The R&D 100 Awards have a 50-year history of recognizing excellence in innovation, and the 2012 class of winners have continued this tradition. A better light bulb, breathable sportswear, neutron generators, and laser control systems illustrate a diversity of technology advances in established and emerging industry sectors.
This year, advances in materials, including nanotechnology-based products and fabrics, emerged as the leading technology category. Imaging technologies and analytical instruments also were successful. In the consumer product field, imaging was also a theme for two innovative products: reading glasses that focus automatically and a light field camera that changed the way photos are taken and viewed.
Energy-based innovations continued to have a strong presence. Winners included fuel cells, solar cells and modules, and solar reflective roofing. Still other winning technologies demonstrated the versatility of personal electronic devices by introducing innovative applications for gamma ray detection and electronic testing.
All winning technologies were introduced or first available for marketing or licensing in 2011. In selecting the R&D 100 Awards winners, the judges and editors identify the top 100 new technologies, regardless of product type. The editors then assign each winning product to one of 20 categories to help readers find and learn about similar technologies.
Following a trend of recent years, a range of businesses, universities, independent research organizations, and government research laboratories were involved in the development of the winning technologies as primary or supporting developers. Often, the research results were the combined efforts of different types of organizations. Industrial and technology companies represented 56% of the winning companies. Universities and independent research organizations made up 18% of the award winners. Government-based research laboratories represented 26% of the award winners.