Archive for October 2010
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You are browsing the archives of 2010 October.
I wrote about this issue back in May and June, and now the lead investigator of the presidential commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf has delivered to commissioners a letter that asserts that Halliburton staffers knew there were problems in the cement mixture used to line the drill bore. BP may not have know about this trouble.
From the New York Times:
In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.
The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.
Another Halliburton cement test, carried out about a week before the blowout of the well on April 20, also found the mixture to be unstable, yet those findings were never sent to BP, Mr. Bartlit found.
As the Times notes, Bartlit stops short of placing the primary blame for the leak on the cement failure. The cement should have stopped the initial problems, but other equipment (remember the “blowout preventer”?) also subsequently failed.
A link to a PDF of Bartlit’s letter is in the Times story.
A press release from the American Institute of Physics claims that miniature photovoltaic devices are being developed for the delivery of chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors, rendering chemotherapy less toxic to surrounding tissue.
Doctors are searching for a way to deliver these powerful drugs only where needed - to target them specifically to tumor tissue. A new device developed by Tao Xu, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, may do just that. The device releases drugs only when stimulated by light, focusing it directly on a tumor during treatment. Near infrared or laser light is believed to penetrate tissues over 10 cm deep.
Xu and his colleagues presented their findings today at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition in Albuquerque, N.M. (AVS is an vacuum science society associated with AIP).
According to the release, the novel device converts light into electric current. In an in vitro model system, positively or negatively charged “model” drugs were used to coated opposite sides of the miniature solar cell. Upon introduction of a light beam, one side of the device became positively charged, repelling the positive charged molecules the investigators had placed there, releasing them; the same thing happened with the negatively charged side and negative model molecules.
It appears that “our hypothesis will work,” says Xu, adding that the amount of drug released can also be controlled by varying the intensity of light. The first phase employed an in vitro model; according to Xu, the next step for the work would be its application in small animal models.
Xu’s presentation is titled “Release of Biomolecules from a Photovoltaic Device for Targeted Drug Delivery.”
Ceramist, materials engineer and university-business technology partnership expert Beth Judson and her husband, Jim, were killed Tuesday when their plane crashed north of Tupelo, Miss.
The news of her death is startling to the ceramics and materials science community who had just been meeting and catching up with Judson last week during the ACerS Annual Meeting and MS&T’10 conference in Houston.
Besides her science and engineering work, Judson was also known for her efforts on the Alfred University Board of Trustees, and with the Engineering Accreditation Commission and the Board of Directors of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. She also had just completed her term as president of ACerS/National Institute of Ceramic Engineers.
Judson had been working for the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership, an organization of universities and businesses, sponsored by the National Academies, that seeks “to enhance the value of collaborative partnerships between university and industry in the United States.”
A biography at the UIDP website contains this biographical information:
[Prior to coming to UIDP], she was general manager for Verco Materials LLC, a Georgia Tech VentureLab company formed to commercialize technology to pressureless sinter boron carbide, a critical ceramic armor material. Beth has also worked on other Georgia Tech projects, including a manual on forming and operating research centers, and organizing a site visit for a science and technology center proposal to the National Science Foundation on biologically enabled advanced materials and micro/nano-devices. For several years she was director of industry relations for Yamacraw, a Georgia economic development initiative in the form of a multi-university broadband chip design research center. She also has over ten years of industrial experience with Alcoa Chemicals, Technical Ceramics Laboratories and Applied Ceramics, in sales, product management and research.
Dr. Judson received a B.S. in ceramic science and a B.A. in mathematics magna cum laude from Alfred University in 1982, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in ceramic engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1991 and 1999, respectively.
The UIDP also mentions that she was a member of the Boards of Trustees of Southern Catholic College, as well as a member of the Advisory Boards of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech and Clemson University, and the Alfred University Women’s Leadership Center.
Colleague and friend Kathleen Richardson, a professor at Clemson, notes in an email sent to me this afternoon, that, “Beth was truly an inspiration to all who worked with her — loving, giving and committed to whatever cause she was leading. She contributed greatly to all parts of our ceramic engineering profession — but perhaps has made the most impact on the many women in engineering she touched and support of their future leadership opportunities. She was a gifted woman, dedicated wife and mother and a dedicated supporter of ceramic engineering and science education.”
John Marra, another one of Judson colleagues in ACerS writes, ”Beth was one of those rare individuals who could electrify a room just by walking in. She was a tireless advocate for the ceramics profession and always helped encourage students and young professionals. It is truly a sad day; the community has lost one of its brightest lights.”
UPDATE 1: The Atlanta Constitution has just published this story about the Judsons.
UPDATE 2: A vigil and visitation Service will be held Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Brigid Catholic Church, 3400 Old Alabama Rd, Johns Creek, Georgia 30022 (www.saintbrigid.org). The funeral mass will be the following day, Nov. 1 at 12:00 pm at St. Brigid, followed by a reception at Country Club of Roswell, 2500 Club Springs Drive, Roswell (www.ccroswell.com). At the family’s request, memorial donations can be made, in lieu of flowers, to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Brigid , which Jim and Beth strongly supported and embraced. The Judson family has also issued this press release (PDF).
Also, Alfred University has posted this announcement.
Alfred University has selected nuclear power expert and ACerS leader John Marra give the Inamori School of Engineering’s 2010 John F. McMahon annual lecture. Marra will speak at 11:20 a.m., Nov. 4 in Holmes Auditorium, Harder Hall, on AU’s campus on the topic of “Advanced Ceramic Materials for Next-Generation Nuclear Applications.”
Marra, an ACerS Fellow and former president, is the associate laboratory director for strategic initiative development at Savannah River National Laboratory.
In the abstract for his lecture, Marra says:
“The nuclear industry is in the eye of a ‘perfect storm’,” Marra explains in the abstract of his talk. “Fuel oil and natural gas prices near record highs; worldwide energy demands increasing at an alarming rate; and increased concerns about greenhouse gas emissions have caused many to look negatively at long-term use of fossil fuels. This convergence of factors has led to a growing interest in revitalization of the nuclear power industry within the United States and across the globe.
“Ceramic materials have long play a very important part in the commercial nuclear industry with applications throughout the entire fuel cycle, from fuel fabrication to waste stabilization. As the international community begins to look at the next-generation nuclear technologies and advanced fuel cycles that minimize waste and increase proliferation resistance, ceramic materials will play an even larger role.”
Marra says his presentation at the McMahon Lecture will focus on the critical role ceramic materials play throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, and what critical advancements in materials will be needed.
We previously featured Marra in a video shot earlier this year, “A new paradigm for nuclear waste management” and as part of a “New energy opportunities for materials science and engineering” panel at MS&T’09.
Top and side view of etched silicon battery material. (Credit: Rice Univ.)
According to a press release, a team of Rice University and Lockheed Martin scientists has discovered a way to use simple silicon to increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by enhancing the inherent ability of silicon to absorb lithium ions
Rice University is famed for the buckyball discovery 25 years ago for nanotechnology development. The new battery work was introduced this week at Rice’s Buckyball Discovery Conference, part of a yearlong celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Prize-winning discovery.
“The anode, or negative, side of today’s batteries is made of graphite, which works. It’s everywhere,” says Michael Wong, a professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering and in chemistry. “But it’s maxed out. You can’t stuff any more lithium into graphite than we already have.”
Silicon has the highest theoretical capacity of any material for storing lithium, but there’s a serious drawback to its use. “It can sop up a lot of lithium, about 10 times more than carbon, which seems fantastic,” Wong said. “But after a couple of cycles of swelling and shrinking, it’s going to crack.”
However, the researchers say they discovered that putting micron-sized pores into the surface of a silicon wafer gives the material sufficient room to expand. While common Li-ion batteries hold about 300 milliamp hours-per-gram of carbon-based anode material, the researchers determined the treated silicon could theoretically store more than 10 times that amount.
The pores, a micron wide and 10-50 microns long, form when positive and negative charge is applied to the sides of a silicon wafer, which is then bathed in a hydrofluoric solvent. “The hydrogen and fluoride atoms separate. The fluorine attacks one side of the silicon, forming the pores. They form vertically because of the positive and negative bias,” says Sibani Lisa Biswal, an assistant professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering.
Putting pores in silicon requires a real balancing act, as the more space is dedicated to the holes, the less material is available to store lithium. And if the silicon expands to the point where the pore walls touch, the material could degrade.
The researchers are confident that cheap, plentiful silicon combined with ease of manufacture could help push their idea into the mainstream.
“We are very excited about the potential of this work. This material has the potential to significantly increase the performance of lithium-ion batteries, which are used in a wide range of commercial, military and aerospace applications,” says Steven Sinsabaugh, a Lockheed Martin fellow.