Manufacturing Ideas to Watch – Issue 9 (January 2018)

In this issue of Manufacturing Ideas to Watch: Product Authenticity Tags, Printed Electronics Using Nanomaterial Inks, High Yield Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Ethanol, Silicon-based X-ray Optics, and Thermally Responsive Nanoparticles. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Fighting Against Product Counterfeiters With Authenticity Tags

Image of an authenticity tag with overlayed numbering scheme
Location and numbering scheme used for x-ray fluorescence (XRF) inspection. Image source: Research Article (may be behind paywall)

InfraTrac uses chemical signatures to fight counterfeit products, a major scourge to U.S. manufacturing. In partnership with Penn State’s Center for Innovative Materials Processing, the technology was demonstrated in 3D printed metal parts. For example, in 3D printed titanium parts, “authenticity tags” are produced by slightly varying the feedstock composition just below the surface of the part. Here the tag can be easily detected with x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, a fairly common laboratory tool with recent advances into handheld detection devices, without impacting the look or performance of the part. The location, depth, and composition of the authenticity tag can be varied from part to part such that only those who know exactly where to look and what to look for can find it, while those looking to fake the tag will be left guessing the specifics.
Sharon Flank, InfraTrac

Highly Versatile Printed Electronics Using Nanomaterial Inks

Image of nanomaterial and diagram of aerosol printing
Image source: Franklin Lab

Printed electronics offer the promise of affordable, low volume, and bespoke electronics. Key to realizing this goal is printing highly versatile electronic components, such as transistors, at sufficient resolution. The Franklin Group has developed an aerosol jet printing process that enables the printing of nanomaterials with line widths as small as 10µm. The incorporation of nanomaterials facilitates the printing of transistors at higher resolutions and with improved performance and compatibility. An array of applications will benefit from this new combination of the additive manufacturing promise of aerosol jet printing and the unique properties of nanomaterials.
Aaron Franklin, Duke University

High Yield Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Ethanol

Black & white diagram of the carbon dioxide to ethanol conversion process
Image source: Catalytic Innovations

Converting carbon dioxide to a useful energy source, such as ethanol, would provide an essential renewable fuel source with a carbon negative process. Catalytic Innovations has developed novel catalysts and reactors that are able to improve conversion yields. The reactor uses an electrochemical process that leverages high pressure carbon dioxide, and is able to remove 10 gallons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for every liter of ethanol produced. This technology has additional applications in wastewater treatment, corrosion resistance, and a range of other areas.
– Staff Sheehan, Catalytic Innovations

Silicon-based X-ray Optics: Thin and Lightweight

Image of a thin, lightweight, high-resolution mirror
Image source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA/W. Hrybyk

Reducing the size and weight of optics is essential for aerospace, defense, robotics, and a range of other areas. The use of single-crystal silicon, a first for X-ray optics, enables large collection areas with a thin, lightweight profile. Silicon also has a low response to thermal variation, and using single-crystalline silicon mitigates warping due to internal stresses during manufacturing. These properties ensure manufacturability and high quality optical performance.

Will Zhang, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Thermally Responsive Nanoparticles for Energy Savings

Series of photographs that start out blurry, and then get clear
Digital photographs acquired with illumination through solution-cast nanocomposite VO2 thin films. Image source: Research Article, Supporting Info (may be behind paywall)

Vanadium oxide nanoparticles change how reflective or transparent they are to infrared light depending on temperature, making them attractive for applications in smart windows. Retrofitting windows in residential and commercial buildings with films laden with these nanoparticles has the potential to deliver energy savings of $12B/year in the United States alone. However, long term stability of the particles and scalable manufacturing processes are barriers to this technology. A team at Texas A&M recently developed a scalable manufacturing process to make vanadium oxide nanoparticles encased in a protective nanometer-sized silica sheath (which gives them long term stability), and to cast them on a film for use. The process itself is also environmentally friendly, designed to only use aqueous-based solutions over regulated organic solvent alternatives.
Sarbajit Banerjee, Texas A&M University


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