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July 23rd, 2012

Other materials science stories that may be of interest

Published on July 23rd, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Take a break and take a look:

China cuts rare earth mining rights by half to aid consolidation

(Bloomberg/Businessweek) – China, the supplier of 90 percent of the world’s rare earths, cut mining rights for the materials by about half to 65 nationwide to help the industry consolidate and create bigger producers. Rare-earth mining rights in Ganzhou of Jiangxi province were reduced to 44 from 88, Chen Zhanheng, a deputy secretary-general at the Association of China Rare Earth Industry, says in an interview. The western province of Sichuan had its rights lowered to seven from 18, while the Inner Mongolia-based Baotou Iron & Steel Group Co. absorbed its local rivals, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on its website, without giving details. “Reducing mining rights helps streamline rare-earth development,” Chen says, “Still, illegal mining is a bigger issue that the government needs to tackle,” he said, without elaborating.

UGA researchers develop rapid diagnostic test for pathogens, contaminants

Using nanoscale materials, researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a single-step method to rapidly and accurately detect viruses, bacteria and chemical contaminants. In a series of studies, the scientists were able to detect compounds such as lactic acid and the protein albumin in highly diluted samples and in mixtures that included dyes and other chemicals. Their results suggest that the same system could be used to detect pathogens and contaminants in biological mixtures such as food, blood, saliva and urine. The authors used nanotechnology to combine two well-known techniques and create their new diagnostic test. The first component of their two-in-one system uses surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. The signal produced by Raman scattering is inherently weak, they arrayed silver nanorods to significantly amplify the signal.

Crossing the gap: Civil engineers develop improved method for detecting, measuring bridge damage

A ratings system developed by a group of Kansas State University researchers could keep bridges safer and help prevent catastrophic collapses. The researchers have created a bridge health index, which is a rating system that more accurately describes the amount of damage in a bridge. The engineers have developed ways to take bridge measurements and use finite element analysis and neural network modeling to back-calculate and detect bridge damage. Current methods of inspecting bridges are very subjective. The bridge health index provides a more objective way to determine and compare bridge damage to decide which bridges most need repairs. The network allows inspectors to input parameters, such width, depth and location of cracks in a bridge, and the network will tell the health index of the bridge.

New ultracapacitor delivers a jolt of energy at a constant voltage

A researcher from the University of West Florida has designed an ultracapacitor that maintains a near steady voltage. The novel constant-voltage design, which may one day help ultracapacitors find new uses in low-voltage electric vehicle circuits and handheld electronics, is described in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. The ultracapacitor is fitted with an electromechanical system that can slowly lift the core of the device out of the electrolyte solution as the stored charged is released. As the electrolyte drains away, the device can hold less charge, thus lowering, its capacitance. Since the voltage of the capacitor is related to the ratio of the stored charge to the capacitance, the system maintains a steady voltage as charge is siphoned off.

Ceramic TTD Award: a prize to ceramic research

The first edition of Ceramic TTD Award, the prize given to the most innovative and industrially applicable research ideas in the ceramic sector, will take place during Tecnargilla 2012. All proposals participating in the 2012 edition of Ceramic TTD sent to the Ceramic TTD 2012 website within and no later than 31st August 2012 are admitted to the contest. A panel of judges will assess the technological proposals entered and draw up the final rankings, which will result in awards for the top three.

You may never need to wash your car again thanks to new coating technology

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have for the first time developed a coating with a surface that repairs itself after damage. This new coating has numerous potential applications, for example mobile phones that will remain clean from fingerprints, cars that never need to be washed, and aircraft that need less frequent repainting. Functional coatings, for example with highly water-resistant or antibacterial properties, have at their surface nano-sized molecular groups that provide these specific properties. But up to now, these molecular groups are easily and irreversibly damaged by minor contact with their surface (such as by scratching), quickly causing their properties to be lost. This has been a big limitation to the possible applications of these coatings. Researcher Catarina Esteves of the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e and her colleagues have now found a solution to this problem. They have done this by developing surfaces with special “stalks” carrying the functional chemical groups at their ends, and mixing these through the coating. If the outer surface layer is removed by scratching, the stalks in the underlying layer reorient to the new surface, thereby restoring the function. A limitation of the new technology is that it only works with superficial scratches that do not completely penetrate the coating.


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