ORNL’s annual “Spark!” technology forum set for November 19

Spark 2013By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Twelve promising technologies will be presented during the annual Spark! 2013 technology forum November 19 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Organized annually by ORNL’s Partnerships Directorate, the event is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and business executives to learn more about technologies in three distinct areas – advanced materials, energy storage and electric vehicle technologies, and innovative new products and systems.

“If you are an experienced entrepreneur looking for your next venture, an aspiring entrepreneur looking for your first opportunity, or affiliated with an established company seeking innovative technology solutions, Spark! is intended for you,” said Mike Paulus, ORNL’s Director of Technology Transfer.

The forum begins at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences. There is no registration fee, but pre-registration is required. To register, click here.

The technologies to be presented are:

  • High-performance plastics from renewable sources. ORNL has developed new processes for commercial formulations of lignin-based thermoplastics and melt-processable elastomers with the potential to significantly enhance the economics of bio-refineries and pulping industries. The resulting bio-plastics will be used for polymer matrix composite applications.
  • Cast alumina forming austenitic stainless steel for high temperature and corrosive environments. Alumina-forming austenitic alloys typically exhibit superior high-temperature corrosion resistance in the highly corrosive environments encountered in a wide range of energy production, and chemical/petrochemical process applications. ORNL has patented new austenitic alloy compositions with excellent creep resistance and alumina-forming capability for use in cast product forms at temperatures up to 900-950C.
  • Low-cost graphite from recycled tires for lithium ion batteries. This new manufacturing process converts a recycled, low-cost, and abundant resource into pyrolytic carbon black composites which can be used to fabricate anodes for lithium ion batteries with high rate capability and reversible capacity.
  • Smart smoke alarm. The Smart Smoke Alarm intelligently combines one or more sensors using an advanced mathematical algorithm to alarm on fire dangers sooner than conventional residential smoke alarms while suppressing false alarms.
  • Low cost, fermentation system for production of high value materials. This novel bacteria nanofermentation system biologically converts precursors to nanoparticles. The precursors and bacteria can be selected to control the particle characteristics for a wide range of materials from CIGS to powder metals.
  • Optically transparent, durable superhydrophobic thin film coatings. A new atomically bonded, optical quality, nanostructured thin glass film coating has been developed that is superhydrophobic and abrasion resistant. This technology can be tailored toward distinct coatings for numerous markets, such as residential windows, windshields, specialty optics, goggles, electronic and photovoltaic cover glasses, and optical components.
  • Real-time automobile weld quality inspection system. Today’s passenger vehicle on average contains 4,000 to 6,000 resistance spot welds. The auto industry has long been interested in effective non-destructive methods to inspect every critical weld. To address this need, ORNL recently developed a prototype system (hardware and software) to non­destructively evaluate the quality of welds based on infrared thermography. The new system is noncontact, fast and can be fully automated; it is capable of both real-time online and post-weld offline inspection.
  • A new power module package for electric and hybrid vehicles. This new planar-bond power-module package eliminates major deficiencies in existing commercial modules by reducing manufacturing steps from seven to three, eliminating wire bonds, enabling double sided cooling and providing greater mechanical robustness.
  • New magnesium battery materials. Magnesium batteries are a promising alternative to lithium ion batteries. ORNL has developed a novel family of alkoxy-based magnesium electrolytes and a new porous anode material that can be developed into robust, high performance magnesium batteries.
  • Wearable exoskeleton system. Robotically controlled exoskeleton systems offer the promise of improved prosthetic devices, mobility systems for the physically disabled, and even future robotic systems for use in hostile environments. ORNL has developed a suite of sensors, microfluidic systems and mechanical joints for new exoskeleton systems.
  • A robot for inspecting ventilation stacks. Gas ventilation stacks must be inspected to take samples of contaminants and assess the structural integrity before the stacks can be dismantled. Current inspections require lowering workers into a stack on a rope, where they take samples of contaminants. ORNL researchers have developed a totally new concept—a remotely controlled robotic stack characterization system that is a safe, effective alternative for appraising these giant tacks. The ORNL system is simple and inexpensive and can be used anywhere remote inspection of off-gas or exhaust stacks is needed.
  • Transformational advances in additive manufacturing. ORNL is a leader in additive manufacturing, and is partnering with many companies at its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility to explore new advances.

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