more quickly to the ground — further reducing heat output by 2.5 to 5.2 percent.
Contact: Todd Bates, Rutgers University
Quick Disconnect for High-Pressure Mate/De-Mate
Dusty, dirty environments can be tough on connectors, wearing them down and making mating and de-mating of electrical and fluid connections difficult, hazardous, and unreliable. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Quick Disconnect (QD) uses the gas supplied by the umbilical to spray on, entrain, and remove dust from the connector surfaces prior to mating. The QD uses a novel dual-poppet design and springs that balance forces on umbilical components. This allows a controlled release of gas to clear away dust from the end of the connector before it is inserted in the supply umbilical.
Contact: Kennedy Space Center
Electricity-Free System Cools Buildings
The University at Buffalo designed a system that can help cool buildings in crowded metropolitan areas without consuming electricity, an important innovation at a time when cities are working to adapt to climate change. The system consists of a special material — an inexpensive polymer/aluminum film — that’s installed inside a box at the bottom of a specially designed solar “shelter.” The film helps keep its surroundings cool by absorbing heat from the air inside the box and transmitting that energy through the Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. The shelter serves a dual purpose, helping to block incoming sunlight while also beaming thermal radiation emitted from the film into the sky. Beaming the emissions in a narrow direction enables the system to be more effective in urban environments, where there are tall buildings on all sides.