MRS Innovation Source

MRS Innovation Source focuses on examples of best practices, success stories, interviews and editorials on current topics in innovation, commercialization and new product development using advances in materials. This resource complements the current MRS communications portfolio that focuses on the ever-expanding landscape of materials research—MRS Communications, MRS Bulletin, Materials360, Materials360 Online, Journal of Materials Research, MRS Energy & Sustainability—A Review Journal, MRS Online Proceedings Library and social media.

MRS also hosts the Technology Innovation Forum. The seventh Technology Innovation Forum at the 2014 MRS Spring Meeting focused on challenges and opportunities in commercializing materials research. (This event was recorded as part of a live stream from the 2014 MRS Spring Meeting; click here to learn more.)
View past Technology Innovation Forums:

MRS serves a global community of over 16,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government. The society promotes interaction and idea-sharing through various venues, such as journals, meetings, conferences and educational outreach. This resource aims to broaden the dialogue among thought leaders in this field to accelerate the commercialization of exciting new materials research to benefit society.

Send article and content ideas to Alan Brown at

For materials science and research news, visit Materials360 Online, subscribe to the Materials360 newsletter or take a look at MRS Bulletin and the MRS Bulletin Energy Quarterly.

MRS Innovation Source: How a Materials Start-up Overcame Commercialization Challenges »

Early-stage materials companies face unique challenges in commercializing their novel technologies. Unlike software and internet start-ups, some of which require only a few computers and internet access to create a marketable product, materials start-up companies require additional capital and time to develop prototype products and processes acceptable to the marketplace. Extra investment is required in laboratory space, materials and equipment. In addition, many investors require that these companies prove that their processes are economically viable when scaled to production. For these reasons, many angel and venture capital investment groups apply extra scrutiny when looking at promising startup materials companies (November 2012).

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Polyera--The Future of Functional Materials for Optoelectronics »

In order to revolutionize the future of electronics, not only must electronics advance, companies must also be able to manufacture novel, reliable, high quality electronic products to satisfy customers. For some applications, new materials enabling stretchable, twistable, foldable, paper-thin circuits are needed. At the forefront of this technology is a company known as Polyera (September 2012).

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Alta Devices moves out of the lab and into the valley »

In the world of technology start-ups, especially clean energy, “the valley”— also known as “the valley of death”—refers to the gap in capital between the funding of invention—through government grants and venture capital— and mass production. Recently, the thinfi lm solar-cell manufacturer Solyndra famously failed to cross this valley, declaring bankruptcy after accepting millions of dollars in US government gap funding. The controversy around this particular case, and around the fate of many solar start-ups generally, means that all eyes are on Alta Devices. As the start-up begins production on its pilot line, the clean energy community will watch as Alta Devices attempts to take its technology out of the lab and into the valley (September 2012).

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From materials research to climate change: David Eaglesham assesses the solar energy industry »

David Eaglesham is dedicated to using materials science to address energy problems. After earning a PhD degree in physics at the University of Bristol (UK), he spent many years at Bell Laboratories working on semiconductors and later took on management positions at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Applied Materials. It was at Applied Materials that he began to connect with the solar industry, just as it was getting hot. When he joined First Solar in 2006 as Vice President of Technology, it had around 350 employees and about USD$50 million in revenue. The company now has grown to about USD$4 billion in revenue. With an extensive portfolio of achievements in scientifi c research and ever eager for new challenges, Eaglesham left First Solar this summer and has taken a new position with Mg-ion battery leader Pellion Technologies. We caught up with Eaglesham at a corner brewery in Ypsilanti, Mich., where we noticed that they were putting up photovoltaic panels on the roof combined with a solar thermal energy system—a hybrid system. This auspicious beginning led to an all-encompassing interview spanning the range from materials research to mitigating global warming (September 2012).

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MRS Innovation Source: How does Innovation Differ from Discovery and Invention? »

According to Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Invention (The Penguin Press, 2012), the events surrounding the development of the transistor at Bell Labs provide an example of an invention which led to radical innovation (August 2012).

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Cathodoluminescence system offers quantitative and reliable data for optoelectronics devices »

The increasing demand for new optoelectronics devices such as solar cells, laser diodes (LD), and high-brightness light-emitting diodes (HBLED) combined with the economic necessity to achieve lower consumption levels and higher yields are motivating researchers to develop new materials. Specifically many studies are being initiated to improve the understanding of the fundamental physical properties and behavior of compound semiconductor materials including quantum wells, quantum dots, and nanowire-like structures (December 2011).

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High-performance detectors for visible near-IR imaging sensors developed »

There is significant interest in developing low-cost visible infrared (IR) sensors for a variety of applications such as imaging sensors for defense, homeland security, and commercial applications (December 2011).

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High-performance polymers for flexible OPV raise cell efficiencies »

Thin-film photovoltaics (PVs) offer an affordable alternative to silicon photovoltaics. However, thin-film technologies face many challenges including concerns about toxicity as is the case with cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based PV and difficulties in scale-up as evidenced by copper indium gallium diselinide based PV. Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells printed on fl exible substrates are free of toxic materials and cost competitive since they can be manufactured by roll-to-roll processes (December 2011).

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GaN changes the game in power conversion »

The form of electrical energy that is required depends strongly on the function to be performed. Consequently power conversion is ubiquitous with an annual market value of over $7 billion growing at a compound annual  growth rate of over 12.6%.Transphorm’s GaN-based power solutions increase efficiency, reduce system size, and simplify overall product design and can eliminate up to 90% of all electric conversion losses from heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems (HVAC) and solar panels (November 2011).

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Functionalized nanoporous particles allow single-step purification of DNA reactions »

Using a new materials-based approach, Diffinity Genomics is introducing a series of products for rapid, single-step purification of nucleic acid reactions such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of DNA. The initial product, the Diffinity RapidTipTM for PCR Purification, removes unwanted materials from the PCR solution such as unincorporated oligonucleotides used as primers plus nucleotides (dNTP) thereby rendering the solution suitable for DNA sequencing reactions (August 2011).

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Process improves reliability of thin film igniters in safety devices »

A new process for fabricating the bridge wire or thermal element within a pyrotechnic igniter, which improves its reliability, has been developed by Odyssian Technology and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT). These igniters are used to trigger pyrotechnic devices in automotive airbags so they infl ate quickly, in parachute safety devices, and by the military for initiating the chemical reaction that is the source of power for thermal batteries, which power missile navigation and control systems (August 2011).

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Sputtering technique forms versatile quasicrystalline coatings »

Dozens of quasicrystals with different compositions and symmetries have been discovered over the past 25 years. The use of quasicrystalline coatings for non-stick cookware is a promising option for a large market that is undergoing fundamental change (August 2011).

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Method developed for mass production of nanofibers »

Nanofibers, defined as fibers with diameters of <100 nm to <500 nm, are desirable enhancements for a number of promising applications including medical, filtration, energy, textile, protective, structural, electrical, and optical. However, their commercial potential has not yet been realized because the limitation in the scalability of present production technologies restricts their application to relatively high-priced niche products (April 2011).

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System offers rapid, low-cost measurement of thickness and optical constants of thin films »

Thin-film solar cells, liquid-crystal displays, light-emitting diodes, and many other thin-film containing products require inline metrology for the rapid, reliable and low-cost control of the thickness and optical constants of the thin films. Semiconsoft’s fiberoptics MProbe thin-film measurement system has been optimized to achieve exceptional precision and analysis capabilities (April 2011).   

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X-ray diffraction measurements applied to novel materials »

The development of new materials such as nantubes, graphene, and metal-organic frameworks has put new demands on materials characterization techniques. Applying x-ray diffraction and scattering to new materials requires innovative and nonconventional techniques or variations of standard methods (April 2011).

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