Technology Watch / Development

Tech watch and development projects

Understanding technology trends, predicting their commercial potential is essential for corporate planning. Netlab offers “Tech Watch” studies on subjects of interest to our clients, the budget for such studies is between 10,000 to 20,000 €. Occasionally such studies extend to periods of 2 years or may lead to a prototype development which is usually carried out in cooperation with a university.

Prototype development of air-coupled ultrasonic sensors for inspection of automotive components: in collaboration with Fraunhofer (IZFP) and INOSON for in-line defect inspection. The inconvenience of the usual water or gel coupling is circumvented by air coupling. Increased air pressure in on- line conveyor locks improves the inspection performance.

 

Principle of air coupled ultrasonic back-scattering and experimental set-up, air or gas may be pressurized up to 10 bar in order to increase the energy transfer between the probe and substrate, drawing and photo courtesy IZFP

Environmental impact of motorization and regional differences: Since 1995 the EU is engaged in enacting prescriptions limiting the CO2 emissions (fuel consumption) of automobiles to 120gCO2/km, a target which was originally suggested by Germany in 1995, however it was 3 times pushed forward to 2000, 2005 and 2010. This target was finally reached in 2016 with 118 grCO2/km as fleet average. This poor compliance is not only due to car makers but also due to citizens purchasing increasingly larger passenger cars and SUVs. The benefit of the Diesel having a lower fuel consumption of about 15 % as compared to gasoline engines has been neutralized by consumer behavior purchasing increasingly high performance cars and SUVs. By 2020 the fleet average will be lowered further to 95 gCO2/km, this could be reached by further improving the efficiency of the car engines and by more electric car on the market. Netlab carried out a ”Life Cycle Analysis” (LCA) for a mid-size car, shown below, which suggests that electric cars could lower the CO2 emissions from traffic if electricity is produced as in France or Switzerland but not as in Germany relying mainly on lignite fired power plants. For a situation as in Germany, hybrid motorization would be an option.

 

Netlab investigated the environmental compatibility of shale gas exploration. Gas exists in abundance, can it be recovered economically and in respecting the environment. US companies pioneered in shale gas exploitation technologies. The geological situation in Europe is different from that of USA, exploratory drilling in Europe are below expectations. Moreover political opposition banned shale gas exploration in certain countries, see map, source The Economist 2013. The common method of breaking up the shale formation is by injecting a brine with chemical admixtures under high pressure. In case the brine gets into aquifers environmental damage may result. Therefore alternative methods such as CO2  are under investigation.

Netlab investigated selection criteria for smart cities:  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the urban population in 2014 accounted for 54% of the total global population, up from 34% in 1960, and it continues to grow. The urban population growth is most visible in the less developed countries, already by 2017 we expect that the majority of people will be living in urban areas. Space and energy consumption were limiting factors to growth even in antique cities and so today as shown in the diagram below, source D.Bollier (1998).

Most rankings of smart cities in the world use the following criteria: smart economy, smart governance, smart living, smart people, smart environment and smart mobility. However the rankings differ because each criteria is interpreted differently by the investigative teams.

 

Renewable energies as source of syn-methane and syn-fuels: Netlab is investigating the various routes using demand-disconnected wind and solar energy generating electricity which produces hydrogen through electrolysis. The hydrogen (H2 ) is then used to convert CO2 from biogas fermentation into bio-CH4 or another route where H2  is used to make syn-gas from which alkenes are synthesized which in-tern yield gasoline or Diesel or fats, as shown in the diagram below. Indeed an effective CO2 sink is established in replacing the petroleum by hydrogen chemistry.

Processing routes of hydrogen chemistry according to SoCal Gas (2016) and modified by Netlab