Live from the Washington Innovation Summit – Miracle Materials

by Braden Kelley

Here are my notes from the Miracle Materials breakout session:

Dr. Jim Dangerfield
EVP of FPInnovations

We found way to break apart cellulose and create nanocrystalline cellulose – 20nm long and 10nm wide. We have built a pilot plant with the ability to make one ton of nanocrystalline cellulose per day.

We’ve used nanocrystalline cellulose to make paper. As you create nanocrystalline cellulose you can tune the color by getting the substance from different plant beginnings.

We have looked at blending nanocrystalline cellulose with plastics and found that it increases strength 3000x times.

It costs $100,000 per ton to produce nanocrystalline cellulose.

Renewable wood construction may increase over the coming years as the energy invested into materials is counted in the overall cost structure of competing materials.

We’ve advised on the construction of a 10-story wood building in Europe, we expect two demonstrations in Canada in the next 18mos., and we would expect there to be one in the United States maybe in the next 5 years.

85% of residential construction is done using wood.

Dr. Michael Hochberg
University of Washington Nanophotonics Lab

I am here to speak about Silicon Integrated Photonics.

A standard firewire cable might transmit 500mb/sec over up to 2 meters, while an optical Luxtera cable is capable of transmitting 40gb/sec over 2 kilometers.

In a data center, the fastest switches now have to be located in the same location and cables are huge antennas.

The University of Washington is the world leader in Silicon Photonics. These technologies will allow for lower power communications and all optical logic is even a possibility with optical transistors.

In regards to bio-sensors, we can detect anything you can detect with an SPR. We might be better with pathogens. In an SPR system you have a piece of glass and a thin layer of metal and then you bounce light off of it. Optical bio-sensors can use all of the same kinds of biochemistry and with light you can measure phase changes. We can put an awful lot of complexity into a chip for the same money that someone might spend on an SPR device.

If you look at data centers and computing, the compute cycles are not used very efficiently (probably only used at 20,30, or 40% computing efficiency). There is a huge overhead from moving data.

  • If you do some very basic things with optics, you can probably increase efficiency 2-3x
  • Doing clever things that take advantage of moving data around quickly and cheaply you could do even better
  • Multi-core processors don’t take advantage of communication between cores very efficiently
  • There would probably be lower heat disappation from optical connections as well (lower HVAC costs)

Commercial tools for building solar cells and other applications still have significant limitations.

Dr. Vipin Kumar
University of Washington Microcellular Consortium Director

Microcellular polymers are 10 micrometers wide. A human hair is 100 micrometers wide.

Manufacturers are very interested in reducing the materials that go into production and packaging.

We can make nanoforms in bulk (recent innovations)

  • PEI Nanofoam
  • PEI Microfoam
  • Microcellular Recycled PET
  • Microcellular PLA thin film

We have a grant to investigate continuous creation of recycled PET and corn-based PLA. With recycled PET it is possible to make six or seven 12oz. cups from a 2-liter bottle. The enabling technology has been licensed to MicroGREEN Inc.

Does anyone have any idea how much plastic is used in toys?
– If we can reduce that and increase impact strength, just imagine what is possible

One of our technology licenses is a diffuser sheet in LCD televisions. At the end of 2008 our Japanese sub-licensee using our technology passed the 6-millionth television sold.

Question: Are there improvements in insulation properties from these nano-materials?
Answer: You do have the air voids and the insulation properties of these and of the material itself.

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