Environmental themes have been strong at the K Fairs for at least 15 years. This year new bioplastics moved front and center. One of the most interesting new products comes from Novamont, which is showing a tire in which bioplastics made from starch replace some of the carbon black and silica used in automobile tires. The new material is aid to provide better grip on roads by reducing “rolling resistance” 30 per cent, according to development partner Goodyear. The result is improved fuel efficiency. Tread wear and noise pollution are also said to be reduced with the new compound. Goodyear anticipates he tire will cost the same as traditional tires. The first user is expected to be BMW, which is also a development partner. Goodyear received a 3 million euro ($4.3 million) grant from the European Commission to develop the new tire.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
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