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.
Woven Nanotube Fibers Turn Heat into Power
Rice University has made custom nanotube fibers for a fiber-enhanced, flexible cotton fabric that turns heat into enough energy to power an LED.
With further development, such materials could become building blocks for fiber and textile electronics and energy harvesting. The same nanotube fibers could also be used as heat sinks to actively cool sensitive electronics with high efficiency. With the new fabric, if one side of the thermoelectric material is hotter than the other, it produces energy.
The heat can come from the Sun or other devices. Conversely, adding energy can prompt the material to cool the hotter side.
Contact: Mike Williams
Agile RFID Antenna System
NASA’s Johnson Space Center developed a suite of RFID-based technologies focused on improving communication of an RFID reader with a greater number of RFID tags in open and enclosed areas.
The Agile RFID Antenna System can expand these boundaries by integrating an inexpensive frequency multiplexer to the RFID reader antennas, which permits new methods of localization, allows greater antenna functionality with fewer reader RF ports, and provides improved read accuracy and/or range.
Applications include manufacturing/assembly line tracking, industrial transportation and logistics, and healthcare.
Contact: NASA’s Licensing Concierge
Liquid Metal Coating Creates Antimicrobial Fabric
North Carolina State University used liquid gallium to create an antiviral and antimicrobial coating and tested it on a range of fabrics including facemasks.
The coating adhered more strongly to fabric than some conventional metal coatings and eradicated 99% of several common pathogens within five minutes. The coatings were tested against human influenza (H1N1) and coronavirus (which is in the same family as SARS-CoV-2).
The coatings eradicated the viruses after five minutes. It could also work with metals other than copper, such as silver.