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Feb 9, 2018 | By Laci McDowell

Weekly Tech Roundup: Polymer Supercapacitor, Stretchable Electronics

The military's most advanced inventions in materials science are available to businesses for manufacturing and product development

News Article Image of Weekly Tech Roundup: Polymer Supercapacitor, Stretchable Electronics

TechLink specializes in forging partnerships between the Department of Defense and businesses. One of the ways we do that is by maintaining an up-to-date patent database, ensuring companies always have access to new technologies invented in defense laboratories.

This week’s additions are some of the military’s most advanced inventions in materials science.

Here are all 14, in no particular order:

Polymer Supercapacitor: Supercapacitors are optimized to increase charge storage capacity compared to conventional charge-storage components. These are ideal for electric vehicles that harness regenerative braking, short-term energy storage, or burst-mode energy delivery – all applications requiring frequent charge/discharge cycles. They can recharge in a matter of seconds, compared with the hours needed to renew a standard battery. Army researchers have developed a novel polymer supercapacitor with a simple and efficient method for production-line manufacturing.

Stretchable Electronics: Stretchable electronics have the potential to enable a wide variety of emerging applications including sensors or electronic device integration into textiles, wearable power supplies, enhanced robotic mobility and manipulation, energy harvesting, fieldable biosensing, sensing technology, as well as exoskeletons and multifunctional conforming suits. To address previous failures in the quest for stretchable electronics, Army researchers have developed deformable polymer composites with controlled electrical performance during deformation through tailored strain-dependent conductive filler contact.

Highly Sensitive Calorimeter: Calorimetry provides a direct method of measuring changes in thermodynamic properties of materials. Navy scientists have re-thought the calorimeter and invented a new, more intuitive system. Instead of laying out the reference and sample cells side-by-side, the new design orients them longitudinally, end-to-end. The unique in-line arrangement of the reference and sample cells allow for the placement of many temperature sensors thereby increasing sensitivity.

Broad Spectrum Toxic Gas Filtration: The unintended escape of toxic industrial chemicals (TIC), while not routine, happens often enough to pose a significant hazard to people and the environment. To filter deadly chemicals from the air, Navy researchers have enlisted manganese oxides (MnOx) – a large family of naturally occurring and synthetic materials that are of interest for applications ranging from electrochemical energy storage to catalysis.

Lead-free Detonators: Detonators are compact devices that send a  shockwave to initiate an explosion, and their applications range from explosive munitions to demolition charges. Army researchers have developed detonators with non-toxic energetics that achieve or exceed the performance of currently used lead-based products.

Thermite Cutting Torch: Due to the use of thermite torches onboard ships in enclosed areas, Navy researchers have developed a thermite formulation of magnesium-aluminum alloy (magnalium) and an oxidizer including molybdenum trioxide (MoO3) and copper oxide (CuO) that is non-toxic.

Perchlorate-free Green Flares: Most colored signal flare compositions contain perchlorate oxidizers. Residual perchlorates from these devices may be absorbed into groundwater and require remediation. Groundwater contamination by perchlorates used in rocket propellants, pyrotechnics, and other sources has become a problem in the western United States and elsewhere. Navy scientists and engineers have developed new compositions based on various environmentally-friendly nitrates as replacements for perchlorates.

Navy scientists have developed a flash-bang grenade that generates a minimal amount of smoke and is safer to handle.

Flash-bang Grenade: Many law enforcement and military personnel employ flash grenades as one method of entering an area containing hostile targets. Navy scientists have developed a flash-bang grenade which generates a minimal amount of smoke and is safer to handle.

Removal and Prevention of Mineral Scaling: Destructive mineral scaling in a home is common on shower heads, in HVAC systems, and water heaters, and in industrial cooling towers or heat exchangers. Conventional treatments and coatings are limited to resisting an initiation of mineral scale growth. Air Force researchers have developed an improved approach to fight scaling which combines the elegance of a simple surface treatment with constant counteraction by a chemical treatment.

Non-toxic, High-temperature Polymer: Replacing metal components with high-performance composite materials on aerospace structures, significantly reduces weight and costs. The advent of stiff and thermally stable polymers made it possible for the introduction of composites into 316 degrees Celsius temperature ranges. Air Force scientists have developed a new polyimide resin consisting essentially of BTDA, BPDA, 6FDA, 4-PEPA, and an aromatic diamine which overcomes previous toxicity issues and achieves a glass transition temperature of 370 degrees Celsius.

Simplified Method for Synthesizing Boron Phosphide at High Yields: Boron phosphide (BP) is a lightweight, hard, thermally stable, corrosion resistant compound with a wide indirect band gap and high-electron mobility. These properties make it ideal for use in semiconductors, optoelectronics, thermo-electronics, and even smoke grenades. Army researchers have developed a high-yield process to synthesize BP. This inexpensive and scalable method may lower the barriers to implementing the material in a broad spectrum of applications.

Nanoparticle Polymer Additives: The dispersion of nanoparticles in polymers has resulted in improvements in various properties such as thermo-oxidative stability, response to mechanical load, thermal expansion, space survivability, abrasion resistance, moisture uptake, electrical characteristics, and other surface-related properties. Nanoparticles classified as polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes, or POSS, have proven to be a particularly useful class of additives due to their inherent size, shape, rigidity, and versatility in function. While POSS molecules are in many products, they are not used in high-temperature polymers due to their thermal instability. Air Force researchers have created a series of novel aromatic POSS dianiline molecules for use in the preparation of high-temperature aromatic polyimides.

Measuring Thermal Conductivity of Nano-scale Materials: Thermal conductivity is an important material property used to determine the appropriateness of materials for specific purposes. High thermal conductivity materials are used in electronics or turbines while low thermal conductivity materials such as polystyrene are used in furnaces as insulators. There are many ways to measure the thermal conductivity of most materials, but with the advent of nano-materials, these methods have proven to be inadequate. Air Force scientists and engineers have addressed this with the development of an apparatus for performing thermal conductance measurements on a wide variety of ultra-small specimens.

Enhanced Photomechanical Polymers: Photomechanical polymers, a particular class of stimuli-responsive materials, can transduce light into mechanical work. Air Force researchers have developed enhanced photomechanical polyimides with high-temperature capabilities as well as solubility and processability.

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