How The North Face and Coca-Cola Incorporate Bio-Based Materials Into Consumer Products

A new generation of consumers demand sustainability. In response, multinational corporations are increasingly integrating bio-based materials and chemicals into products as a way to market a more sustainable brand. Business savvy leaders will first target opportunities where bio-based materials & chemicals have a clear advantage over incumbents in performance, but most are stumped by where to start in the value chain. Continue reading

Innovating Under the Trump Administration: Early Winners and Losers

All eyes have been on the U.S. since Donald Trump won the election last November. So far, outcomes have been mixed: on one hand, the Dow Jones Index has witnessed a historical surge since his election win, rising from just below 18,000 to above 21,000. The U.S. Dollar Index has seen similar benefits, strengthening from just below 97 to nearly 102 in early April. While these factors play along with Trump’s campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again,” not all policy changes were welcomed and many have seen substantial criticism. Continue reading

Keeping Energy Hot: How System Integrators Can Differentiate Themselves

Following closely behind the maturing solar market are two technology trends that are beginning to stabilize and present the opportunity for photovoltaic (PV) systems to be about more than just generation: 1) deployment of storage is consolidating around lithium-ion batteries, and 2) software applied to energy systems is delineating measures of control for consumers and grid operators alike.  As the market matures, differentiation will be vital for system integrators, as a limited number of opportunities to develop business models alongside utilities arise. Continue reading

How to Build a Successful Precision Ag Platform

The integration of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with agricultural machinery catalyzed the digitization of farms in the early 2000s, enabling farmers to visualize yield variation within their fields. Since then, the definition of digital ag has evolved to include features beyond just basic yield mapping, such as variable rate prescriptions, irrigation guidance, seed variety benchmarks, and pest outbreak alerts. Decision support features abound, but the present state of the industry is fragmented. Most developers are start-ups who provide one aspect of decision support, and their solutions work in silos alienated from the rest of farm operations. Continue reading

Does Your Organization Suffer From Impedance Mismatch of Innovation Ideas?

The technical definition of impedance matching in electronics is system design such that the input impedance (the effective resistance to the flow of alternating current) of an electrical load and the output impedance of its corresponding signal are appropriately matched in order to maximize the power transfer and/or minimize signal reflection from the load.  Failure to adequately manage impedance matching results in impedance mismatch, the loss of power or current, or flow; the energy of which can flow back upstream of the input to cause signal distortion, or feedback, as well as diminishing transfer of current and power. A common example of mismatch is echo in telephone or internet conversations. Opportunities for impedance mismatch occur at junctions between circuits in an overall system. Continue reading

Commoditization of Materials R&D Now Threatens the Materials and Chemicals Industry

Commoditization has been the constant story of the chemicals and materials industry since the earliest discoveries that enabled large scale material production. Historically new processes, competition, and business models have pushed the manufacture of once-specialty materials like PET, PVC, and polyolefins towards commoditization, making them cheaper, more available, and interchangeable with the competition. Today, digital technologies are causing these same changes in the materials R&D process and the process of materials selection and part manufacture. The actions and skills that underlie the materials and chemicals industry are undergoing commoditization, with major ramifications for how every material is produced and utilized, now and in the future.

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Lux Ranks Three Potential Bioplastics for Building LEGO’s 2030 Sustainable Brick

At the recent World Bio Markets conference in Amsterdam, LEGO Director in Materials Department Søren Kristiansen said the company has been making slow but steady progress toward its goal of making its LEGO bricks from sustainable materials by 2030. Søren described a handful of properties required by a new material, including strength, clutch power (“ability for bricks to snap together tightly while also being easy to separate”), and color fastness (resistance to fading) that match those of LEGO’s currently used acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). However, while LEGO mentioned that it is working with various partners to develop a new polymer, the company did not hint at what materials it was testing. Given Lux’s projected growth of the biopolymer market anticipated over the next decade (see the report “Global Biopolymer Outlook 2026: Forecasting Growth in the Next Decade” [client registration required]), we decided to highlight the materials that LEGO is likely considering for its bricks: Continue reading

Recapping Health and Wellness at LES: Three Formulas for Success Highlight Faults of a Technology-First Approach

Last week Lux hosted the Americas Lux Executive Summit (LES). Among discussions on the great energy transition, the digital transformation, and the materials-manufacturing nexus, Lux analysts and external speakers also explored the rise of consumer health and wellness. From non-GMO and organic food to activity tracking and “natural” ingredients, today’s consumers care about – and are willing to pay for – wellness. Some estimates put the wellness market at nearly $4 trillion, but it remains unclear if current solutions actually deliver on wellness claims to the consumer. Below, we highlight key themes discussed at LES that look to provide clarity on how developers should approach the wellness market: Continue reading

Forecasting Next-Gen Li-ion Application Fit in Electric Aviation: Finding Space in Aerospace for New Battery Chemistries

The fossil fuels that enabled the jet age due to their considerable energy density may soon be yielding to electric aircraft for the same reason. Thanks to the increasing energy density of new battery chemistries, electric aerospace has received considerable attention as the future of flight. Today, most consumer and commercial drones are electric for weight and simplicity (see the report “UAV Landscape and Market Size: The Impact of Technology and Regulation on Commercial Applications” [client registration required]), and startups like Zee Aero and upstarts like Uber and Airbus’ corporate incubator A^3 have all announced they would be pursuing electric aircraft for transportation. Electric aircraft seem like a perfect fit for new energy-dense battery technology, with the aerospace industry being less sensitive to cost and cycle life considerations than the automotive sector, where these factors are key inputs to vehicle cost. However, a closer look at cell-level requirements for different aerospace platforms shows that it may not be plane sailing after all. Continue reading

Toyota’s Adoption of Carbon Fiber SMC a Small but Important Win for Automotive Carbon Composites

Mitsubishi Rayon recently announced that the new Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid (PHV) will adopt a carbon fiber (CF) sheet molding compound (SMC). SMC is a form of thermoset chopped fiber composite; glass fiber reinforced SMC is already commonly in use in the automotive industry. Toyota will use the SMC to form the structure of the rear lift gate of the Prius. It appears that the CF lift gate will only be used on the PHV variants of the Prius. Continue reading