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.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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