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.
University of Cambridge researchers have developed self-healing, biodegradable, 3D-printed materials that could be used in the development of realistic artificial hands and other soft robotics applications. The low-cost jelly-like materials can sense strain, temperature, and humidity. And unlike earlier self-healing robots, they can also partially repair themselves at room temperature. The self-healing materials are cheap and easy to make, either by 3D printing or casting. They are preferable to many existing alternatives since they show long-term strength and stability without drying out, and they are made entirely from widely available food-safe materials. Although this material is a proof-of-concept, if developed further, it could be incorporated into artificial skins and custom-made wearable and biodegradable sensors.
Contact: Sarah Collins
Quick Disconnect Device
Innovators at the NASA Kennedy Space Center have developed the Low Separation Force Quick Disconnect device for transporting pneumatic and cryogenic fluids. Umbilical systems employ fluid connectors known as quick disconnects to transfer fluids into a vehicle. Traditional quick disconnect systems have a separation force directly proportional to the line pressure. For systems with a high line pressure, large separation forces are generated when disconnecting the flow line, which requires the use of large, heavy support structures. KSC's Low Separation Force Quick Disconnect device eliminates this need for heavy support structures by ensuring low separation force. Applications include any mechanism in which fluid is being transferred from ground to a vehicle or another system, especially where a high line pressure is used.
Contact: NASA's Licensing Concierge
A research team at the Korea Institute of Energy Research has developed a novel technology that can create 3D porous graphene microelectrodes with high electrical conductivity by irradiating femtosecond laser pulses on the leaves in ambient air. This one-step fabrication does not require any additional materials or pre-treatment. The team showed that this technique could quickly and easily produce porous graphene electrodes at a low price and demonstrated potential applications by fabricating graphene micro-supercapacitors to power an LED and an electronic watch. These results open a new possibility for the mass production of flexible and green graphene-based electronic devices. The green micro-supercapacitors on a single leaf could easily be applied in wearable electronics, smart houses, and IoT.