Michigan researchers show how quantum materials hold promise for advanced energy technologies

🔬 RESEARCH: University of Michigan researchers are part of a team that demonstrated how a new tool that uses light to map the electronic structure of crystals holds promise for quantum materials and advanced energy technologies. The technique can help scientists understand quantum materials’ properties and capabilities to determine their applications, including solar cells, artificial photosynthesis, and LED lights. They mapped emerging 2D semiconductors, which are comprised of a single layer of crystal and can convert sunlight to energy more efficiently and cheaply than silicon-based solar cells.

🥤 BIOPLASTIC: A University of Akron research team is working on a more durable bio-plastic for making compostable cups and other containers. Polylactic (PLA) materials tend to be brittle and not strong enough to replace fossil fuel-based polymers on a wide scale. The researchers created a PLA cup prototype that is transparent, tough, flexible, and doesn’t shrink when filled with boiling water. With these characteristics, the material shows promise for replacing fossil-fuel based polymers.

University of Akron researchers developed a bio-plastic cup. They showed that polylactic acid (PLA) can be made to exhibit superior mechanical and thermal characteristics, showing promise to replace conventional petroleum-based polymers.


  • Clean Fuels Ohio is leading a coalition to address challenges and market barriers with heavy-duty vehicles that run on natural gas, reports Advanced Clean Tech News. The vehicles have been gaining traction over the last decade, but technicians face challenges in maintaining them, which hinders greater adoption.
  • The U.S. Air Force awarded a contract to Dayton, Ohio-based Tangram Flex to develop integrated software for electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, often called electric flying cars, reports the Dayton Daily News.


  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is offering more than $300,000 in grants for projects that advance clean diesel and alternative fuel engine technologies. The application deadline is Jan. 28.
  • In other EGLE news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected the department for a $500,000 grant to conduct real-time, mobile air quality monitoring to determine industrial contributions to local air pollution. Longer-term work is expected to include strategies for reducing these emissions.

🏭 INDUSTRY: MinnPost tackles the myth that “old polluting industries” will disappear as more cleantech emerges. It highlights examples of innovations in the Midwest and beyond that are helping some industrial players evolve with the times.

💵 INVESTMENT: Chicago-based Rheaply received a $1 million investment from venture capital firm Revolution for winning first place in the Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour pitch competition.


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