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.
Camouflage Hides Objects from Infrared Cameras
Infrared cameras detect people and other objects by the heat they emit. Researchers from several universities and Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered the ability of a material to hide a target by masking its heat properties. The effect works for a range of temperatures and could include humans and vehicles, presenting a future asset to stealth technologies. The quantum material tricks an infrared camera by decoupling an object’s temperature from its thermal light radiation; this decoupling allows information about an object’s temperature to be hidden from an infrared camera. The samarium nickel oxide material could make new types of optics and improve infrared cameras themselves.
Contact: Shriram Ramanathan, Professor of Materials Engineering, Purdue University
Solid-State Hybrid Ultracapacitor Battery
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed a solid-state ultracapacitor with a unique combination of high capacitance and battery-like discharge characteristics. The high capacitance in a solid-state form can enable a new type of ultracapacitor and in combination with the ability to deliver sustained power like a battery, can perhaps enable an entirely new class of energy storage devices. Test devices have demonstrated high capacitance and a discharge behavior that is more typical of a battery. The test devices discharge rapidly down to a certain voltage and then discharge slowly like a battery. Hence, the term hybrid ultracapacitor is used to describe the technology. Applications include rechargeable batteries for use in electric vehicles, electric grid energy storage, cellphones, and other consumer and industrial electronic devices.
Contact: Sammy Nabors, Marshall Space Flight Center
Boston University designed biodegradable adhesive material made of entirely naturally derived chemical components that break down after use. The formula easily adapts to suit a wide range of industrial and medical applications that benefit from sticky materials. It can stick to anything just as well as, if not better than, plastic-based products. About 20 to 40 percent of the biodegradable adhesive, which has the consistency of honey or molasses, is composed of carbon dioxide. The adhesive will take a year or less to fully break down in the environment, unlike plastic that will pollute landfills for hundreds of years. By adjusting the ratio of polymers and carbon dioxide in each batch of adhesives, the material’s adhesion can be made stronger, weaker, or able to respond to certain kinds of surfaces.