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Ceramics Expo 2015: Five things you need to know

Published on April 23rd, 2014 | Edited By: Jessica McMathis



Ceramics Expo, set for April 28–30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio (pictured above), is a one-stop-shop for decision makers in the industries that use ceramics materials or components. Credit: Beth on Flickr (Creative Commons License). 


With more than 9,000 members in 70 countries, ACerS is the leading professional membership organization for the greater (and increasingly global) ceramics and glass community. As such, the Society works tirelessly to meet the needs of its many different internal and external audiences—among them, ceramic, glass, and materials scientists, engineers, researchers, manufacturers, sales professionals, educators, and students.


And in the coming year, as founding partner of Ceramics Expo (April 28–30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio), ACerS will, in the words of Emeril Lagasse, “kick it up a notch.”


The expo, organized by Smarter Shows (UK), is dedicated to providing a “one-stop-shop for raw materials, equipment, machinery, and technology used within the ceramic manufacturing supply chain.”


“Right now, we excel at meeting the needs of our members and constituents involved in scientific research, and technology development and advancement,” says Mark Mecklenborg, ACerS director of Technical Publications and Meetings. “We want to do a better job of helping our industry members grow their businesses, market their products, and help the ceramics and glass community commercialize products and services. We want to be the catalyst for innovative new products, processes, and services.”


So here are—in typical J-school fashion—the five things you need to know about Ceramics Expo.






1. The Why. We’ve already answered the “what”—but what about the “why”? As the largest free-to-attend exhibition for ceramic manufacturing in North America, Ceramics Expo offers the most current and comprehensive solutions for your specific business needs. Whether it be raw materials or materials preparation and handling; sourcing drying, firing, and melting equipment suppliers; finding fabrication or finishing tools; locating laboratory and testing services; or customized products and services that ease your pain points, Ceramics Expo has what you’re looking for—or what you never even knew you needed.


2. The Who. Different trade shows tend to draw very different types of crowds—and the crowd at Ceramics Expo is the cream of the crop. If you’re a decision maker and you work in an industry that utilizes ceramics materials or components (i.e., transportation, automotive, aerospace, medical, electronics, military, and environmental technology), then Ceramics Expo is for you. If you’re a technical leader, production director, engineer, product leader, buyer, or senior executive, this show is a can’t-miss.


3. The Where. Fun fact: Not only is Ohio home to rock and roll, the first man to walk on the moon, seven US presidents, and ACerS, the buckeye state also has some of the most innovative and established ceramic manufacturers and supply chain companies in the United States. Additionally, it’s a well-respected center of science and industry (we’ve even got the science center to prove it). Cleveland—long a hub for manufacturing in the Rust Belt because of its access to waterways—is a natural fit for this first exhibition, with plenty to see and do when the business day is done. Cleveland does indeed rock.


4. The When. Spring is a season of renewal, so what better way to refresh and recharge the old batteries than by trading ideas (and business cards) with the ceramics industry’s preeminent professionals? Make plans to press palms at Ceramics Expo, either as an attendee or exhibitor, April 28–30, 2015.


5. The How. With the five Ws out of the way, let’s get to the thing that really matters—the how. If you’re an attendee, you can register online (FOR FREE) here. If you’d like to stake out your space in the exhibit hall, book your booth here. Finally, if you’d like to take part in the Open Technical Forum (also free to attend) and present the latest advancements in ceramics manufacturing, you can submit your papers here.


So even though it seems far off (it’s really not), if you use ceramics materials and technology, you’ll want to be certain Ceramics Expo is the show you attend in 2015.


Help us help you connect with the individuals, companies, and industries that can offer solutions to streamline your operations, showcase the most cost-effective and efficient materials and equipment, and share knowledge that will set your company above the competition.


See you in the Cleve!



Feature image credit: ralphjbiker on Flickr (Creative Commons License).



News from the glass and refractory ceramics world

Published on April 23rd, 2014 | Edited By: P. Carlo Ratto


° AGC Glass Europe has restarted one of its three Teplice automotive glass float lines after a two-year upgrade. The new line, which will create around 80 jobs, will serve the Central European automotive market and reinforce AGC’s position as a strategic supplier in the region. Production of glass is expected to begin later this month.


° Saint-Gobain has completed its sale of Verallia North America (VNA) to Ardagh for a reported $1.69 billion (US). To satisfy the concerns of the FTC, Ardagh will sell six former Anchor Glass plants, acquired by Ardagh in 2012 for €720 million, to an affiliate of private equity fund manager KPS Capital Partners. Once Ardagh has completed its acquisition of VNA and the sale of the six former Anchor plants, its North America glass division will generate estimated annual revenues of US$2 billion (€1.4bn). The division will operate from 16 glass manufacturing facilities across the U.S., employing 5,000 people. 

° Austria-based glass manufacturer Lisec Group has disclosed plans to enter the Nigerian glass market as it continues its growth strategy in Africa. Lisec already has strong presence in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. 

° Morgan Advanced Materials and Magma Ceramics and Catalysts have come together to create a new international group in the field of advanced ceramic and catalyst technology. This joint venture will see Morgan’s UK Fired Refractory Shapes business, based in Bromborough, merge with Magma Ceramics and Catalysts. The joint venture will operate under the Magma name; Morgan will take a 35 percent shareholding in the combined business. 


It’s getting hot in here: Flexible glass-fabric thermoelectric generator converts body heat to electric energy

Published on April 23rd, 2014 | Edited By: Jessica McMathis


A new thermoelectric (TE) generator, pictured above, uses the heat of your body to power wearable electronic devices. Unlike other TEs, this highly flexible generator can be bent up to 120 times without decreased performance. Credit: KAIST.


To advance, we need technology. For technology, we need electricity. And if we want electricity, we need energy, whether from a battery or generator.


We’ve reported on all of the above, hailing 2014 the year of wearable tech, covering thin films for biologically-powered medical devices, reporting on a nanogenerator that shows promise for self-powered electronics, and writing endlessly about batteries and the devices that use them. (Need proof? Just type “battery” in the search box above.)


Now, a team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed an “extremely light and flexible” glass fabric-based thermoelectric (TE) generator that not only moves with you, but harnesses heat from the human body while doing so.


According to a KAIST press release, the technique employed by the team, headed by electrical engineering professor Byung Jin Cho, “minimizes thermal energy loss but maximizes power output.”


Just how did they do it?


Unlike previous TE generators that used polymers, Cho’s concept had a self-sustaining structure sans the usual ceramic and alumina substrates that siphoned off a good portion of the generator’s thermal energy.


By employing a technique similar to screenprinting, the researchers printed “synthesized liquid-like pastes of n-type (Bi2Te3) and p-type (Sb2Te3) TE materials” onto a glass fabric.



KAIST’s wearable thermoelectric generator is extremely flexible and light. Credit: KAIST


“For our case, the glass fabric itself serves as the upper and lower substrates of a TE generator, keeping the inorganic TE materials in between,” says Cho. “This is quite a revolutionary approach to design a generator. In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator (~0.13 g/cm2), which is an essential element for wearable electronics.”


When worn as part of a wristband device, KAIST’s supersmall generator—which measures a mere 10 cm x 10 cm—can produce close to 40 mW of electricity based on skin temperature.


“Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator. We expect that this technology will find further applications in scale-up systems such as automobiles, factories, aircrafts, and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy being wasted,” adds Cho.


Their findings, “Wearable thermoelectric generator fabricated on glass fabric” (DOI: 10.1039/C4EE00242C), were printed in the March 14 issue of Energy & Environmental Science.


For some additional reading, check out Gizmodo’s story on hot (literally speaking) electronics, or this wearable health monitor that uses stretchable electronics to wirelessly supervise your body.



Feature image credit: KAIST.


To tweet or retreat? Survey shows researchers aren’t tapping in to social media’s powers of dissemination

Published on April 22nd, 2014 | Edited By: Jessica McMathis


Findings from a Michigan State University professor suggest that academia hasn’t yet embraced social media and won’t, without university policies that provide some sort of incentive. Credit: Jason Howie on Flickr (Creative Commons License).


Do you tumble for Tumblr, or link up on LinkedIn?


If you’ve embraced social media, and regularly check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, congratulations! You’re part of the 72 percent of all Internet users who are active in online social networks. (And if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his way, that number will soon grow.)


And if you’ve shunned it? Well, you’re still not alone—even if your friends and colleagues might suggest otherwise.


A new paper by a Michigan State University (MSU) researcher suggests that university scholars have all-but-ignored social networks in distributing scientific findings and connecting with their tweet-happy, tech-savvy students.


What’s a widely used channel for distributing content and making connections online in the business world just hasn’t taken hold in academia—a concern, according to Christine Greenhow, assistant professor at MSU’s College of Education, because of a growing push to increase access to publicly funded research.


“Only a minority of university researchers are using free and widely available social media to get their results and published insights out and into the hands of the public, even though the mission of public universities is to create knowledge that makes a difference in people’s lives,” Greenhow says in an MSUToday report. “Simply put, there’s not much tweeting from the ivory tower.”


According to Greenhow, faculty are just beginning to dip their toes in the social media waters in order to share their findings. She further suggests that higher ed won’t see widespread adoption unless “universities adopt policies for promotion and tenure that reward these practices.”


Her survey of 1,600 researchers found that only 15 percent use Twitter, 28 percent use YouTube, and 39 percent use Facebook to connect with collaborators and distribute their work—not to engage or educate their students.


“Academia is not serving as a model of social media use or preparing future faculty to do this,” says Greenhow, who believes the issue “is at the heart of largest discussions regarding accessibility, equal rights to education, transparency, and accountability.”


The paper, appearing online in the British Journal of Educational Technology and co-authored by MSU doctoral student Benjamin Gleason, is “Social scholarship: Reconsidering scholarly practices in the age of social media,” (DOI: 10.1111/bjet.12150).


How about you?


Ready to dive in? ACerS is all over the social media space. For breaking stories and updates on the news that impacts our members and the greater ceramics community, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (yes, there are people using Google+!), Facebook, or subscribe to our RSS feed.


Need a little extra push? Check out this blog post on the top five social media platforms for research development or this post from AAAS on sharing your science on social media. A good first step (think the floaties that keep your head above water when you’re just learning to swim) is to create a LinkedIn profile and follow ACerS or participate in our LinkedIn group discussions. Share your work, connect with colleagues, and tap in to the top Ceramic Tech Today news of the day.


Still not convinced? That’s okay, too. You can receive email updates from us by subscribing to Ceramic Tech Today or, at the very least, have a good laugh at the comic below.



Credit: Dain Binder on Flickr (Creative Commons License).




Feature Image Credit: Jason Howie on Flickr (Creative Commons License).




Advanced ceramic materials may provide hydrogen storage solution for fuel cells

Published on April 22nd, 2014 | Edited By: April Gocha, PhD


The crystalline structure of new advanced ceramic borides may provide a viable hydrogen storage solution. Credit: UCSD.


The increased push for fuel cell technologies is putting pressure on the need for more effective solutions for hydrogen fuel storage.


New research from the University of California, San Diego may offer a solution—in the form of our favorite materials. (You said ceramics, not chocolates, right?)


Most fuel cells use hydrogen as fuel. But hydrogen has low energy content by volume, so if you want to use a fuel cell for portable applications (say, to power your car), you’re going to need a substantial volume of hydrogen. Hydrogen also diffuses easily through many materials and is the culprit responsible for hydrogen embrittlement (pdf) of common engineering alloys, including steels, aluminum alloys, and other nonferrous alloys.


According to the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (pdf), an automotive hydrogen fuel cell using current tank storage capabilities would require a hydrogen tank bigger than a standard car trunk to travel just 300 miles. These limitations make current technologies impractical for long-term solutions—so, new advances are needed.


In addition to storage as compressed gas or as liquid in a tank, however, hydrogen can also be stored bound to advanced materials—and ACerS member Olivia Graeve has just the advanced material for the job.


Graeve and a team of scientists synthesized compounds of calcium hexaboride, strontium, and various hexaboride mixtures. Using combustion synthesis, they were even able to provide a simple, low-cost production technique for the new compounds.


For combustion, they used a 750°F box furnace to heat boron with metal nitrates and organic fuels, which when ignited, generates heat for the reaction. “It’s a very simple, nice process,” Graeve says in a UCSD press release.


The process synthesized cages of boron molecules containing crystals of the compounds, which can be swapped for hydrogen for an effective storage solution.


According to the press release, “The work is at the proof of concept stage and is part of a $1.2 million project funded by the National Science Foundation, a collaboration between UC San Diego, Alfred University in upstate New York and the University of Nevada, Reno.”


Materials melange

Other materials stories that may be of interest

Published on April 22nd, 2014 | Edited By: April Gocha, PhD

SRI microrobots show fast-building factory approach (w/ video)

(Phys.org) —SRI International, a research center that conducts client-sponsored research and development for government and other organizations, is attracting attention for work on what micro-factories might accomplish in the future, with micro-robots coordinated to go to work building products. SRI’s ant-like microrobots in large numbers can reliably handle solid and liquid materials, including electronics. The micro-robots were designed to suggest a better way to assemble components and small structures. SRI’s robots are built from simple, low-cost magnets, and the technique involves printed circuit boards (PCBs) that drive and control the micro-robots.


Impurity size affects performance of emerging superconductive material

Research from North Carolina State University finds that impurities can hurt performance—or possibly provide benefits—in a key superconductive material that is expected to find use in a host of applications, including future particle colliders. The size of the impurities determines whether they help or hinder the material’s performance. At issue is a superconductive material called bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (Bi2212). The researchers found that nanoscale impurities, from 1.2 to 2.5 nanometers wide, appear to improve Bi2212’s performance as a superconductor.


Surprising material could play role in saving energy

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern University scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity. This outstanding property could be exploited in solid-state thermoelectric devices in a variety of industries, with potentially enormous energy savings. An interdisciplinary team found the crystal form of the chemical compound tin selenide conducts heat so poorly through its lattice structure that it is the most efficient thermoelectric material known. Unlike most thermoelectric materials, tin selenide has a simple structure, much like that of an accordion, which provides the key to its exceptional properties. 


Under some LED bulbs whites aren’t ‘whiter than white’

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look “whiter than white,” but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different degrees of whites may all look the same, according to experts in lighting. Not long ago, the only practical choices for home, office or commercial lighting were incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. More recently, compact fluorescent bulbs, which use less energy than incandescent bulbs, became popular, but compact fluorescents are not always accepted by consumers because of poor color rendition, lack of dimability, slow warm-up to full output and because they contain mercury.


‘Exotic’ material is like a switch when super thin

Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides, a class of materials that seems to have it all: superconductivity, magnetoresistance and other exotic properties. These possibilities have scientists excited to understand everything about these materials, and to find new ways to control their properties at the most fundamental levels. Researchers from Cornell and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.


Team finds electricity can be generated by dragging saltwater over graphene

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at China’s Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics has discovered that the act of dragging saltwater over a piece of graphene can generate electricity. In seeking to turn the idea of submerging carbon nanotubes in a flowing liquid to generate a voltage on its head, the team came upon the idea of simply dragging water droplets across graphene instead. Because of graphene’s unique electrical properties, researchers have been hard at work trying to determine if it can be used to generate electricity at a lower cost (and in cleaner fashion) than conventional methods. In this new effort, the researchers have found a way to generate electricity using graphene without the need for a pressure gradient, or any other mechanism other than gravity.


Gecko-like adhesives now useful for real world surfaces

The ability to stick objects to a wide range of surfaces such as drywall, wood, metal and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of many research teams across the world, but now a team of University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors describe a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko’s feet. Geckskin is a ‘gecko-like,’ reusable adhesive device that they had previously demonstrated can hold heavy loads on smooth surfaces such as glass, but they have expanded their design theory to allow Geckskin to adhere powerfully to a wider variety of surfaces found in most homes such as drywall, and wood.


Apple’s integrated dashboard system CarPlay on display at NY Auto Show

Published on April 22nd, 2014 | Edited By: April Gocha, PhD

CNET takes an inside look at Apple’s new CarPlay system in a Hyundai. Credit: CNET on Youtube.


Your car is about to get a lot smarter.


Apple’s integrated dashboard operating system, CarPlay, will be available on select new cars this year (to go with your new iPhone 6, perhaps?), but you can get an early taste of this new tech in action at the New York International Auto Show, which runs through this weekend.


CarPlay is essentially a light Apple operating system that integrates messages, calls, and audio features of the iPhone directly into your car dashboard. To bridge the adaptation to driving, the tech establishes a more prominent leading role for Siri to help keep your eyes off the screen and on the road. According to reports from Popular Science and The Verge, the new system is familiar if you’re already versed in an iPhone.


According to Apple’s website, “CarPlay takes the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving and puts them right on your car’s built-in display. You can get directions, make calls, send and receive messages, and listen to music, all in a way that allows you to stay focused on the road.”


To get a full look at CarPlay’s features in action in a Hyundai, watch the seven-minute CNET sneak peek above.


Models from Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai have CarPlay systems available for test drive at the NY Auto Show, although Apple’s website says that CarPlay also will be available in 2014 models from makers Ferarri and Honda.


Future models from BMW, Chevy, Ford, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot/Citröen, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota are also expected to eventually get a smart upgrade with CarPlay. And, if you’re not yet in the market for a new car, Apple is teaming with Alpine and Pioneer to integrate CarPlay into aftermarket audio systems.


Apple’s not the only company that is allowing us to cram more into our commutes, or in this case, our cars—Nissan also debuted a “Smart Rear-View Mirror” system at the NY Auto Show that can see through piled up cargo, kids, or pets blocking your rear view mirror view.


What’s next—a car that drives itself?



Feature image credit: Apple.


The economy of research: Study shows impacts of US science funding felt far beyond the lab

Published on April 19th, 2014 | Edited By: Jessica McMathis


 A new study shows that university research funding—and the work it supports—is vital to the US economic ecosystem. Credit: Stan Leary, University of Georgia, Flickr. (Creative Commons License) 


In the past weeks, we’ve covered every twist and turn in the (sometimes international) roller-coaster ride that is research funding—from the decline in spending at the United States’ federally-funded research centers and a $1.5-billion boost to Canadian university research, to Obama’s proposed appropriations for the 2015 budget (here and here) and China’s plan to propel its economy forward with R&D.


Now, a new study indicates that university research (and the funding that supports it) is more than fodder for headlines—rather, it’s a “key component of the US economic ecosystem.”


Conducted by researchers from the American Institutes for Research, Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and Ohio State University, the study, published in Science, found that the economic impact of science funding extends far past the scientific community.


“The process of scientific research supports organizations and jobs in many of the high skill sectors of our economy,” write the researchers. Several key findings, detailed below, explain why.

    • University research = jobs. You know what they say about those who assume. The majority of workers supported by federal research funds are not, as many incorrectly assume, faculty members; rather, the study found that fewer than one in five are faculty researchers. According to the CIC release detailing the results, “Workers with many different skill levels are employed, and these are not primarily faculty.” Instead, one in three is a student—grad or undergrad—and one in ten a post-doctoral fellow.
    • University research = spending that stretches beyond state lines. The new dataset used by the research team revealed that universities receiving federal research funds spend those dollars throughout the United States. In fact, close to 70 percent is spent outside of the institution’s home state. Expenditures with US vendors and subcontractors (“everything from test tubes to telescopes and microscopes to gene sequencing machines”) in 2012 tallied almost $1 billion—15 percent of which were located in the university’s home county, 15 percent in the home state, and the balance (that whopping 70 percent) devoted to vendors located across the country. 
    • University research = spending that benefits companies of all sizes. The impact of research spending reaches enterprises both big and small. Many of the vendors were large companies, but the study’s authors note, “we were struck by how many are small, niche, high-technology companies…” 
    • University research = scientific solutions to real-world problems outside the research community (and the data to support it!). It’s no secret that the work of scientists and engineers impacts the everyday life of every living being. (See also: “Google veep: Advances in science, engineering vital in meeting global energy challenges.”) But that doesn’t mean we always recognize it, which is where the study’s detailed data gives applying such work the assist. “Research universities are dedicated to the discovery of new knowledge,” says co-author Roy Weiss, deputy provost for research at the University of Chicago. “This study reports the first cooperative endeavor by multiple universities to evaluate the benefit of government investment in research. In addition to making the world a better place by virtue of these discoveries, we now have data to support the overall benefits to society.”


“The main purpose of science funding isn’t as a jobs or stimulus program, but this study shows there are also major short-term economic benefits to science funding,” says Bruce Weinberg, co-author and professor of economics at Ohio State.


Regardless, with findings that show the vitality of research funding to the economic ecosystem, it’s hard to think that this new research won’t be an integral part of any effort to increase (or, at the very least, maintain) support for university research funds in the States.


“This study provides evidence that while science is complicated, it is not magic. It is productive work. Scientific endeavors employ people. They use capital inputs. Related economic activity occurs immediately,” adds Julia Lane, lead researcher and senior managing economist at the American Institutes for Research. “Policy makers need to have an understanding of how science is produced when making resource allocation decisions, and this study provides that information in a reliable and current fashion.”


The paper is “Science funding and short-term economic activity” (DOI:10.1126/science.1250055).


Are you surprised by the results? Tell us why or why not below.



Feature image credit: Stan Leary, University of Georgia, Flickr (Creative Commons License).



Concrete abstracts—oxymorons describe longer-lasting and greener concrete formulations

Published on April 18th, 2014 | Edited By: April Gocha, PhD

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee have developed a hydrophobic and ductile concrete that may outlast all the rest. Credit: UW-Milwaukee Media Team on Youtube.


The freeze/thaw cycles of winter have been hard on the concrete steps behind my house. All that gnarly ice has left the concrete crumbling like a week-old dry cookie.

0418ctt concrete work lo res

UWM students install a test slab of SECC in the driveway of a university parking structure. Credit: UWM.


A concrete repairman recently sticker-shocked me when he quoted that it would cost a couple thousand dollars to replace my rubble pile. But despite my distaste of concrete’s price, as Eileen has reported, its “go to” status as a building material is not going to change anytime soon.


Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have developed a new concrete formulation that could ease my crumbling concrete woes (but not my wallet)—a material that they estimate could last over 120 years.


The lab of civil engineering and mechanics professor Konstantin Sobolev has been working on a high-performance concrete that is durable, water-resistant, and malleable. (Sounds like a cementitious dream date, right?)


The scientists engineered their better concrete, called a Superhydrophobic Engineered Cementitious Composite (SECC), to resist cracks with two superior characteristics.

0418ctt concrete water

Beads of water roll off the surface of SECC. Credit: U. of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.


First, they made the concrete superhydrophobic. “Additives in the hybrid change the concrete on a molecular level when the pavement hardens, creating a spiky surface that, although microscopic, causes the water to bead and roll off,” states the university press release. This prevents water from pooling on the concrete, seeping into the cracks, and making those cracks bigger with every freeze/thaw cycle.


The SECC is also afforded some flexibility with thin unwoven polyvinyl alcohol fibers mixed into the concrete, which help prevent crack growth. By allowing small cracks to form, but not grow, the fibers help distribute stress loads through small spaces that water cannot penetrate.


“Our architecture allows the material to withstand four times the compression with 200 times the ductility of traditional concrete,” says Sobolev in the press release.


The scientists have even used lagging pavement repairs at the university as an opportunity to perform practical tests of their new and improved concrete, installing a 4′x15′ test slab into the driveway of a university parking structure. And to make the concrete high-tech, they outfitted the slab with electrodes just beneath the surface to measure water penetration, load, and stress.


Although the SECC is more expensive than standard concrete, the elongated lifetime saves repair and replacement costs. The scientists speculate it will be most practical in applications that undergo continuous loading, such as bridge approach decks.


Beyond life expectancy, another hot topic of concrete research regards sustainability concerns. Eileen’s article covered the issue more in depth, but my fellow editor Jessica recently found another interesting research project to green up cement.


A group of researchers from the Institute of Science and Concrete Technology at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain), Jaume I University of Castellón (Spain), Imperial College London (UK), and Sao Paulo State University (Brazil) have been toying with using ceramic wastes—namely, bricks—to produce more environmentally-friendly and waste-reducing concrete.


0418ctt concrete brick lo res

An international team of researchers have been using ceramic waste to make more sustainable cement. Credit: Ruvid.

Using only ceramic residue, a chemical activator, and water, the group produced a strong portland cement alternative. They’ve experimented with red brick clay, mixing it with just sodium hydroxide or sodium silicate with sodium hydroxide.


The team published those results in Construction and Building Materials last year. The paper is “Properties and microstructure of alkali-activated red clay brick waste” (DOI: 10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2013.01.031).


“The process to make cement in this case is very simple. First, grind the brick and mix with the activating solution. Immediately after kneading it together with the barren, the cement is ready to be placed in molds and subjected to a special hardening process at high temperature,” says author María Victoria Borrachero in a press release. (Note: The official release is in Spanish).


The team is now experimenting with ceramic wastes, particularly bathroom ceramic or porcelain tiles, and is working on replacing the activator with more sustainable replacements, too.


“We have already done tests with rice husk ash and the results are very positive. Its use would yield an even more sustainable and cheaper final product, because it would be composed almost entirely of reused waste,” says Borrachero.



Feature image credit: bittbox on Flickr.

Modeling & Simulation

Travellers, rejoice: New app uses math to help overcome jet lag

Published on April 18th, 2014 | Edited By: April Gocha, PhD

0414 jet lag tired lo resSometimes the journey isn’t greater than the destinationCredit: Silverio Petruzzellis; Flickr CC.


Good news, weary travellers.


“Overcoming jet lag is fundamentally a math problem and we’ve calculated the optimal way of doing it,” says math professor Danny Forger, according to a University of Michigan press release. “We’re certainly not the first people to offer advice about this, but our predictions show the best and quickest ways to adjust across time zones.”


0414 jet lag screen lo res

Entrain app screen shot. Credit: U. of Michigan.

Forger and graduate student Kirill Serkh created an iPhone app, based on their research recently published in PLoS Computational Biology, that helps travellers sync their bodies when jetting across time zones.


The problem when jetting around the globe and disrupting your internal clock is, well, your internal clock—circadian rhythms. Those 24-hour cycling rhythms guide not only when we sleep and eat, but also the very molecular processes happening inside each of our cells. Circadian rhythms are thought to be largely regulated by sunlight, so adapting light schedules can help get cells adjust to time zone jolts more rapidly.


The app, called Entrain, features customizable light schedules that you can follow to help sync your circadian rhythms with the current time zone. The app tells you particular blocks of time when you should expose yourself to bright light or seek darkness to help get your cells back on track.


And the secret behind this schedule? Math.


The researchers, along with app builder and mathematics graduate student Olivia Walch, used two mathematical models of circadian rhythms to optimize traveller’s light schedules.


The app even predicts how long it will take your body to adjust to the time difference if following the prescribed light schedule, making planning your trip and activities more manageable when jetting around the globe.


The paper is “Optimal schedules of light exposure for rapidly correcting circadian misalignment” (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003523).



Feature image credit: U. of Michigan.

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