GM Invests in NanoSteel

General Motors, via its GM Ventures arm, is investing in Providence, R.I.-based NanoSteel, a nano-structured steel provider that offers higher strength steels that can help reduce vehicle weight.

One reason automakers are using lighter materials to decrease weight is that safety equipment and new electronics have added weight to vehicles, which degrades fuel economy. As a result, most vehicles now include a mix of traditional steel, aluminum, high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels, and (in some cases) carbon fiber and composites.

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Designing Through the Increasingly Interactive Looking Glass

Designers, engineers and architects work with a lot of glass — in buildings, in houses, in cars, and increasingly on touchscreen devices. Eventually, that type of interactive display technology could find its way into more traditional glass applications like windows and car windshields, at least according to the folks at Corning.

Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” video went viral last year, so the company has unleashed a sequel (see below) that outlines the many ways in which its interactive display technology could be used in real life.

Integrating interactive displays on existing glass surfaces opens up all sorts of possibilities, from shelf-shading windows to space-saving interactive tabletops and and wall displays. You could even turn the face of a building into a huge solar panel using photovoltaic glass — which is what Pythagoras Solar attempted in a pilot launched last year at what used to be known as the Sears Tower. Continue reading

“Sponge-Like” Material Could Boost Hydrogen Fuel Cell Performance

Hydrogen fuel cells may very well power the electric vehicles of the future, but right now hydrogen power has some inherent limitations. The technology is expensive, and the hydrogen in these systems has to be compressed at high pressures; current systems lose a significant amount of energy quickly, and the high pressure can lead to unsafe conditions.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are investigating alternative storage methods for hydrogen-powered fuel cells by synthesizing novel materials with high hydrogen adsorption capacities. By improving storage capacity, the batteries could achieve longer charges, which would be a boon for hydrogen-powered electric vehicle designs. Continue reading

Sustainability Group to Focus on Business Processes and Technology

Designers interested in new approaches to sustainability practices in the corporate world should take a look at the new Innovations in Environmental Sustainability Council project launched by IBM and the World Environment Center (WEC). The group, which will include representatives from large companies like GM, Coca-Cola, and Boeing, will explore how innovations in business process and technology can solve sustainability issues involving materials, energy, water, infrastructure, and logistics.

Members will share their own best practices with other companies, and have pledged to incorporate these sustainability strategies and technologies more deeply in their own operations.

According to an interview with the WEC over on GreenBiz:

“When you look at the companies coming together under this council, they have been implementing sustainability in their individual businesses for some years now, so I think what they’re looking to do is take sustainability to the next level, in terms of best practices and looking to further differentiate themselves in the marketplace.”
—  Terry F. Yosie, WEC president and CEO

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Engineering Students Take EcoCAR Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy is keen to see more environmental improvements in the auto industry, and is once again giving eager engineering students a chance to tackle the problem of creating environmentally friendly, commercially viable cars via its EcoCAR competition.

Announced in the spring at the SAE 2011 World Congress, EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future pits 15 university teams against each other in a three-year engineering competition to reduce the environmental impact of an existing vehicle without compromising performance, safety, or consumer acceptability. Winners are vying for $100,000 in cash prizes. Continue reading


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