In April, the Ford Scientific Research Laboratory quietly celebrated its 50th anniversary, having grown from its humble beginnings in a small chapel in Dearborn, Michigan, into a major research laboratory employing thousands of scientists and holding innumerable patents on new inventions. The anniversary is a reminder of the broad impact that Detroit's auto industry has had on the nation's technological process, with innovations ranging from the catalytic converter to such futuristic ideas like hovering vehicles.
For example, the lab has developed advanced batteries, crash safety photo instrumentation, and high-strength steels. In the 1980s, the lab developed a three-dimensional CAT scan, compared to the two-dimensional scans used by hospitals today. It was developed for nondestructive evaluation of auto parts, but the lab has begun working with researchers at Henry Ford Hospital and the University of Michigan using the 3D tool to study osteoporosis and other bone ailments. In addition, advanced nuclear processes were used to study automotive materials, and the lab was among the first to use radiocarbon data to study atmospheric reactions. Today's lab research focuses mostly on practical solutions, as Ford pushes to reduce emissions, develop hybrid-electric power trains and further improve safety, motivated by a finite supply of energy sources, worldwide traffic congestion, and lower public tolerance for pollution.