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Building Innovation with Advanced Materials

This article was published on 28 February 2018

Floating concrete, windows that generate electricity, ceramic materials that just won’t break. Kirsten Edgar, Callaghan Innovation’s National Technology Network Manager for Advanced Materials, gives an update on the latest developments.

At Callaghan Innovation’s research and technical services division in Gracefield, Wellington, teams of people are working on exactly these kinds of advanced materials and practical applications for them.

Advanced materials help make the medical implants that extend mobility. They’re behind the container your milk comes in, and the plastic money that we earn and spend every day.

Ambitious Kiwi businesses are developing these products with our science and research specialists to help solve real world and real business problems.

Advancements in material development can help us solve many of the big problems facing our society using technology we already have – I’m thinking of environmental sustainability and health issues, for instance - and they are having major impact on the products around us. Advanced materials can outperform traditional materials and they tend to provide multiple benefits such as strength and thermal insulation, along with other attributes such as being lightweight and fire-resistant. When combining these materials with design, the door to future products and solutions opens.

As the National Technology Network Manager for Advanced Materials, the most common question I get asked is, 'What is an advanced material?'

This simple question is a barrier to the potential use of advanced materials in the development of new products. It suggests to me that we and our partners in the innovation ecosystem can do a better job of educating New Zealand companies about these amazing technologies and how they might make a difference in their R&D and NPD programmes. 

The simplest definition of an advanced material is that it is any material which has been created or modified to obtain superior performance in one or more properties.

Advanced materials infographic - New ways of putting atoms together

Download Advanced Materials brochure: PDF icon An introduction to Advanced Materials

There is a lot of exciting work already being done in the field, such as:

  • Wearable electronics that bend, flex, and stretch to conform to your body.
  • Membranes that cover foodstuffs and keep them fresh by controlling moisture or ethylene levels.
  • Shape memory materials such as clothing fabrics that alter their breathability with the heat of your body, or sound insulation materials that change in response to the level or frequency of the noise. 

Get in touch with us if you have been looking at how your business might be able to innovate by advancing materials or incorporating advanced materials in your new product development.