Category Energy

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.

ENERGY | PAINT

Solar Paint Can Split Water Vapor and Generate Hydrogen

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapor and split it to generate hydrogen. The paint relies on a new synthetic molybdenum-sulfide compound which both absorbs water and also acts as a semiconductor which catalyses the splitting of water molecules. [SCIENCE DAILY]

FUTURE OF WORK | AUTOMATION

Machines Will Create 58 More Million Jobs Than They Replace

As a counterpoint to a story we included back in July describing the millions of workers who are likely to be displaced by automation, the World Economic Forum now reports that while 75 million worldwide jobs may be lost to automation in just the next four years, 133 million will be created over the same period as business develop a new division of labor between people and machines. The report warns, however, that a lose-lose scenario is still possible if businesses do not invest in “upskilling” their workers. [WASHINGTON POST]

LEADERSHIP | MANAGEMENT

The Biggest Mistakes Bosses Make When Making Decisions — and How to Avoid Them

It almost goes without saying that decision making is one of the most crucial aspects of leadership. Now research shows that how bosses make decisions is just as important as what decisions they make. Do it right, and you have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs and bosses. Do it wrong, and you have employees who are frustrated, resentful, angry and confused. Unfortunately, too many bosses do it wrong. Where do decision-making processes go awry? And how can bosses make it right? Here are four ways that bosses trip themselves up. [WSJ]

TEXTILES | TECHNOLOGY | VIDEO

Kjus Launches the First Ski Jacket Powered by a Charged Membrane

Swiss brand Kjus, just launched a new ski jacket powered by a an electronically charged textile membrane that it claims moves sweat away from the body 10 times faster than traditional membranes. This new technology, developed by Osmotex, is known as Hydro_Bot and works using electro-osmosis controlled by a small module inside the garment. The jacket comes with a USB charging cable and—of course—a corresponding smartphone app. It can be yours for $1700. [WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES]

ASTRONOMY

Six Strange Facts about the Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua

On October 19, 2017, the first interstellar object, ‘Oumuamua, was discovered by the Pan-STARRS survey. It’s even stranger than you think, and we still can’t rule out the possibility that its origin is artificial. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

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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.

BIOENGINEERING | TEXTILES

Next Generation Cotton You Won’t Have to Iron

A team at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has started working on a cotton with many of the properties of synthetics, such as being stretchy, non-creasing and even waterproof, while retaining its natural fiber feel. “We’re looking into the structure of cotton cell walls and harnessing the latest tools in synthetic biology to develop the next generation cotton fiber,” CSIRO scientist Dr. Madeline Mitchell said. The goal: use the next generation cotton to take substantial market share from the current synthetics industry. [CSIRO]

INNOVATION

The Future Belongs to Whoever Creates It

An interesting blog post from Jeffrey Phillips, author of Relentless Innovation: “The fact is that the future doesn’t belong to anyone. Given the rapid pace of change and the emergence of new technologies and solutions, you can’t say with much certainty who will win . . . but if we try just a bit we can understand what’s likely to happen and in some instances perhaps even influence it.” [INNOVATE ON PURPOSE]

ENERGY | ENVIRONMENT

The Big Bet in Fracking: Water

Some investors see fortunes to be made in the U.S.’s hottest oil field—by speculating in water, not crude. Fledgling companies, many backed by private equity, are rushing to help shale drillers deal with one of their trickiest problems: what to do with the vast volumes of wastewater that are a byproduct of fracking wells. The wastewater is commonly removed by truck, 125 barrels at a time, and start-ups are focused on building pipelines to handle the volume. It’s tempting to think of this as an infrastructure play, but global companies should be thinking about the opportunity in other ways because there is a lot of money to be made: rising water management costs can add as much as $6 to the cost of producing a single barrel of crude. [WSJ]

DRONES

Warehouse Drones are Ready for the Spotlight

Delivery drones may have been getting the most press, but warehouse drones are are already making a difference in many industries. This is just the start of many in-plant uses of drones and other autonomous robot, and it’s a great proving ground: Warehouses are much more physically structured than manufacturing plants and so make it easier to develop capabilities. [SUPPLYCHAINDIVE]

PHYSICS | BIOLOGY | (OLD) INFOGRAPHIC

Revisiting a 1958 Map of Space Mysteries

A year after Sputnik launched in 1957, speculation was sizzling. Surely, humans would be up there before too long, which in turn would finally put us in a position to answer our many, many questions about the universe. In 1958, the American Oil Company (AMOCO) released a pictorial map outlining some of the most bedeviling space-related puzzles of the age and predicting what might happen when space explorers were able to get a closer look. Some of these questions were tied up pretty quickly, but the rest aren’t so neatly resolved. Sixty years later, Atlas Obscura checked in with space experts to weigh in on which have been cracked, and what continues to confound. Use the zoom tool to take a closer look. [ATLAS OBSCURA]

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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.

MANAGEMENT | WORK-LIFE BALANCE

You Could Be Too Much of a Team Player

Amid a sweeping workplace trend pushing collaboration, some people are finding they play a little too well with others, turning some personal qualities that might be strengths in other settings into weaknesses at work. The good news: changing just a few behaviors can regain 18% to 24% of the time you spend collaborating. [WSJ]

ENERGY

Alternative Photovoltaic Systems for the Houses of the Future

Following California’s new mandate requiring solar-powered systems for residential construction, this article highlights technologies likely to get a bump and discusses those that may be coming in the future. Coverage of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) includes alternative roofing materials, window glazings, solar facades, and energy-harvesting concrete. [ARCHITECT]

PHYSICS

Settling Arguments About Hydrogen with 168 Giant Lasers

With gentle pulses from gigantic lasers, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California transformed hydrogen into droplets of shiny liquid metal. Their research, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, could improve understanding of giant gas planets like Jupiter and Saturn whose interiors are believed to be awash with liquid metallic hydrogen. [NYTIMES]

3D PRINTING | MANUFACTURING

Five Myths About 3D Printing

Like any fast-developing technology, 3-D printing, described more technically as “additive manufacturing,” is susceptible to a variety of misconceptions. While recent debates have revolved around 3-D-printed firearms, most of the practical issues in the field come down to the emergence of new manufacturing techniques. The resulting culture of innovation has led to some persistent myths. Here are five of the most common. [WASHINGTON POST]

ECONOMICS | INFOGRAPHIC

Here’s How America Uses Its Land

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is, but it can be hard to decipher how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure. This series of infographics derived from Department of Agriculture statistics break it all down. [BLOOMBERG]

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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.


We’re excited to announce the launch of GrowthPilot Insights, a series of white papers that grew out of our work on thousands of new product development projects. The papers distill what we’ve learned into simple principles and practical steps that any company can follow. The intro and the first paper at the link; others will follow in the coming months.

GrowthPilot Insights


POLYMERS | MANUFACTURING

New Polymer Manufacturing Process Saves 10 Orders of Magnitude of Energy

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new polymer-curing process that uses 10 orders of magnitude less energy and can cut two orders of magnitudes of time over the current manufacturing process. “This development marks what could be the first major advancement to the high-performance polymer and composite manufacturing industry in almost half a century,” said aerospace engineering professor and lead author Scott White. The findings, reported in Nature, describe a frontal polymerization method which uses the internal energy of the polymerization process—rather than external energy—to propagate the reaction and cure the material. [UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS]

INNOVATION | PODCAST

How to Think 10x Bigger (In Just 10 Minutes)

A short, tight talk by Dr. Astro Teller, CEO of X, Alphabet’s arm tasked with bringing its most audacious, difficult ideas to life. If you need to move truly new, technically demanding ideas off the drawing board and into the world, his description of how to run the teams attacking these challenges is as good as you will find anywhere. And it only takes about 10 minutes. You can stream the talk directly from the link, and—if you want to skip the intro—start at the 3:00 minute mark. [THE TIM FERRIS SHOW]

OCEAN SCIENCES | SENSORS | DRONES

This Man Is Building an Armada of Saildrones to Conquer the Ocean

Despite the ocean’s size and value, resources to study it are scant, and most of our data about global seas come from satellite readings and a smattering of sensor-equipped buoys. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is among the field’s best-funded research organizations and has all of 16 science ships, complemented by another 16 from university fleets. Australia has only one serious research vessel. Richard Jenkins is trying to change all this with his venture-backed startup, Saildrone Inc. [BLOOMBERG]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Move a Step Closer to Deployment

As a follow-up to the story on Thorium reactors we included two weeks ago, the first small modular reactor (SMR)—designed by UK-based NuScale Power—passed its Phase 1 review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late April. The SMR is designed to replace the one or more giant reactors in current nuclear power plants with smaller modular ones that can be assembled at a central facility and then shipped to the site for installation. [NEW ATLAS]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | BIOLOGY

Is Fungus the Material of the Future?

Fungus and slippers are two words that most people don’t want to read in the same sentence. However, scientists in the Netherlands are one step closer to changing people’s perceptions by creating everyday objects like chairs, lampshades and slippers using fungi—specifically oyster mushrooms. If you want to learn more and have 11 minutes to spare, there is an interesting video on the technology here. [SMITHSONIAN | MOTHERBOARD]

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Throughout our work week, 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.

3D PRINTING | ELECTRONICS

3D Printing Circuits Onto Human Skin

Micheal McAlpine of the University of Minnesota has developed a technique to draw an electrical circuit directly onto the skin; uses could include chemical sensing, solar charging, heart monitoring, and more. The system uses computer vision to adjust its position in real time, allowing it to print complex designs onto unreliable surfaces. In addition to laying down “wires” composed of silver flakes in solution that cure at room temperature, the targeting system has also been used to layer cells onto an open wound on a mouse. [DISCOVER]

STRATEGY | MANAGEMENT | INNOVATION

Do You Have an Organization That Can Manage the Present and Invent the Future?

An open letter to CEOs from Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (inventors of the Business Model Canvas). They point out that “innovation is only an expensive gamble when you do it wrong,” and then go on to lay out their view of a 21st century organizational structure that can be world class both at managing factories AND manufacturing new growth engines. “If you don’t want to end up like Kodak, Nokia, or Blackberry, then you have to start now.” [THINKGROWTH.ORG]

SLEEP SCIENCE | PODCAST

Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You. Literally.

An intensely interesting, long-form interview with Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker knows more about the science and impact of sleep than anyone alive, and he’s a great communicator. If you don’t have time to listen on your commute or in the gym, there’s a good review of Walker’s recent book, “Why We Sleep,” here. In addition to the link at the headline, you can also find the podcast on iTunes or anywhere else that carries popular podcasts. PG13 warning: the interviewer, Joe Rogan, occasionally uses colorful language, and there is a brief discussion of mind-altering substances. [THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE]

NUCLEAR POWER | ENERGY

This Is How a Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Works

After nearly forty years of almost no development, interest in thorium for clean power generation is picking up again, with new plants coming on line in the Netherlands and China. Thorium is incredibly abundant in the Earth’s crust, and molten salt thorium reactors have many advantages over existing plant designs: they can’t melt down, produce almost no plutonium, can—in fact—consume plutonium from existing stockpiles, produce only tiny amounts of other transuranics, are smaller and cheaper to operate than traditional fast breeders, and produce waste that remains dangerous for a much shorter time. [POPULAR SCIENCE]

MATERIAL SCIENCE | SENSORS

Graphene Opens Up New Applications for Microscale Resonators

A range of sensing and communications technologies, such as satellites, already rely on tiny devices called resonators—also known as vibrating microelectromechanical and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). But engineers have faced limits in the temperatures these tiny components can withstand and the range of frequencies that they can pick up. Now scientists at Case Western Reserve University have constructed resonators out of a single layer of graphene that can withstand high temperatures and operate across a broad range of frequencies. [C&EN]

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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]

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