Both NASA and the Department of Defense now use a numeric scale for Technology Readiness Level, or TRL (Fig. 1) to quantify the subjective assessment of "how close to maturity" is a new product or process. A parallel scale evaluates engineering and manufacturability with Manufacturability Readiness Level, or MRL (Fig. 2) numbers, and both scales provide useful and descriptive perspective. Daily interaction with the industrial community of supply and demand that lives and breathes TRL 4 through 7, the "fun time" in technology evolution, is a pleasure. It's like watching children grow. This view leads to the following thoughts.

Maybe there should be a clearinghouse, a bulletin board, for product and process technology that is biased toward interests of this journal readership, free to buyers and sellers, similar to those on-line personal matchmakers and with no costs or guarantees. The idea is that via sale, license, or partnering, a new technology can see the light of day. Various publications offer this now as a regular column where subscribers ask questions and seek sources for solution to problems. This suggestion is bi-lateral-to seek products or processes or offer the same within the undefined bounds of this community of interest. As a point of reference, I offer the following examples for readers on a trial basis to see if it has value and elicits response.

Power Chips are a direct thermionic conversion of heat to electricity using the Peltier Effect. Only recently was it possible to make these coin sized devices rugged and efficient that could in theory, as an example, provide all onboard power needs of a military aircraft that consumes 15% of turbine engine output for "housekeeping." For comparison, historic thermoelectric generators have Carnot efficiency of 5-8%, Rankin cycle (turbine) generators have efficiency of 30%, and internal combustion engines (gasoline or diesel) about 15%. Power Chips achieve 70-80% Carnot efficiency. Paste these suckers on the side of your rolling mill or furnace and power internal needs plus sell excess electricity to your utility.

Laser assisted machining (LAM) of ceramic materials is a unique capability. It is impossible to machine ceramics without brittle fracture of structure ahead of the cutting head, but with this technology, lathe mounted parts can be formed economically without surface or subsurface damage on all tested monolithic and reinforced ceramics (silicon nitride or carbide, mullite, etc). The idea is to heat the work-surface ahead of the cutting tool to achieve cutting without substrata distortion.

Picosecond long, pulsed, precise-tolerance, laser drilling of holes in refractory metals and/or ceramics is a sorely needed capability; jet engine makers all say that this is one of six efficiency show-stopper issues for engine cost reduction. Stationary turbine engines are an easier target for this technology than military jet engines and have high economic payoff. A Texas firm has succeeded in demonstrating this efficient drilling of materials, without damage to substrates; with speed and precision; they want to commercialize this capability.

Ability to produce in-fiber, phase-locked, high power laser energy delivery, has been a dream in the world of optics, metals manufacturers, and the military. One New England firm has done this work admirably and wants to divest so the principal can retire - but he will stay for the transition. Ability to focus power to perform precise cutting at stand-off range is a unique capability when done at a fraction of the cost of today's laser machines, whether you want to cut an enemy aircraft in half from five miles away or cut shapes into parts on the factory floor.

These examples are all in the TRL 5-6 range. But don't take my word for it; let us know so we can put you in direct touch with these technology providers, to Exchange and Explore and Cooperate for mutual benefit.