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.
3D Holographic Head-Up Display
University of Cambridge (UK) researchers developed a LiDAR-based augmented reality head-up display for use in vehicles that could improve road safety by “seeing through” objects to alert of potential hazards without distracting the driver. The technology uses LiDAR data to create ultra-high-definition holographic representations of road objects, which are beamed directly to the driver’s eyes instead of 2D windscreen projections used in most head-up displays. This could be particularly useful where objects such as road signs are hidden by large trees or trucks, for example, allowing the driver to see through visual obstructions.
Contact: Sarah Collins
Material Structural Health Monitoring
NASA Langley Research Center has developed a polymer material that can be used as a real-time structural health monitoring sensor. The electroactive material generates a signal in response to a mechanical force. It is also highly elastic, which allows for a large range of measurable strain levels. The material is manufactured into micro- and/or nanofibers from polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) — a thermoplastic fluoropolymer that is highly piezoelectric when poled. The material has applications in impact sensing, delamination sensing, or fatigue crack sensing.
Contact: NASA’s Licensing Concierge
Pollen Sponge Tackles Marine Oil Spills
Nanyang Technological University Singapore created a reusable, biodegradable sponge that can soak up oil and other organic solvents from contaminated water sources. Made of sunflower pollen, the sponge is hydrophobic thanks to a coat of natural fatty acid. It can absorb oil contaminants of various densities, such as gasoline and motor oil, at a rate comparable to that of commercial oil absorbents. Conventional cleanup methods — including using chemical dispersants to break oil down into very small droplets or absorbing it with expensive, unrecyclable materials — may worsen the damage. The sponges, when scaled up, could be an ecofriendly alternative to tackle marine oil spills.