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April 17th, 2012

Other materials stories that may be of interest

Published on April 17th, 2012 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Check ’em out:

Thermodynamic glass transition in a spin glass without time-reversal symmetry

(PNAS) Spin glasses are a longstanding model for the sluggish dynamics that appear at the glass transition. However, spin glasses differ from structural glasses in a crucial feature: they enjoy a time reversal symmetry. This symmetry can be broken by applying an external magnetic field, but embarrassingly little is known about the critical behavior of a spin glass in a field. In this context, the space dimension is crucial. Simulations are easier to interpret in a large number of dimensions, but one must work below the upper critical dimension (i.e., in d < 6) in order for results to have relevance for experiments. Here we show conclusive evidence for the presence of a phase transition in a four-dimensional spin glass in a field. Two ingredients were crucial for this achievement: massive numerical simulations were carried out on the Janus special-purpose computer, and a new and powerful finite-size scaling method.

Conference fosters innovation of materials

[Brown University’s] School of Engineering hosted a conference over spring break that brought together academics, professionals and representatives from the federal government to discuss the future of new materials technologies and the Materials Genome Initiative. The MGI, announced by President Obama last June, aims to assist American institutions and companies in the development of cheaper and more effective new materials. “The president calls for an expansion of opportunities for American workers,” said Cyrus Wadia, assistant director for clean energy and materials research and development in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Materials are going to be at the heart of all new technologies.” Wadia said he was impressed by the broad range of departments working together [at Brown] on material design, specifically citing the mechanical, biomaterial, applied math and physics departments. These researchers rely on computational tools, experimental tools and digital data to create new materials, Wadia said.

The printed world: Three-dimensional printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things

(Economist) Filton, just outside Bristol, is where Britain’s fleet of Concorde supersonic airliners was built. In a building near a wind tunnel on the same sprawling site, something even more remarkable is being created. Little by little a machine is “printing” a complex titanium landing-gear bracket, about the size of a shoe, which normally would have to be laboriously hewn from a solid block of metal. Brackets are only the beginning. The researchers at Filton have a much bigger ambition: to print the entire wing of an airliner. Far-fetched as this may seem, many other people are using three-dimensional printing technology to create similarly remarkable things. These include medical implants, jewellery, football boots designed for individual feet, lampshades, racing-car parts, solid-state batteries and customised mobile phones.

Tinted windows that generate electricity

(Technology Review) A startup in Germany has developed a new kind of solar panel made of small, organic molecules deposited on polyester films. The panels are flexible, and far lighter than conventional solar panels, yet in some locations -particularly where it’s hot or cloudy – they can generate just as much electricity as a conventional solar panel. Heliatek, based in Dresden, is funded by Bosch, BASF, and others, and has raised €28 million so far. The company, which recently started making its panels on a small, proof-of-concept production line , hopes to raise an additional €60 million part of which will be used to build a 75-megawatt factory. Heliatek’s panels will cost more per watt than conventional solar panels, says CEO Thibaud de Séguillon. But in four to five years, by which time Heliatek should reach large-scale production, the cost could drop to around 40 to 50 cents per watt, which would make them competitive with conventional solar panels, he says.

And two stories related to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic:

Science Xplained: The Titanic’s Metal Mysteries

The iceberg wasn’t the only culprit in the Titanic’s sinking; In this edition of Science Xplained, Yale University’s materials science educator Ainissa Ramirez demonstrates in this video how the metal rivets that held the ship together became brittle in the frigid waters and broke apart on impact with the iceberg, likely contributing to the enormity of the tragedy.

In 1990s, Missouri S&T researchers studied secrets of Titanic steel

The steel definitely played a role, because it was not as “impact-resistant” as modern steel, said the late Phil Leighly, who studied steel from the Titanic in 1996 and 1997. A professor emeritus of metallurgical engineering Leighly said the steel was so brittle that in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic it could shatter easily. But it also was the best steel available at the time, he said. Leighly spent five months examining samples of the Titanic wreckage. Assisting him was F. Scott Miller, now an associate teaching professor of materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T. While working on his PhD, Miller conducted X-ray microanalysis of the samples of Titanic steel that Leighly had obtained from RMS Titanic Inc., the steward of all artifacts from the luxury ocean liner. In September 1996, Leighly received three wooden crates containing more than 400 pounds of the three-quarter-inch steel plate of the Titanic’s hull.

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