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Using the power of the crowd to turn advanced materials into real-world products


Piezoelectric materials are widely used in sensors, actuators and transducers – making up a $15bn market. Currently however, the properties of the commonly used materials degrade rapidly above 150-200 Celsius and at high pressures, limiting their usefulness in extreme environments like combustion engines and deep oil wells. This can all change with a new material developed at the University of Leeds. Through some clever materials engineering, Prof Andrew Bell’s group have managed to raise the maximum operating temperature of piezoelectrics above 350C while matching or exceeding the performance, robustness and cost of the current gold standard, PZT.

 

Understandably excited by this, the inventors are in the process of spinning out a company, Ionix around this new technology. As with so many cutting-edge technologies though, one of the key questions is which market(s) to focus on: With piezoelectrics used in so many different settings, where can this new material that unlocks such unique capabilities realise value? Where is the combination of technical needs, competitive landscape and market size just right? Basically: given its new properties, what problems can this new piezoelectric material solve?

 

To answer these questions, they have placed their technology onto Marblar – a platform that taps a global community of close to 10,000 engineers, scientists and professionals to compete and collaborate towards finding novel market applications for emerging and existing technology.

 

  

Participants are rewarded with online points and trophies (marbles – hence the name), and can build on each other’s ideas. The winner will receive a $1000 prize and a chance to pitch their idea directly to the inventors. Inventors get new product ideas, and investors get a sneak peak at new opportunities.

  

 

 

Since this competition launched two weeks ago, the Marblar community has uncovered 43 potential market applications exploiting the unique features of the material ranging from autoclavable surgical instruments, to automotive engine sensors, to molten-polymer printing, and even low-drift radio frequency filters. To check out these ideas and get involved, head on over to Marblar, http://marblar.com/challenge/Extreme-piezoelectrics.

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