Innovation Article

Julio D'Arcy’s picture

By: Julio D'Arcy

In my synthetic chemistry lab, we have worked out how to convert the red pigment in common bricks into a plastic that conducts electricity, and this process enabled us to turn bricks into electricity storage devices. These brick supercapacitors could be connected to solar panels to store rechargeable energy. Supercapacitors store electric charge, in contrast to batteries, which store chemical energy.

Brick’s porous structure is ideal for storing energy because pores give bricks more surface area than solid materials have, and the greater the surface area, the more electricity a supercapacitor material can hold. Bricks are red because the clay they’re made from contains iron oxide, better known as rust, which is also important in our process.

We fill the pores in bricks with an acid vapor that dissolves the iron oxide and converts it to a reactive form of iron that makes our chemical syntheses possible. We then flow a different gas through the cavities to fill them with a sulfur-based material that reacts with iron. This chemical reaction leaves the pores coated with an electrically conductive plastic, PEDOT.

Amitrajeet Batabyal’s picture

By: Amitrajeet Batabyal

Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity, said former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Globalization, the international trade in goods and services with minimal barriers between countries, may seem inevitable as the world’s economies become more interdependent.

Properly regulated, globalization can be a powerful force for social good. For wealthy nations, globalization can mean less expensive goods, additional spending, and a higher standard of living. For those who live and work in poorer nations, globalization can lead to greater prosperity with the power to reduce child labor, increase literacy, and enhance the economic and social standing of women.

Multiple Authors
By: Sridhar Kota, Glenn Daehn

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed glaring deficiencies in the U.S. manufacturing sector’s ability to provide necessary products—especially amidst a crisis. It’s been five months since the nation declared a national emergency, yet shortages of test kit components, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies persist.

Globalization is at the heart of the problem. With heavy reliance on global supply chains and foreign producers, the pandemic has interrupted shipping of parts and materials to nearly 75 percent of U.S. companies.

Multiple Authors
By: Tom Siegfried, Knowable Magazine

It’s Stardate 47025.4, in the 24th century. Starfleet’s star android, Lt. Commander Data, has been enlisted by his renegade android “brother” Lore to join a rebellion against humankind—much to the consternation of Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise. “The reign of biological lifeforms is coming to an end,” Lore tells Picard. “You, Picard, and those like you, are obsolete.”

That’s Star Trek for you—so optimistic that machines won’t dethrone humans until at least three more centuries. But that’s fiction. In real life, the era of smart machines has already arrived. They haven’t completely taken over the world yet, but they’re off to a good start.

“Machine learning”—a sort of concrete subfield within the more nebulous quest for artificial intelligence—has invaded numerous fields of human endeavor, from medical diagnosis to searching for new subatomic particles. Thanks to its most powerful incarnation—known as deep learning—machine learning’s repertoire of skills now includes recognizing speech, translating languages, identifying images, driving cars, designing new materials, and predicting trends in the stock market, among uses in many arenas.

Katie Myers’s picture

By: Katie Myers

Freight trucks account for 23 percent of U.S. transportation. Transportation is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in America. The country’s freight industry is in no position to ignore its impact on the environment and the greater good.

We can break down the trucking industry’s environmental impact further. Each market segment emits the following amount of carbon emissions every year:
• Truckload (TL): 836 million tons of emissions
• Partials: 722 million tons of emissions
• Less-than truckload (LTL): 342 million tons of emissions

Fortunately, at least one logistics provider is committed to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Flock Freight is transforming the $400 billion freight landscape by eliminating inefficiency and waste through green shipping practices.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

We’ve all been in lines that seem to last forever, especially if we choose our queue at the checkout, and the one next to ours is moving faster. You know the existential dread that comes along with standing in a dedicated queue and waiting interminably. To make service of all kinds more efficient, the predominant thinking in operations management is to form a single serpentine line that feeds different servers—a pooled queue.

Traditional operations management theory has determined that pooling is more efficient. And it may be, if tasks or widgets are the items in the queue, and it’s machines, not human beings, that are processing them. In a system with dedicated queues, it’s possible to have one that’s empty and another queue that’s full but no way to rebalance this. If the queue contains customers, naturally they can switch to the empty queue. But when we consider job assignments, for example, these can’t just move across queues. So the dedicated queue is viewed as less efficient than a pooled one in terms of throughput and waiting time.

Jennifer Lauren Lee’s picture

By: Jennifer Lauren Lee

While awaiting full access to their labs due to Covid-19 restrictions, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken this rare opportunity to report the technical details of pioneering research they conducted on the disinfection of drinking water using ultraviolet (UV) light.

Back in 2012, the NIST scientists and their collaborators published several papers on some fundamental findings with potential benefits to water utility companies. But these articles never fully explained the irradiation setup that made the work possible.

Now, for the first time, NIST researchers are publishing the technical details of the unique experiment, which relied on a portable laser to test how well different wavelengths of UV light inactivated different microorganisms in water. The work appears in the Review of Scientific Instruments.

“We’ve been wanting to formally write this up for years,” says Tom Larason, an electronics engineer in the Sensor Science Division at NIST. “Now we have time to tell the world about it.”

Harry Hertz’s picture

By: Harry Hertz

Rest? The new normal will be about activity, you say. Actually, I believe some rest will be necessary. After the frenzy of activity since March 2020 to establish new work patterns and new home life patterns, many of us—especially those with young families—have been left totally exhausted. So some rest may be in order. However, the rest I am referring to in this article is RE2ST3 (resilience, ecosystems, e-wisdom, societal responsibility, telework, transition, and transformation).

I believe organizations that pay attention to these RE2ST3 components will be poised for a successful entry into the new normal. I base my conclusion on a significant amount of reading and many conversations with people across sectors, as well as with community leaders. As I summarize the parameters of each of the RE2ST3 components, I will reference some relevant publications. While my key points are addressed under specific headings below, it is clear that many of these could have been discussed under more than one heading, and that indeed the topics are interdependent and part of a systems response to creating the new normal.

Jim Benson’s picture

By: Jim Benson

Untitled Document


From Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston (J. B. Lippincott, 1942)

The quote in the picture from Zora Neale Hurston does not end there; it finishes, “It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.”

Zora was describing something specific in her life: researching folk music while she was attending Barnard College. She started that quest by walking the grounds of Barnard and asking music scholars if they had any folk music she could listen to.

They looked at her blankly, trying to figure out what “folk music” actually meant and went back to their concertos.

Her search then took her to where folk music actually resided—sometimes putting her in unsafe or even life-threatening situations. Her research required going to the gemba. Not just reading about it.

Multiple Authors
By: Stewart Black, Patrick van Esch

Millions of Americans are unemployed and looking for work. Hiring continues, but there’s far more demand for jobs than supply.

As scholars of human resources and management, we believe artificial intelligence (AI) could be a boon for job seekers who need an edge in a tight labor market like today’s.

What’s more, our research suggests it can make the whole process of finding and changing jobs much less painful, more effective, and potentially more lucrative.

Make me a match

During the last three years, we’ve intensely studied the role of AI in recruiting. This research shows that job candidates are positively inclined to use AI in the recruiting process and find it more convenient than traditional analog approaches.

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