Category Manufacturing

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.


A Better Way to Adiponitrile

Adiponitrile is an important precursor for making nylon 6,6 and one of the most produced chemicals worldwide. Industry generally synthesizes it through an energy-intensive process involving acutely toxic reactants. The less-often-used route is driven by electrochemistry; it’s environmentally-friendly but inefficient. Researchers at NYU discovered that pulsing the current used to drive the reaction could increase yields and then used a machine-learning algorithm to optimize the process. The result: they increased selectivity by 325% and yields by 30%. [C&EN]


Allen Institute’s Aristo AI System Finally Passes an Eighth-Grade Science Test

It’s easy to mistake extraordinarily good (but narrow) AI performance in a single domain for human-like reasoning, yet very few machines are capable of the feat. A minor milestone was reached last month, however, by a program developed specifically for test-taking: it managed to score 90% on a multiple choice science test usually given to New York eighth-graders. But there are caveats. [GEEKWIRE]


One Negotiation Strategy That Will Make You a World-Class Negotiator

Hyperfocus is required to negotiate, but it’s also where we most often trip ourselves up in any complex negotiation. We become myopic, losing sight of the context and larger goal of the negotiation. This simple strategy can solve the problem and help you become a better negotiator by getting outside your biases and preconceptions. [INC]


Listening For Extraterrestrial Blah Blah

After listening for decades, the general consensus is that we have never heard a signal from an alien civilization. But what if we have and we just didn’t recognize it? By applying information theory to the communications of socially complex animals, scientists have broadened our understanding of what signals generated by an alien intelligence might look like and are applying this understanding to an analysis of data collected by the Allen Telescope Array at the SETI Institute. [NAUTILUS]


Quantum Radar Demonstrated For the First Time

Researchers created the world’s first quantum radar, a device that can detect objects at a distance using only a few photons and emitting little detectable electromagnetic radiation. This device could have potential for use in both non-invasive biomedical and security applications. [MIT TECH REVIEW]

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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.


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]


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]


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]


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]


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


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]


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]


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]


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]


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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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.


Crispr’d Food, Coming Soon to a Supermarket Near You

This past Wednesday (March 28, 2018), the US Department of Agriculture announced it will not regulate “certain gene-edited” plants in an effort to incite innovation in the field. The designer plant fast lane is limited to genetic alterations which could have occurred naturally, such as an insertion, simple swap, or deletion, but does not protect more significant or cross-species editing. By eliminating regulatory burdens, even relatively small-market plants are worth developing, allowing small start-ups to compete with even the largest agricultural firms. No word yet on the labeling requirements. [WIRED]


Now You See It: Invisibility Material Created

Inspired by the ability of squid and other cephalopods to rapidly change color, scientists at UCI Irvine have designed a new material that can—by stretching or stimulation with an electrical impulse—quickly change how it reflects heat. Potential uses include better camouflage for troops and insulation for spacecraft, storage containers, emergency shelters, clinical care, and building heating and cooling systems. The inventors believe the prototypes can be scaled to large sheets of commercially usable material. [SCIENCE DAILY]


Every Study on What Automation Will Do to Jobs, in One Table

Though undertaken by reputable institutions and organizations, estimates of the number of jobs which will be lost to automation vary widely—anywhere from 9% to 47%—depending on the study. Some reports include estimated timelines, number of expected jobs gained, and/or number of jobs significantly altered or requiring substantial new training. We think this is all ridiculous speculation: examining a single industry might be worthwhile if enough information is available today, but trying to predict where the technology will go when it is moving so rapidly is a fool’s errand. So we agree with the author: “we have no idea how many jobs will actually be lost to the march of technological progress.” [MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW]


Are You Ready for the Third Digital Revolution?

Knowledge@Wharton interviewed two of the authors of the new book, “Designing Reality,” for a recent podcast. The authors discuss the two previous digital revolutions, computation and communication, and suggest the third digital revolution will be decentralized fabrication. From bits to atoms, the conversion of digital data to products will occur at local fabrication facilities or even in-home. As with Moore’s Law—a roadmap forward developed by looking back—can we predict large-scale adoption of additive manufacturing using what we know now about the speed of development? How can we use what we know about previous digital revolutions to identify and address disparities in education and opportunity beforehand? [WHARTON – UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA]

If you have time on your commute or an upcoming flight, the podcast is worth your time, but the full transcript is available using the link above.


How To Convince People You Have a Good Idea

Costas Markies of the London Business School describes five important variables that determine how likely it is that your efforts to convince people to back your idea will succeed. All five have to be right but the good news is you can influence them if you think strategically about each one in turn. Read past the list itself: all five seem obvious, but they come to life as he expands on them deeper in the piece. The key message is that good ideas don’t sell themselves no matter how much we wish that was true. So don’t just hope for the best; make it happen. [LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL]

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