Category Chemistry

In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

CHEMISTRY | ENERGY

Eliminating the Middleman Improves the Production of Clean-Burning Hydrogen

The hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) relies on electrocatalysts to derive oxygen and molecular hydrogen from water. Now researchers have synthetically conjugated a water-splitting catalyst to a graphite electrode to cut out the catalytic mediator. The result: rather than having HER proceed through a step-wise path involving redox intermediates, the conjugated catalyst facilitates a direct route to the reaction. [C&EN]

AEROSPACE | BIOLOGY

A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

The first private spacecraft to reach the moon was loaded with an archive of human knowledge, DNA, and . . . dehydrated tardigrades. On April 11, the the lunar lander crashed, ejecting the package onto the lunar surface where—presumably—it will remain for a very, very long time. [WIRED]

MANAGEMENT | LEADERSHIP

Identifying and Defusing Idea Bullies

Do you think you might have an idea bully in your life? Chances are you do. This short read presents ways to help you spot (or self-identify as) a potential idea bully and a discussion about how to bring them back into the fold as powerfully contributing team members. [FUTURE SHAPERS]

ECONOMICS | AUTOMATION

Who Will Own the Robots?

Could the proliferation of increasingly efficient AI provoke social upheaval by eliminating huge numbers of jobs while producing great wealth for a very few? These concerns have been around since the Industrial Revolution, but there is surprisingly little evidence regarding the impact of automation on employment. Is there a way forward that is both fair and broadly delivers benefits? [MIT TECH REVIEW]

AGRICULTURE | INNOVATION

15 Agtech Startups to Watch in 2020

The world population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050. Simultaneously, the agriculture industry is facing increasing production costs, labor shortages, land management inefficiencies, food waste, and disconnected consumers demanding transparency to the origin of their food. Agtech startups worldwide are developing innovative solutions to tackle these challenges. [ROCKETSPACE]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

ASTROPHYSICS

A Flashing Mystery is Unfolding at the Center of the Milky Way

At the heart of our galaxy lies a black hole with some four million times the mass of the sun. Known as Sagittarius A* (which is pronounced “Sagittarius A star”), it creates a tumultuous environment, whipping stars around at millions of miles per hour and shredding any asteroids that come close with the force of its gravity. The beast now appears to be acting even more aggressively than usual, flashing twice as brightly as astrophysicists have ever seen before. [POPULAR SCIENCE]

CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGY

Did Biology Begin with Tiny Bubbles?

New research suggests that tiny, heated, gas-filled bubbles in hydrothermal rocks could have kick-started life’s emergence on prebiotic Earth. Simulation experiments suggest that bubbles could enrich prebiotic molecules and enable six essential processes that could eventually give rise to life, adding weight to the idea that conditions at hydrothermal vents were ideal for life to first form. [ROYAL SOCIETY]

INNOVATION

Telling a Good Innovation Story

Partners at McKinsey spent three years researching how people frame their innovation stories to create differentiation and attract attention. After analyzing more than 1000 “innovation stories,” they extracted three lessons for senior managers and entrepreneurs on what makes a compelling an emotional story. [MCKINSEY]

SEMICONDUCTORS | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Cerebras Systems Unveils a Record 1.2 Trillion Transistor Chip for AI

A California based startup, Cerebras Systems, this week revealed the largest processor ever built, with 400,000 cores on a single chip. Why build bigger when the trend over the past decades has been smaller and smaller? Because it’s ideal for AI applications where it dramatically speeds training time. [VENTURE BEAT]

INNOVATION

Top Emerging Technologies 2019

Leading technology experts from around the globe evaluated dozens of proposals to come up with this list of emerging technologies poised to shake up the world. Some of them will surprise you. [WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.


MATERIALS SCIENCE | TEXTILES | VIDEO

Old Bread Becomes New Textiles

Researchers are hoping to grow a biomass of fungi on bread waste and then use it to spin yarn and to create a new class of nonwovens. [UNIVERSITY OF BORAS]

PHYSICS

Scientists Are Working to Confirm the Existence of a Mirror Universe

Almost thirty years ago, scientists studying how neutrons break down into protons may have unwittingly fired particles through a passage into a parallel universe. This summer, in a series of experiments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, physicist Leah Broussard is set to find out if this passage actually exists and how to open it methodically. Her results and those of several related experiments may suggest a new explanation for dark matter. [MACH]

INNOVATION | STRATEGY | MANAGEMENT

Innovative Companies Are Trouncing the Rest of the Market

Joseph Mezrich’s Innovation Index describes a finding that more executives should be paying attention to: companies that spend their cash on R&D (instead of on stock buybacks) nearly doubled the returns of their competitors, and the analysis applies to both technology companies and large manufacturers. In this Kraft Heinz case study, Colin Robinson applies the Mezrich framework to illustrate what happens when an industrial giant ignores innovation. [CNN | ECONIC]

ENERGY | CHEMISTRY

Magnets Can Double the Efficiency of Water Splitting and Could Help Usher in a Hydrogen Economy

Recent experiments at the Institute of Chemical Research in Catalonia, Spain, have shown that simply bringing an ordinary permanent magnet within touching distance of a water-splitting reactor can double process efficiency, slashing the amount of energy required to obtain hydrogen. [ROYAL SOCIETY OF CHEMISTRY]

HYDRAULICS | BATTERIES | VIDEO

Electrochemistry Helps This Fish Bot Shimmy

This robotic fish has fins powered by a flow battery with liquid electrolyte doubling as hydraulic fluid. [C&EN]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

PHYSICS | MATERIALS

With a Simple Twist, a ‘Magic’ Material Is Now the Big Thing in Physics

The stunning emergence of a new type of superconductivity with the mere twist of a carbon sheet has left physicists giddy and its discoverer nearly overwhelmed. The possibilities for higher-temperature superconductivity, revolutionary electronics, and the arrival of quantum computers are exciting, but the discovery has also opened a window into a relatively simple platform to explore exotic quantum effects. [QUANTA]

POLYMERS | CHEMISTRY

This New Plastic Can Be Endlessly Recycled

Many plastics can’t be reused without “downcycling” due to manufacturing additives. But a new material developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, PDK, may provide a solution: it can be deconstructed to the molecular level, separated from additives, and then reused as if new. And it’s not the only one; just last year, another new polymer was described as ‘infinitely’ recyclable. [SMITHSONIAN and SCIENCE DAILY]

INNOVATION

How to Stop Playing “Target Market Roulette”: A New Addition to the Lean Toolset

The Lean Methodology tells you how to rapidly find product/market fit inside a specific market and how to pivot when your hypotheses are incorrect, but it doesn’t help you figure out how to locate the best market for you new invention in the first place. A new book by Mark Gruber and Sharon Tai, Where to Play, closes this gap. In this post by Steve Blank, he asks the authors to summarize their technique and provide an example of how to use it. [STEVE BLANK]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE | BOOK REVIEW | PODCAST

How Will AI Change Our Lives? Experts Can’t Agree — and that Could Be a Problem

Some experts warn that AI represents an existential threat to human life, while others find the argument ridiculous. Two new books—Possible Minds, edited by John Brockman, and Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford—take similar approaches to grappling with the topic. Across the books, 45 researchers describe their thinking. Almost all perceive something momentous on the horizon, but they disagree profoundly on whether it should give us pause. For further thinking on the subject, listen to Sam Harris’s interesting interview with three of the contributors to Possible Minds. [VOX | MAKING SENSE PODCAST]

ASTROPHYSICS | VIDEO

A Violent Splash of Magma That May Have Made the Moon

Scientists remain uncertain about the moon’s origin. A study published a few weeks ago in Nature Geoscience suggests that it was forged from the fires of an ocean of magma sloshing over the baby Earth’s surface. If correct, the model may solve a longstanding paradox and help explain the evolution of our own planet. [NYT]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

GEOLOGY

Earth’s Magnetic Field is Acting Up and Geologists Don’t Know Why

Driven by a fast moving jet of liquid iron beneath Canada, Earth’s north magnetic pole is traveling away from North America, has crossed the International Date Line, and is headed towards Siberia. It is changing so rapidly that experts have to update the World Magnetic Model, which governs all modern navigation, a year earlier than scheduled. [NATURE]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE | MATERIALS SCIENCE

Artificial Intelligence Meets Materials Science

Developing and launching new advanced materials can take decades, but an engineering research team at Texas A&M is employing machine learning, data science, and a wealth of expert knowledge to accelerate the process. Their autonomous program uses an algorithm that—while working with very little initial data—adaptively picks the best machine learning models to find the optimal material to fit any given criteria. [PHYS ORG]

MANAGEMENT | LEADERSHIP

Hiring Intrapreneurs: A Practical Guide

If you can ignore the goofy graphics and the too-cute analogies, there is a wealth of good information in here about the nature of intrapreneurs and what it takes to support their work, an effort that can be richly rewarding for any company. [BOARD OF INNOVATION]

MANAGEMENT | LEADERSHIP

19 Workplace Predictions for 2019

A quick, sarcastic look at some of the biggest challenges facing employers and employees in the coming year. [LINKEDIN]

PHYSICS | CHEMISTRY

The Periodic Table is an Icon. But Chemists Still Can’t Agree on How to Arrange It

The at-once recognizable shape and patterns of the 150 year-old periodic table may one day be not so recognizable. While new elements have been discovered and added to the table over the years and have changed its look slightly, there are many scientists who believe its current iteration is not its best configuration. Some think the question comes down to whether the table is shaped by physics or chemistry. As the debate rages on, we may just end up with more than one table hanging in our labs and classrooms to tell a more complete picture of chemistry. [C&EN]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

BATTERIES | CHEMISTRY | NANOPARTICLES

Superconductor Boosts Lithium-Sulfur Battery Performance

Next-generation batteries based on lithium-sulfur chemistry could store more energy in lighter packages than today’s best lithium-ion batteries. But the intricacies of Li-S chemistry also limit its durability. Now researchers have found they can rein in the chemistry of Li-S cathodes by adding nanoparticles of the superconductor magnesium diboride. [C&EN]

ELECTRICITY | EMISSIONS

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the U.S. Power Sector Have Declined 28% Since 2005

Carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector have been on a steady decline and are now at the lowest level since 1987. Driven by low demand, state policies, and federal tax incentives encouraging the use of noncarbon electric generation like solar and wind, this decline in emissions will likely be a continuing trend. [EIA]

INNOVATION | STARTUPS

Lean StartUp’s Newest Tool: Innovation Accounting

A recent study of 1200 executives found that over half of them struggle with connecting their business and innovation strategies. Almost 75% believe they are not out-innovating their competition. Eric Ries, author of The Startup Way, thinks it’s because companies are measuring their progress using wild guesses; they should start using science instead. [INC]

PHYSICS

Redefining the Kilogram

The official object that defines the mass of a kilogram is a tiny, 139-year-old cylinder of platinum and iridium that resides in a triple-locked vault near Paris. Because it is so important, scientists almost never take it out; instead they use copies called working standards. But the last time they did inspect the real kilogram, they found it slightly heavier than all the working standards, which have been leaving behind a few atoms of metal every time they are put on scales. The result: representatives from 57 countries are meeting this month to vote on a proposal to make the International System of Units fully dependent on constants of nature. The ampere, kelvin, mole, and kilogram are all expected to get new definitions. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

SCIENCE | VIDEOS| IMAGES

The 8 Best Science Images, Videos, and Visualizations of the Year

From basic principles that explain our universe, to the newest technology, science can be weird, fun, and down right exciting. But science can also be strikingly beautiful. These 8 visuals are the best this year that not only explain scientific concepts clearly, but also show just how stunning science can be. [POP SCI]

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In the course of our research for clients, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we pick five articles, videos, or podcasts that we found interesting and send them your way.

QUANTUM PHYSICS

Coolest Science Ever Headed to the Space Station

On May 21, NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory arrived at the International Space Station to explore a state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), in which atoms shed their individual identities and crowd en masse into a single quantum wave. Long-predicted, but first observed in 1995, achieving the state requires chilling atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, even colder than the average temperature of deep space. Moving experiments to space solves a key challenge: being able to observe the BEC for more than 10-20 milliseconds after release from the magnets and lasers used to trap and chill the atoms. [SCIENCE]

STRATEGY | PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Building a Better MVP: How to Say No to the Wrong Things So You Can Say Yes to the Right Things

The most persistent mistake companies make during product development is also one of the easiest to solve. In fact, post-mortem evaluations of over 100 startups revealed that the primary cause of startup failure—in 42% of cases—was “no market need.” How can this happen? Founders overwhelmingly said “they were more focused on solving an interesting version of the problem, rather than solving the real problem as it existed.” Don’t ignore the importance of deeply understanding the job-to-be-done: whether you are a start-up or a major corporation, get out and talk to the market. Again and again. [ALLEYWATCH]

CHEMISTRY | BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING

Chemists Synthesize Millions of Proteins Not Found in Nature

In a DARPA-funded project, MIT chemists have devised a way to rapidly synthesize and screen millions of novel proteins from amino acids not used in nature; the proteins could be used as drugs against Ebola and other viruses. These “xenoproteins” offer many advantages over naturally occurring proteins: they are more stable, don’t require refrigeration, and may not provoke an immune response. Amino acids can exist in two different configurations, known as L and D, but cells can use only the L variant. As building blocks for their xenoproteins, the researchers used 16 “mirror-image” (D) amino acids. The program has already synthesized D-variant proteins that will bind to the influenza virus, the anthrax toxin, and an Ebola glycoprotein. [MIT]

STRATEGY | AUTONOMOUS DRIVING

Building Autonomous Vehicles is Hard

This New York Times piece describes how Apple—handicapped by hubris and a demand to control everything—has struggled to find a partner to help execute its autonomous driving ambitions. Tesla, on the other hand, is struggling with a different problem: too much vision and not enough execution. In this piece (and podcast) which originally appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Steve Blank compares Elon Musk to Billy Durant (the founder of GM who was fired twice before Alfred Sloan took over) and “wonders if $2.6 billion in executive compensation [for Musk] would be better spent finding someone to lead Tesla to becoming a reliable producer of cars in high volume – without the drama in each new model. Perhaps Tesla now needs its Alfred P. Sloan.”

CHEMICALS | ENVIRONMENTAL

Water Woes Lead EPA to Toughen Fluorochemical Rules

The EPA held an invitation-only forum in Washington last week to announce the development of tougher national regulations on the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), and the related perfluorooctanoic acid, in an effort to keep these chemicals out of the drinking water supply. Administrator Pruitt said, “This should be and must be a national priority, and . . . we are going to be taking concrete steps as an agency to address that, along with you at the state and local level.” PFAs and PFOAs are known to persist in the environment and can pose health risks even at relatively low concentrations. Controversy plagues the EPA on this issue; it has been accused of suppressing a report suggesting the existing limits are too high and it did not open the May summit to affected community groups and activist organizations. New regulations will likely face opposition because of the importance of these chemicals across many industries. [PLASTICS NEWS]

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In the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

In Just 4 Hours, Google’s AI Mastered All the Chess Knowledge in History

In a new paper, Google researchers detail how their latest AI evolution, AlphaZero, developed “superhuman performance” in chess, taking just four hours to learn the rules (with no strategic programming) before obliterating the world champion chess program, Stockfish. “We now know who our new overlord is,” said chess researcher David Kramaley, the CEO of chess science website Chessable, “It will no doubt revolutionize the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.”
[SCIENCE ALERT]

STRATEGY

Grow by Creating Markets, Versus Killing Competitors

This short summary of “Blue Ocean Shift,” W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne’s update to “Blue Ocean,” describes a systematic, five-step approach to creating new markets rather than fighting to the death with your existing competitors. In our experience, the approach works, but even innovative companies struggle with Step 2: building an objective view of the strategic landscape. Their deep connection to existing markets, low risk tolerance, focus on short-term revenue pressure from investors, and rapid executive turn-over, are all factors conspiring against their ability to take the long-term view of their future necessary to build new markets from scratch. [ALLEYWATCH]

BLOCKCHAIN

In Search of Blockchain’s Killer-Apps

“Blockchain has yet to cross the chasm from technology enthusiasts and visionaries to the wider marketplace that’s more interested in business value and applications”. Though most commonly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain has been getting a lot of breathless publicity for its potential to transform almost any application [we doubt it: blockchain has a massive scaling problem ]. The author speculates that two killer-app categories will benefit most from blockchain: 1. applications involving complex transactions and multiple institutions, and 2. internet security applications for identity management and data sharing. [WALL STREET JOURNAL]

CHEMISTRY | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Retrosynthesis: Here It Comes

Chematica—the MilliporeSigma-owned retrosynthesis software—was put to a DARPA-funded test: could the software produce a better synthesis path for eight molecules of commercial interest? The results: software 8, chemists 0. For seven of the eight targets, Chematica substantially improved synthesis routes (shorter routes, fewer chromatography steps, higher yields, more reproducible) and came from several directions (completely different synthetic approaches, different starting materials, etc.). For the eighth, it did even better, improving the synthesis but also breaking the patented route to the compound. [SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE]

ENERGY | PULP and PAPER

Newly Discovered Cellulose Could Have Applications From Energy to Medicine

A modified version of cellulose polymer was noticed in the extracellular matrix structure of e.coli . The newly identified version of cellulose does not form crystals and is readily soluble in water, making it a more suitable precursor for ethanol production. Because of its function as an extracellular matrix component, this cellulose polymer nurtures infectious bacteria, leading to a follow-on set of experiments inhibiting production of the cellulose in mice. Next stage research will involve introducing the modified cellulose genes into plants for scaled up production. [STANFORD]

Read More

In the course of our research for clients across many industries and fields, we come across emerging technologies, new materials, new chemistries, growing markets, changing regulatory landscapes, innovative business models, and much more. Every other Friday, we deliver five interesting things we came across during the preceding weeks. And no filler.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Nokia and Vodafone Will Bring 4G to the Moon

With upcoming, non-governmental space missions delivering two new rovers to the lunar surface, Nokia and Vodafone are partnering to create a 4G base-station on the moon. The Vodafone station will use Nokia hardware to communicate more seamlessly with the rovers as well as stream high-def video back to Earth. [ENGADGET]

BATTERY CHEMISTRY

Investment in Lithium-ion Technologies May Crowd Out Future Innovation

This article highlights how the growth of lithium-ion-based battery infrastructure is creating technological lock-in: in spite of known thermal hazards and the impracticality of lithium-ion for powering airplanes and large trucks, chemistries beyond lithium-ion are facing higher barriers to entry and, thus, less commercial interest. The article suggests policymakers need to respond to lithium-ion lock-in by promoting research and development in high energy density alternatives, like aluminium-air or lithium-sulfur. [BROOKINGS INSTITUTION]

POLYMERS | SUSTAINABILITY

Lego Bricks to Be Made from Plants

Implementing a sustainability roadmap developed in 2015, the Danish manufacturer began production of Lego blocks from bio-based polyethylene. Beginning with the plant-like tree and leaf Lego pieces, the move from ABS to more sustainable materials will start small but looks to provide a different meaning and a sustainable future for “block polymers.” [CHEMICAL & ENGINEERING NEWS]

COMPUTING | BIOMEDICAL DEVICES

Biocomputer and Memory Built Inside Living Bacteria

Reporting on two separate feats in bioengineering, this article recaps original research in which the DNA of e.coli was manipulated to store data and, indirectly, perform basic logic functions. Researchers at Harvard archived a 36×26 pixel GIF in the e.coli DNA and then were able to retrieve the GIF with 90% efficiency and obviously recognizable form. Separately but concurrently at Harvard, a synthetic strand of DNA introduced to e.coli directed the cell to produce a RNA-based “computer” capable of basic logic and programming. [IEEE SPECTRUM]

INNOVATION | CORPORATE STRATEGY

The Five New Forces In Innovation Strategy

The article summarizes some key topics from the Drucker Forum 2017 with a focus on the five new forces outlined by Lean Start-Up pioneer Steve Blank. In addition to discussing the five forces, the article notes the importance of avoiding “innovation theater” by maintaining a healthy innovation pipeline with measured results. [FORBES]

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