IN Roundup: The Oscars of Invention, State’s Top Companies & More

Here’s a look at recent innovation news from around Indiana:

—Purdue University researcher Vilas Pol leads a team that has been named a finalist for the 2016 R&D 100 award, which a press release described as “the Oscars of invention.” Pol, who is a chemical engineering professor, helped developed a process to convert used packing peanuts into carbon for battery electrodes and a technology to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce climate change. The carbon nanoparticles and “microsheets” are cheaply produced from polystyrene, according to the release.

Calling the approach UpCarbon, Pol said it “yields new forms of carbon that show promise in addressing the growing issue of plastic and non-degradable waste.” Tennessee-based SureCarbon Holdings, a co-developer of the carbon material, is working with researchers from Korea University on scaling the process, which involves heating the peanuts in an industrial furnace.

“Unfortunately, plastics remain in landfills for at least 100 years due to their strong chemical resistance,” Pol said in the press release, adding that recycling efforts are unable to match the pace of waste generation. “As plastics are continually discarded, this results in expansion of landfills, reduction of fertile and usable land, and cultivation of habitats for disease-carrying pests.”

Pol is no stranger to R&D 100 awards; he led the team that won last year for developing a process to manufacture “carbon microspheres” from waste plastics.

—Just in time for the INVESTIndiana Equity Conference, the finalists for the state’s top public companies of the year have been announced. The Indiana-headquartered public companies traded on the Nasdaq exchange and the New York Stock Exchange were judged on 2014-15 performance and comparative rankings on returns on assets and equity, revenue growth, market performance, and total return.

The finalists are: Angie’s List, an online resource for consumers in search of the best local service providers; Berry Plastics, a manufacturer and marketer of plastic consumer packaging and engineered materials; Drew Industries, a supplier of components for recreational vehicles and manufactured homes; First Internet Bancorp, an online holding company; KAR Auction Services, operator of worldwide used vehicle auctions; Patrick Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of component products for the recreational vehicle, manufactured housing, and other markets; Simon Property Group, owner and operator of shopping centers; Thor Industries, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of RVs; and Wabash National, a producer of semi-trailers and liquid transport systems.

The winners will be determined by an independent panel and announced at the conference on Sept. 15.

—From the Dept. of Illogical Findings: New research out of Indiana University confirms something schadenfreude aficionados may have already noticed—people are more apt to self-sabotage when they’re at their peak because it’s when they have enough energy to plan such ruinous machinations. According to Vice, the study asked 237 people to come in and take an intelligence test; the time of day that subjects came in varied, but the study was “designed around their sleep patterns and the times of day they were most likely to be—or not to be—at their mental and energetic peak. Some who qualified as morning people came in early, but other early risers were told to come at night, and the same was true for so-called night owls.”

The researchers found that subjects who took these tests during peak hours—night owls at night; morning people in the morning—reported high levels of stress and effectively handicapped themselves. People who came at off-peak hours did not. The researchers from IU told Vice that self-handicapping protects “against the implications of failure. … We find, however, that because handicapping is a resource-demanding strategy, individuals engage in handicapping only when they have their full contingent of resources during their on-peak times.”

“Self-handicapping is a costly strategy for people to use,” the researchers went on to say, adding that efforts to undermine the self have a way of growing exponentially until full Shame Spiral status has been achieved. “Handicapping leads to lower self-esteem and higher failure beliefs, which you deal with by self-handicapping more.”

As Troy McClure might say: “Get confident, stupid!”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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