HRL Laboratories, a research institute that does R&D for Boeing, has developed what they're calling "the world's lightest material." And despite it being 100 times lighter than Styrofoam, it's actually made out of metal. The researchers achieved this by creating "a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness of 100 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair," resulting in a piece of metal (nickel, at least in the prototypes) that is 99.99% air.
Chemical and biomolecular engineer Juan Hinestroza and his team in the textiles nanotechnology lab are adding tiny bits of metal into fibrous material like cotton. When woven into a textile, the augmented yarn can produce light, kill disease-causing microbes or act as a filter to trap harmful gas. In addition, the metal oxides allow the yarn to be fashioned into conductive components like transistors for electronics.
“We want to transform traditional natural fibers into true engineering materials that are multifunctional and that can be customized to any demand,” Hinestroza said. “We are chemists, we are material scientists, we are designers, we want to create materials that will perform many functions, yet remain as flexible and as comfortable as a t-shirt or an old pair of jeans.”
About 27 pounds of adhesives go into the typical car today, up from 18 pounds a decade ago, said Daniel Murad, chief executive of ChemQuest Group Inc., a Cincinnati consulting firm.
In aerospace, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner illustrates adhesives' growing importance. About half of the Dreamliner airframe is made of carbon fiber. The fuselage is produced by wrapping a mold with tape "impregnated" with epoxy, and baked under pressure to bond materials. Each of the air frame's five sections uses between 40,000 and 50,000 fewer metal fasteners than conventional airliners, Boeing said.
Thinner, stronger, and more flexible than materials now on the market, graphene is ideal for wearable devices like smartwatches and for tablets that can fold into the size of a smartphone.
“We will someday see an era where mobile devices will truly become flexible—easily folded and unfolded—and that’s when we’ll need graphene,” says Claire Kim, a Seoul-based analyst at Daishin Securities.
The first companies to commercialize graphene technology in mobile devices will have an advantage over the rest of the industry, she says.
Policy Horizons Canada’s latest foresight study examines how four emerging technologies (digital technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and neuroscience technologies) could drive disruptive social and economic change over the next 10 to 15 years.
“These technologies will impact almost every sector of the economy. One of the most disruptive features of several of the technologies is they increase productivity with fewer workers. Artificial intelligence (like Apple's Siri) combined with data analytics could dramatically change the service sector with fewer workers. In a growing number of sectors, 3D printing could change the economics and location of manufacturing. Synthetic biology could change the economics and flow of raw materials in agriculture, forestry, energy and mining. Governments, business and society will have to work together to ensure there are innovative policies and institutions in place to ride the next wave of technological change. The next 10 to 15 years will be an era of transition. Almost every major piece of infrastructure will likely be under pressure to keep up in areas like skills development, health care, transportation and security. Ignoring or underestimating the rate of change could very well undermine our competitiveness, preparedness and resilience.”
According to the NY Times. "The Human Genome Project cost $3.8 billion. It was begun in 1990 and its
goal, the mapping of the complete human genome, or all the genes in
human DNA, was achieved ahead of schedule, in April 2003. A federal
government study of the impact of the project indicated that it returned
$800 billion by 2010."
President Obama used his State of the Union speech to emphasize that payback and announce his Brain initiative. “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our
economy — every dollar,”
"Today our scientists are mapping the
human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing
drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make
batteries 10 times more powerful."
"In September 2011, a group of “nano” people
focused on engineering materials at the smallest scales and “neuro”
folks who study the black box of the brain gathered at Chicheley Hall
outside London for a meeting. It was something of a scientific mixer—an
attempt to bridge the gap between two fields that sat on the scientific
equivalent of different continents.
One of the attendees who had dabbled in both
fields, Harvard Medical School genome pioneer George Church, saw it as a
fun meet-and-greet, although he wasn’t convinced it would lead to
But early on, California Institute of
Technology physics professor Michael Roukes laid out a possible
convergent frontier for the two fields: Nanoscientists were developing
ever-more-capable technologies, which could enable a generation of new
sensors that could record activity from thousands or millions of brain
cells.A handful of
published papers have described new technologies that range from the
plausible to the far-fetched, which could be used to monitor activity in
the brain. But which technologies will be chosen, and at what level of
detail the mapping should take place remains unclear."
The White House fact sheet highlights 4 areas of initial focus:
a) The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation will support
approximately $100 million in research beginning in FY 2014. b) The National Institutes of Health will establish a high-level working
group co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann (The Rockefeller
University) and Dr. William Newsome (Stanford University) to define
detailed scientific goals for the NIH’s investment, and to develop a
multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including
timetables, milestones, and cost estimates. c) Federal research agencies will partner with companies, foundations, and
private research institutions that are also investing in relevant
neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute, the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation, and the Salk Institute for
Biological Studies. d) Pioneering research often has the potential to raise new ethical
challenges. To ensure this new effort proceeds in ways that continue to
adhere to our highest standards of research protections, the President
will direct his Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to explore
the ethical, legal, and societal implications raised by this research
initiative and other recent advances in neuroscience.
Sprawling over more than a half-dozen buildings in three locations, the $14 billion facility includes 800,000 square feet packed with advanced laboratories and computer-chip manufacturing equipment. Here, about 2600 researchers, engineers, and technicians working for the U.S. military, research institutions from around the world, and the world’s top semiconductor-makers are pushing their way into ever smaller realms in the quest for faster and more energy-efficient computers, micro-electromechanical systems, sensors than can be embedded in anything from a helicopter rotor blade to a human tooth, and more.
Most solar panels convert less than 20 percent of the energy in the sunlight that falls on them into electricity. A new $2.4 million project funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy aims to greatly increase the amount of sunlight that becomes electricity. Its goal is a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent, which would more than double the amount of power generated by a solar panel of a given size. This would cut the number of solar panels needed in half and potentially make solar power more competitive with fossil fuels.
In the new research effort, Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, plans to use precisely structured materials to sort sunlight into eight to 10 different colors and direct those to solar cells with semiconductors that are matched perfectly to each color. As a result, more of the solar spectrum will be absorbed, and the energy contained in each slice of the spectrum will be converted mostly to electricity, rather than heat.