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.
Inkjet Printing of Metamaterials
Engineers at Tufts University developed methods to more efficiently fabricate metamaterials that behave in unusual ways when interacting with microwave energy.
The innovation constructs the metamaterials using low-cost inkjet printing, making the method widely accessible and scalable while also providing benefits such as the ability to be applied to large conformable surfaces or interface with a biological environment.
The inkjet-printed materials have potential applications in telecommunications, GPS, radar, mobile devices, and medical devices. In theory, the metamaterials could bend energy around objects to make them appear invisible.
Contact: Mike Silver
High-Efficiency Solar Cell
NASA’s Glenn Research Center developed a high-efficiency multi-junction solar cell that uses a thin interlayer of selenium as the bonding material between wafers.
The innovation features a low-cost, robust silicon wafer as the supporting bottom substrate and bottom cell.
This approach enables a cell that is simultaneously lower in cost, more rugged, and more efficient than existing space-based photovoltaic cells.
For terrestrial applications, it can provide unprecedented efficiencies for auxiliary power units in vehicles, solar roof tiles, power plants, and smart grid systems.
Contact: NASA’s Licensing Concierge
Meringue-Like Material Reduces Aircraft Noise
An incredibly light material that can reduce aircraft engine noise and improve passenger comfort has been developed by the University of Bath (UK). The graphene aerogel weighs 2.1 kg per cubic meter, making it the lightest sound insulation ever manufactured. It could be used as insulation within aircraft engines to reduce noise by up to 16 decibels — reducing the 105-decibel roar of a jet engine taking off to a sound closer to that of a hairdryer. The aerogel’s meringue-like structure makes it extremely light, meaning it could act as an insulator within aircraft engine nacelles with almost no increase in overall weight.