Innovations "made by Empa"

Empa has a long tradition of converting the results of its research and development activities into marketable products, with the help of its industrial partners. Knowledge dissemination and technology transfer are given the highest priority by the institution.

Space age material for the masses
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Aerogel is the perfect material for many insulation purposes. It is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees, ultralight, non-toxic – and provides excellent thermal insulation. Only its complicated and expensive production causes quite a headache. An Empa start-up is about to revolutionize the manufacturing process. If successful, there will soon be affordable aerogel for everyone. Find out more.
Finally Red - New Omega Speedmaster with Empa ceramic bezel
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Empa researchers have pulled off a masterstroke of ceramics research: as of now, a dark-red ceramic bezel adorns a Swiss luxury watch – a world premiere and stunning example of top-flight materials science. More.

 

 

Swiss luxury lady’s watch featuring gold thread by Empa
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Lovers of fine embroidery and luxury gold watches can now enjoy the best of both worlds in the Big Bang Broderie Gold line in lady’s watches produced by the manufacturer Hublot. The watch face features embroidery by the traditional Swiss brand Bischoff. And the shiny golden thread is produced by Tersuisse Multifils SA in Emmenbrücke using a technique patented by Empa. It involves cold-vaporizing a piece of gold in a plasma process. The metallic vapor settles on the thread and sticks.
For the Big Band Broderie line, the gold thread is stitched onto carbo fibers, dipped in synthetic resin and pressed. After all, the watch’s hands mustn’t catch on the embroidery.
PRODEX: Instruments with Empa know-how in space
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Since 18 years, Empa has been developing analytical aparatuses for space missions operated by the «European Space Agency» (ESA). Rosetta, BepiColombo, or Luna relied on Empa-Technologies. In June 2016 a workshop and information day for scientific and industrial partners took place in the Empa-Akademie. More.

 

Polarmond – using body heat to warm your tent
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In collaboration with the «Polarmond» start-up company, Empa researchers have developed a self-heating «All-in-one» tent system. A special humidity management feature and step-less temperature control system guarantee comfortable temperatures in the tent at all times. To achieve their goal, the Empa scientists had to combine ideas, materials and techniques from a wide range of different fields in an extremely innovative way. Read more.
Roll on flexible solar cells
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In a few months, in the Swiss town of Niederhasli, the production of flexible solar cells will begin – by the roll and up to a meter wide. Employing technology developed by Empa, the start-up firm Flisom will begin the manufacture of these economic solar cells in film format. Altogether it has taken more than 18 years of research and development, most of which took place in Empa laboratories, to reach this pilot plant stage. More.
Concrete heating system
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Building physicist Mark Zumoberhaus aims to use concrete to keep his holiday home in canton Uri warm over the coming winter. To achieve this, he will be using 6 m³ of special concrete developed by Empa, installed in the garage of his house. The concrete absorbs heat in summer and stores it till it is needed in winter, when the warmth is released. Read more.
Helping carpenters to cut wood faster
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Instead of using conventional cutting tools made of metal, Swiss carpenters will in future be able to work their wood with ceramic-bladed equipment. Not only is the latter faster than the metal equivalents, but it also solve the problem of the supply bottleneck which is currently facing woodworking companies using metal knives. These novel ceramic blades were developed by a research team of Empa scientists, in collaboration with staff from the company Oertli Werkezeuge AG. Read more.

 

The ultrafast recharching point
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Recharge the batteries of an electric vehicle in just five minutes instead of the seven or eight hours usual today? Not a problem for the new charging system developed by Empa researchers. All the novel charging station needs is to be plugged into an everyday industrial electrical connector. The innovative system functions with the help of a large battery-like storage device which can be charged up slowly but very quickly discharged. Find out more.

Artificial hip joints made of ceramic
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The metal alloys used in conventional surface replacement artificial hip joints suffer from the problem that metal particles abraded by friction in the joint can reach the patient’s bloodstream. This often gives rise to health problems. In order to avoid this situation Empa staff have, in collaboration with colleagues from the company Metoxit AG, developed an artificial hip joint of high-performance ceramic. This material is not only more wear resistant, but is also better tolerated by the human body. More.

Needle-free blood sugar measurement
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In order to monitor the blood sugar level of premature babies, doctors must draw blood samples, which causes pain and stress for the tiny patients. To avoid this Empa scientists working together with staff at the Zürich University Hospital have developed a new sensor called “Glucolight”. The new device measures blood sugar levels directly through contact with the skin, which in premature babies is very thin. The novel instrument uses a light-controlled membrane technique developed at Empa. Find out more.
A chest strap for the heart
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In order to allow the long-term monitoring of patients with heart and circulatory problems, Empa has developed a chest strap which incorporates flexible humidifying elements. The latter produce a kind of artificial sweat, thereby moistening the skin under the electrodes, which is necessary for the optimal measurement of electrical signals from the body. To date gel electrodes have been used for monitoring devices, but these dry after 24 hours, thereby becoming usable. Read more.

Flame protection for the jet set
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A new coating protects business jet interiors against fire. Not only is the agent more environmentally friendly than before; it can also be applied more quickly. This new coating could also be used in textiles and wood-based furnishing and architectural systems. More information can be found here
Innovative floor panels
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In collaboration with Supramat-Swiss GmbH, Empa has developed easy to transport panels, that protect the ground.They have also optimized panels that prevent heavy equipment from sinking in mud. They make it easy to recover aeroplanes that came off the runway. More information can be found here.
Compliant materials with a strong impact
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The recent Empa spin-off Monolitix AG specialises in compliant mechanisms. These are frictionless and wear-free and are also lighter, more hygienic and cheaper than conventional joint mechanisms. They have an enormous range of potential applications in the most diverse fields. The new company's young entrepreneurs are now setting about breaking into the market with their first products. More information can be found here.
Textile pressure ulcer prevention
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Immobile patients are in constant danger of developing pressure ulcers on the skin. Empa, Schoeller Medical and the Swiss Paraplegic Centre have worked together to develop a special sheet that is gentle on the skin and helps to make patients more comfortable. More information can be found here.
Aerogel-based plaster provides better insulation for old buildings
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Old buildings are beautiful – and hard to insulate. Empa and the Swiss render manufacturer Fixit AG together developed a new Aerogel-based plaster that provides twice the insulation of currently used insulating renders. More information can be found here.
Monitor assesses the mobility of bed-ridden patients
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A monitoring system became commercially available that will allow nursing staff to accurately record the mobility of bedridden persons. The system has been developed for the prevention of bedsores by Compliant Concept, a start-up at Empa’s glatec technology center. More information can be found here.
Real smart: protective clothing with built-in A/C
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Empa has together with its industrial partner, unico swiss tex, developed a «smart» protective vest with an integrated cooling system. The first small series of the novel under-uniform protective vest will be produced in the near future. More information can be found here.
Innovative incontinence briefs offer security in everyday life
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Scientists at Empa have worked with the industrial partner Incosan GmbH to develop a multi-layer pad and special briefs to make daily life easier for people suffering from incontinence. The products recently came onto the market. More information can be found here.
Improved ergonomics for wheelchair users
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Empa engineers, together with the firm «r going», have succeeded in developing an ergonomic seat for electric wheelchairs which encourages the user to move around frequently. True to the motto «life is movement » the aim is to enhance the freedom of movement of wheelchair users with a range of disabilities. More information can be found here.
Finest silk – purest gold
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True luxury has only one color – gold. A nanometer-thin layer of pure gold now lends ties and pocket handkerchiefs that authentic gold sheen, thanks to a new Empa-developed process. The yarn, which is coated using a high-tech plasma process, is soft and easy to weave. It is also washing machine compatible. A limited number of gold ties will be placed on the market before Christmas, making a truly exclusive present. Further fashion accessories will follow in 2012. More information can be found here.

Noise-quenching curtains
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Researchers at Empa, in cooperation with textile designer Annette Douglas and silk weaving firm Weisbrod-Zürrer AG, have developed lightweight, translucent curtain materials, which are excellent at absorbing sound. This is a combination that has been lacking until now in modern interior design. The new «noise-quenching» curtains have just gone onto the market. More information on the new curtains can be found here.

Artificial turf with upstanding qualities
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Empa researchers and scientists from the «Institute for Rapid Product Development» at the ETH Zurich, together with TISCA TIARA, a Swiss manufacturer of artificial turf, and the German fiber manufacturer Schramm GmbH, have developed a novel fiber for use in making artificial turf. The bi-component fiber returns to an upright position again and again thanks to a “hard core” but its soft sheath prevents abrasions and grass burns when players fall or slide on the surface. The turf has already been laid on two football pitches in Switzerland. More information on the new artificial turf can be found here.
Repairing spray coatings
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The maintenance interval of water turbines is determined by the degree of erosional wear which the blades suffer. Repairs are time consuming and expensive since dismantling and reassembling a turbine can take up to several months, depending on the type involved. The use of hard coatings increases the operating lifetime of the turbine blades but partial damage to the coatings frequently occurs. Empa and the firm Stellba Schweistechnik AG have together developed and patented a method of partially repairing these spray coatings of tungsten carbide composite material. The good results obtained in laboratory studies have been confirmed by practical tests on water turbines, and the method is now being used successfully in commercial applications.
Two-component fiber improves the properties of concrete
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In a project supported by the Innovation Promotion Agency (CTI), a team of Empa scientists and their industrial partner, the fiber manufacturing company fibrotec ag, have developed an economical polymer fiber which can withstand high mechanical loads. They were assisted by a new production process which allows the manufacture of fibers made of two components. The core of the newly developed fiber is made of polypropylene (PP) whilst only the thin fiber sheath is made of a special, tailor-made polymer which is chemically and mechanically ideally suited for use in building materials using a cement binder. The bicomponent fiber is already commercially available and is produced by Brugg Seiltechnik Holding AG. More information on this product can be found here.
DownMat – an air mattress filled with goose-down
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Top-level mountaineers climbing in extremely cold conditions at high altitude need not only a top-quality sleeping-bag but also a highly insulating mat to sleep on. In cooperation with the company Exped, Empa has developed a functional example of such a mat, consisting of goose-down filled air chambers which retain their shape under pressure. Measurements made at Empa showed that the thermal insulation of the new mats is 5 times better than conventional types. The idea was taken further by the outdoor-equipment suppliers Exped AG who, jointly with Empa, have applied for a patent. After further development the sleeping mat is now being produced commercially and is being sold very successfully under the brand name “DownMat“.
Wireless sensor network
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The Stork Bridge in Winterthur was fitted with a total of seven sensors developed by Empa for long term testing purposes in the course of the EU project ”Sustainable Bridges“. The sensors monitor vibration levels in the bridge structure and other unusual mechanical behavior, and if necessary raise the alarm at Empa via a radio link and internet connection. The advantages of this remote monitoring system is that it is rapidly installed, very flexible and economic, since wireless sensors obviate the need for fitting the bridge with expensive cabling systems. The technology is now being commercialized by the Empa spin-off company DecentLab GmbH.
PPMS-AFM – a high precision measuring instrument
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The PPMS-AFM is a high precision measuring instrument which unites surface analysis techniques on the nanometer scale with a device for measuring macroscopic properties, known as the PPMS® (Physical Properties Measurement System). The technology was developed at Empa and has been successfully transferred to the startup company NanoScan AG. In 2009 NanoScan began marketing the PPMS-AFM on a commercial basis under license to Empa. Since then the company has further developed the technology and is marketing the system internationally in collaboration with IONTOF, another of Empa’s industrial partners.
Metallized fibers using low pressure plasma method
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At the end of 2007 Empa transferred the rights to its patent for a special fiber coating process to Tersuisse Multifils SA in Emmenbruecke, at the same time handing over its pilot plant to the company. The key to Empa’s success is a new fiber guidance system. On the one hand this allows a more rapid coating process and on the other it leads to the metal being applied more efficiently to yarns and fibers, which reduces the metal consumption. Both factors help to reduce manufacturing costs significantly, ensuring that in comparison to the conventional electrochemical process the advantages of the new technology take center stage. More information on this product can be found here.
Cooling system for multiple sclerosis patients
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Empa scientists have developed ultra-light cooling garments for those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). Cooling trousers and shirts have been available on the market since April 2007, manufactured by Unico swiss tex GmbH, to whom Empa has transferred its patent. The small, innovative Swiss enterprise aims to market these products successfully in Switzerland, Germany and possibly even the USA. Cooling helps alleviate symptoms in 60 to 80 per cent of all MS patients. Further information on the cooling system is available here (m4v-Datei, 65 MB).
Jun Funori – Red algae for consolidating, aged and powdery painted surfaces
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Funori, an adhesive material prepared in Japan from red algae of the family Gloiopeltis, has sparked the interest of restorers of art works, because of its ability to consolidate and strengthen layers of paint which have become lackluster and powdery with age. As a natural product, funori comes in varying qualities, and to tackle this problem a special purification process was developed jointly by the ETH Zurich’s Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation, Empa and the Conservation Center of the Swiss National Museum. The resulting pure material, known as JunFunori (jun = pure) is a standardized product which has been tested by experts over a period of years. JunFunori offers conservators an improved consolidating agent which allows them to repair aged and powdery painted surfaces without changing them visually. Jun Funori is manufactured exclusively by the Lascaux company.
Zumikon Particle Separator
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There are many good reasons which make wood an environmentally friendly source of energy. In particular, the fact that it is a CO2 neutral, renewable resource is an important advantage. In order that the fine particulate emissions of wood burning appliances do not act as a brake on the further development of wood as a fuel, Empa in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment (FOEN) has pushed forward with the development of a particle separator for small wood burning stoves. The further development of the prototype into a market-ready product has been taken on by the firm Rüegg Cheminée AG, who now offer the finished product commercially on the internation market.