R&D 100 Success Stories: Materials
The R&D 100 Awards are agnostic with respect to technology. If an innovation involves a rigorous and scientifically-driven process of development and refinement, it is typically a good fit for our Awards program, which recognizes inventions as diverse as computer chips and potato chip bags.
Each year, we recognize 100 of the top technologies in as many as 20 different technology categories. These categories are based on the composition of the winners and are not specifically selected by the editors. However, we do see certain categories that appear year after year. Technologies that tackle needs in the fields of energy and biotechnology, for example, are commonplace. Innovations that are rooted in fundamental research disciplines, such as chemicals or vacuum technology, are also regularly seen. Software is rich with new inventions, as is analytical instrumentation.
One of the most basic of inventions is that of new materials, and it is one of the most common type of winner in the R&D 100 Awards. New materials are constantly be developed and frequently have the most varied applications of any type of new invention.
R&D’s editors like to keep track of its winners and some recent new materials innovations have made significant strides in the marketplace. Applied Nanotech of Austin, Tex., for example, has won two recent awards for materials, one in 2009 for its Cu-iJ70 Copper Ink, and another in 2010 for CarbAl, a heat transfer material that solves a variety of thermal issues in electronics packaging materials.
Not long after winning the 2009 Award, Applied Nanotech’s copper ink was licensed to Ishihara Chemical for volume production. Early in its commercialization stages, the company was selling the ink in sample quantities to several vendors for their product development efforts. One of the key advantages of the ink was the consistency of its size. Averaging 50 nm, the ink particles were sized appropriately to mitigate clogging in inkjet nozzles. The product is geared for electronic ink applications. In 2011, Applied Nanotech completed a pilot manufacturing facility has been ramping up production.
The pilot manufacturing projects continued in 2012 as a new facility was created to handle the scale-up demand for CarbAl, which quickly generated licensing interest from a Chinese company. Since winning the Award, Applied Nanotech has added value to the material by adding functional coatings and capabilities, such as printed circuits directly on the thermal management material.
Some materials that emerge from federally-funded research projects go on to successful licensing arrangements. For example, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists won a 2009 R&D 100 Award for its AFA: Alumina Forming Austenitic Stainless Steels, which is a new class of high-temperature allows that feature a significantly increased upper-temperature corrosion limit. Plus, creep strength is also greatly improved at temperatures as high as 800 C. This greatly improved the applications for this type of steel because the performance approached that of more expensive nickel alloys, but did not abandon the weldability and formability of stainless steel.
In 2011, the new steel was licensed to Carpenter Technology Corp., which began an industrial demonstration stage with multiple product forms being evaluated for a range of power generation applications/partners. Many of these applications require several years of test data before being used, which is partly why some technologies offered for license take some time before making an impact on the general market.
ORNL, meanwhile, continued its work with this type of steel and later developed iron-based alumina forming superalloys with much improved creep strength over the initial AFA family.
Another type of steel that won an R&D 100 Award in 2009 was intended for general industrial use as a hard-wearing surface. The NanoSteel Company’s fourth R&D 100 Awards winner, the Super Hard Steel Wear Plate, is made from a specially engineered sub-micrometer-scale structure that increases resistance to abrasive wear, fine particle erosion and impact. This “overlay” technology, which has since been developed into a regular product line item in NanoSteel’s catalog, is intended to be a cost-effective alternative to composite carbide overlay and monolithic quench and temper wear plates. The new plate extended component service life by up to three times longer than competing products when it was launched.
Early applications for NanoSteel’s plate included use as a bed liner for a large surface mine haul truck, a deflector plate for a skip car used in underground mines and a side door line for mine installations.
Although adoption was slower than expected, according to NanoSteel officials, the Super Hard Steel Wear Plate was directed at markets such as mining where transitions to technology can be slow. However, by 2012, the company was anticipating a transition to the “early majority” stage of the technology adoption timeline.
The first overlay wear plate products made by NanoSteel were fabricated using a semi-automated gas metal arc welding (GMAW) process. The company since switched to a more efficient semi-automated submerged arc welding (SAW) process. And in 2012, the company concluded a 52-month mining field trial of an overlay wear plate application which resulted in increased service life of more than 400%.
There’s still time to enter 2014 Awards!
The deadline for the R&D 100 Awards is Friday, May 9, but there's still time to file your entry. Register the entry today and file the final form before midnight on May 9 and you're ini!
What products qualify?
Any new technical product or process that was first available for purchase or licensing between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013, is eligible for the 2013 awards. This includes manufacturing processes such as machining, open source software, new types of materials or chemicals, and consumer-level products such as cameras. Proof-of-concepts and early-stage prototypes do not qualify, however; the submitted entry must be in working, marketable condition.
This year’s awards will be presented at our Gala Awards Banquet on Friday evening, November 7, 2014 in the Grand Ballroom at the Bellagio Las Vegas, Nevada—an entirely new, exciting venue for our awards with more surprises to be announced along the way.