Category Polymers

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.

POLYMERS | MATERIAL SCIENCE

A New Spring for Polymers in Japan

Supported by government funding, researchers in Japan have invented an array of novel polymers. One such material is a new type of aerogel called superfunctional air, or Sufa. Made of up to 98% air, it has superb insulation properties and transparency similar to glass, making it excellent for use in windows. And unlike other aerogels, it is softer, retains its shape after being pressed, and dries on its own, dramatically driving down production costs. [C&EN]

BATTERIES | ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Electric Car Battery with 600 Miles of Range? This Startup Claims to Have Done It

Innolith, a Swiss startup, claims to have made the world’s first 1,000 Wh/kg rechargeable lithium battery. With most electric car batteries topping out at about 250 Wh/kg, it sounds like a specious claim. But Innolith says the difference lies in the technology: they use an inorganic, salt-like material instead of the highly flammable organic solvent traditionally used in “wet” lithium-ion batteries. Plans are to launch a pilot program in Germany, and have the batteries ready for market by 2022. [VERGE]

MANAGEMENT | PSYCHOLOGY

Maslow Didn’t Make the Pyramid that Changed Management History

According to a new study by three management professors, the ubiquitous Maslow’s Pyramid infographic was not designed by the psychologist, but by a management consultant inspired by a theorist’s flawed interpretation of Maslow’s ideas (which many believe to be flawed themselves). When the oversimplified interpretation was applied to business management, it took on a life of its own. [QUARTZ]

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Teaching Machines to Reason About What They See

Researchers want computers to reason more like humans. To accomplish this, they are merging statistical with symbolic programming. Popular in the mid-twentieth century, symbolic AI uses less data and inputs, instead relying on rules and logic to help machines connect images with words and make comparisons, much like a young child would. Studies led by the MIT-IBM research team are showing promising results. [MIT]

PHYSICS | VIDEO

Video: Phase-Changing Material Keeps Ice at Bay

Accumulation of ice on wind turbines or power lines can be damaging and dangerous. This short video details how dimethyl sulfoxide, which freezes at a higher temperature than water, is employed to keep ice from forming on surfaces. [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.

BLOCKCHAIN

Once Hailed as Unhackable, Blockchains Are Now Getting Hacked

While the security of blockchain technology has been one of its major selling points, recent hacks of multiple cryptocurrency exchanges have raised alarms. In response to hackers making off with millions by exploiting flaws in the technology, several startups have been created to detect these vulnerabilities and fix the issues before hackers find them. [TECH REVIEW]

MATERIALS SCIENCE | POLYMERS

New Form of Self-Healing Material Discovered

Many self-healing materials are limited by manufacturing costs and complex chemistry, limiting their commercial potential. This new, ethylene-based functionalized polyolefin is much simply to develop and does not required external factors to trigger the self-healing mechanism. The versatile material can be formed into tough elastomers which can be stretched and then return to their original shape even after being subjected to mechanical damage. [DIGITAL JOURNAL]

FUTURE OF WORK | MANAGEMENT

A Harvard Dropout’s Plan to Fix College Admissions With Video Games

Acquiring a degree from college has long been used as the litmus test for entry into the job market. But what if there was a more effective way for employers to identify talent than checking off a list of degrees a prospective employee has earned? The startup Imbellus, founded by a young Harvard dropout, has developed a solution in the form of problem-solving video games that measure critical thinking, adaptability, and decision making skills, qualities economists and employers say are much needed in rapidly changing workplaces across the world. McKinsey is already using the technology to evaluate job candidates and finds that it predicts success better than the written testing they have traditionally done. [BLOOMBERG]

NEUROSCIENCE | ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Columbia Engineers Translate Brain Signals Directly Into Speech

By utilizing artificial intelligence and speech synthesizers, neuroengineers have created technology that translates thought into recognizable speech. This development could spearhead new ways for computers and brains to connect directly and help people who have lost the ability to speak. [COLUMBIA]

TECHNOLOGY

Ten Recent Low-Tech Inventions That Have Changed the World

This non-exhaustive list takes a quick look at low-tech inventions that many probably take for granted. From improved water filters to paper microscopes, these inventions have changed the lives of many. [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.

MATERIALS SCIENCE | POLYMERS | ENVIRONMENT

Scaling up Nodax, a Landfill and Waterway-Biodegradable, Biobased Plastic

Nodax PHA—a bioplastic produced by bacterial cultures grown with canola oil—is compostable, biodegradable in marine environments, biocompatible, and customizable for a variety of applications. Due to a partnership between Danimer Scientific (developers of Nodax) and Nestle, we could soon see Nodax on store shelves and in our homes. [LAB CONSCIOUS]

BIOLOGY

The Extraordinary Life and Death of the World’s Oldest Known Spider

A fascinating look at the life of an Australian trapdoor spider with details provided by the zoologists who studied her for her entire life. [WASHINGTON POST]

STRATEGY

Bias Busters: Pruning Projects Proactively

A quick look at the reasons why executives hold on to under-performing assets and projects, and some tips to help determine which to keep and which to let go. [MCKINSEY]

3D PRINTING | SPACE

The Future of In-Space Manufacturing

Everything needed for a trip to space, including food, tools, and all supplies for any contingency, have to be made on Earth. This makes solar system exploration a costly endeavor, but space-based 3D printers will soon make loading rockets with supplies and spare parts a thing of the past. [COSMOS]

TECHNOLOGY

I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.

A fascinating look at what happened when one woman decided to completely remove Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon from her life. If you are concerned about the reach and influence of Big Tech in your life . . . well . . . it’s worse than you think. [GIZMODO]

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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.

POLYMERS | NANOPARTICLES | MATERIALS SCIENCE

Fluorinated Coating is Utterly Repellent

Scientists have created a super-omniphobic material containing polymer nanoparticles that form a highly texture surface trapping tiny air pockets that then repel liquids. Due to its unique chemistry and texture, this new repellent coating can rebuff oils and organic solvents, stay dry in water, heal itself after damage, withstand high temperatures and harsh acids, and much more. [C&EN]

BIOLOGY

The Human Cell Atlas is Biologists’ Latest Grand Project

The cell is the basic unit of life and has captivated scientists for hundreds of years. Until just the last few years, the technology to explore the inner workings of individual cells did not exist. Now that it does, an ambitious project, the Human Cell Atlas is underway with plans to catalog the 37 trillion cells that make up the human body. If successful, this map of cells could one day be instrumental in helping us better understand and treat diseases. [WIRED]

FIBER OPTICS | INTERNET

‘Twisted’ Fiber Optic Light Breakthrough Could Make Internet 100 times Faster

Fiber optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information, but engineers have created a new dimension for light to carry this info by twisting the light itself into a spiral. And with the creation of a tiny new detector to read the spiraled light, a faster and more efficient Internet could soon be headed our way. [THE GUARDIAN]

WWII | IONOSPHERE

Shockwaves from WWII Bombing Raids Rippled the Edges of Space

Scientists have long been aware that natural phenomena such as cloud to ground lightning strikes and solar flares have an observable and measurable effect on Earth’s atmosphere. But a new study published in Annales Geophysicae documents the similar effects that bombs dropped during WWII had on our ionosphere. Scientists hope the work will help more accurately predict communication-disrupting ionospheric disturbances in the future. [NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC]

3D PRINTING | TECHNOLOGY | INNOVATION

French Family Just Became the First to Permanently Live in a 3D Printed Home

This summer, a family of five moved into a 1,022 square foot home that was printed in 54 hours. The home, located in Nantes, France, features wheelchair access, smartphone controlled appliances, and walls made up of insulating polyurethane with cement filling between the layers. Other advances in architectural 3D printing from around the world are also covered. [BUSINESS INSIDER]

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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.

POLYMERS | PACKAGING | FOOD & BEVERAGE

Model Predicts Polymer Food Packaging’s Propensity for Absorbing Aroma Molecules from Their Contents

Packaging materials used to store products are a significant source of food and beverage flavor loss. Adapting a well-known model of polymer properties, researchers at A*STAR and Coca-Cola developed a mathematical model that can describe the mixing behavior of polymers with organic compounds and could lead to better tasting foods. [PHYS ORG]

DISRUPTION | TESLA | PODCAST

Tesla and the Nature of Disruption

In the context of an interesting discussion about whether Tesla is disruptive, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky deliver a great overview of opportunity ecosystems in general. If you’ve ever wondered whether you are considering all the right factors when you have a new product idea, this provides high-level answers. [A16Z]

PHYSICS | COSMIC RAYS

Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice and They Might Shatter Modern Physics

A previously unknown and undetected high-energy particle has been making its way up through the frozen ground in Antarctica and blasting into space. What we know of cosmic rays is that they in fact, do the opposite, usually shooting down from space to enter Earth. So what exactly is this mysterious particle? That’s what physicists are working to figure out. [SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN]

NANOWIRES | SOUND

This Flexible Nanomembrane Loudspeaker Attaches to Skin and Plays a Violin Concerto

Researchers in South Korea have developed a hybrid nanomembrane that emits sound waves when fed with sound frequency electric currents. Using silver nanowires, a thin, flexible, and transparent membrane could act as a loud speaker as well as a microphone. We could all soon carry our own loudspeakers wherever we go, not in our bags or pockets, but on our skin. [INTERESTING ENGINEERING]

WIKIPEDIA | INFOGRAPHIC

WIKIGALAXY

A fascinating, three-dimensional visualization of the Wikipedia “galaxy:” 100,000 articles grouped into 500 thematic nebulas with the ability to fly across the galaxy following links from one article to the next. [WIKI]

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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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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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