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.
Cold Tube Cools Without Air Conditioning
In the summer, air conditioners guzzle power and spew out millions of tons of carbon dioxide daily. University of British Columbia researchers have developed an alternative called Cold Tube. Instead of cooling down and dehumidifying the air like air conditioners do, Cold Tube absorbs heat directly emitted by radiation from a person without having to cool the air passing over their skin. The Cold Tube is a system of rectangular wall or ceiling panels kept cold by chilled water circulating within them. When a person stands beside or under the panel, their body heat radiates towards the colder panel, creating a sensation of cooling like cold air flowing over the body even if the air temperature is quite high.
Contact: Lou Corpuz-Bosshart
Thermal Energy Harvester
NASA Langley Research Center developed a technology to harvest electrical energy from waste heat sources.
While designed to provide a small, renewable, and portable power source for spacecraft, it can also be used in terrestrial applications such as powering electronics in motor vehicles and wireless sensor networks for Internet of Things (IoT) applications that experience thermal cycles.
This technology harvests electrical energy utilizing a pyroelectric device that generates voltage when cyclically heated. It has been demonstrated to produce electricity in the milliwatt range.
Contact: Langley Research Center
Al Creates Sharp Images from Blurry Photos
Duke University researchers developed an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can turn blurry, unrecognizable pictures of people’s faces into eerily convincing computer-generated portraits. Previous methods scale an image of a face up to eight times its original resolution. The new system, called PULSE, takes a handful of pixels and creates realistic-looking faces with up to 64 times the resolution, “imagining” features such as fine lines, pores, wrinkles, eyelashes, and stubble that weren’t there in the first place. The technique could, in theory, take low-res shots of almost anything and create sharp, realistic looking pictures, with applications ranging from medicine and microscopy, to astronomy and satellite imagery.