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9 Materials That Will Change the Future of Manufacturing [Slide Show]

Researchers are developing cutting-edge foams, coatings, metals and other substances to make our homes, vehicles and gadgets more energy efficient and environmentally friendly

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BIO-INSPIRED PLASTIC:

Light enough to permit flight and thin enough to accommodate flexibility and strong enough to protect its host, natural insect cuticle—found in the rigid exoskeletons of houseflies and grasshoppers—provides its host protection without adding weight or bulk.....[ More ]

ULTRATHIN PLATINUM:

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could provide clean transportation in the future, but they remain expensive in part because they use the precious metal platinum to facilitate the chemical reactions that produce electricity within the cell.....[ More ]

CHEAPER, LIGHTER CARBON FIBER:

Autos of the future will require strong, lightweight carbon-fiber composite structures to enhance efficiency and driving range, but low-cost fibers will be needed for market success. A consortium of national labs, industry and academia working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility are working to overcome the challenges of making cheaper carbon fiber.....[ More ]

MEGA MAGNETS:

Rare earth materials are vital to the manufacture of wind turbines, electric and hybrid cars, and consumer electronics due to their powerful magnetic properties. Yet they are also expensive and come almost entirely from one source—China.....[ More ]

DESIGNER NANOCRYSTALS:

Three University of Chicago chemists have created a new way to assemble what they call “designer atoms” into novel materials with a broad array of potentially useful properties and functions.....[ More ]

ROCK-SOLID COATING:

Engineers from the Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, the Colorado School of Mines and elsewhere have designed extreme-duty, iron-based, glassy alloy coatings for industrial drill bits, bores and cutters to make this equipment more resistant to breaking even under heavy loads .....[ More ]

WASTE-TO-ENERGY THERMOELECTRICS:

Northwestern University and Michigan State University scientists have demonstrated a thermoelectric material that is highly efficient at converting waste heat to electricity. That’s good news if you consider that nearly two thirds of all energy input is lost as waste heat.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC INK:

Quantum-electronic magic can make strange but useful semiconductors that are insulators on the inside and conductors on the surface. The bulk of the material acts as an insulator that blocks electron flow whereas the surface is a very good, metal-like conductor that allows electrons to travel freely at almost light-speed, unaffected by impurities that normally hinder electron motion through materials.....[ More ]

FUNGAL FOAM:

Initially conceived as a cost-effective, environmentally friendly and high-performance alternative to Styrofoam, Ecovative Design makes its Mushroom Packaging from agricultural crop waste—plant stalks and rice and wheat husks—bonded together with mushroom roots (called mycelium).....[ More ]

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