Archive for March 2011
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You are browsing the archives of 2011 March.
The Freedonia Group, a market research firm, says that the market for refractory products generally will enjoy strong, steady growth over the next three years, especially in the Asia region and particularly in regard to China. A new study available from Freedonia says demand will grow on average 5.3 percent each year through 2014 and eventually will amount to nearly 41 million metric tons per year in sales. As far as products go, the 371-page study says monolithics will outperform bricks and shapes.
According to Freedonia, consumption of refractory products by China and India will be above average, but even U.S. and European markets are projected to do significantly better than in the 2004-2009 period when consumption fell at annual rates of approximately 5 percent.
In a news release, the company notes that, “Suppliers will benefit from an improvement in the key U.S. market, which will rebound from dismal levels in 2009.”
But, Freedonia also warns that U.S. and European refractory manufacturers could get squeezed by the raw material prices, suggesting that, “Raw material supply will continue to be a challenge to refractory producers.”
Despite a miniboom in U.S. steel production in the mid- and late-2000s, refractory producers complained because they often had to pay premium prices for bauxite and other key materials, plus they faced tough sales negotiations with metal-making companies.
Demand in all markets will still be driven by steel and iron production, according to the study. “Despite declines in the amount of units needed per ton of steel produced, iron and steel will have the strongest gains of any market through 2014 due to rising steel production,” says the company.
Freedonia also expects increased demand for refractory products from aluminum producers as wells as from nonmetallic mineral products markets, such as ceramics, cement and other mineral products, as well as demand from including petroleum, chemicals, paper and aerospace applications.
Freedonia’s optimism about monolithics is because of the growing use of these products to extend the interval between brick relinings of ovens, ladles and other high-temperature uses.
Change in World Factory Demand:
|000 metric tons||000 metric tons||000 metric tons||% Change||% Change|
|Refractory Demand||25,665||31,500||40,700||+ 4.2||+ 5.3|
|North America||3,305||2,445||3,150||- 5.9||+ 5.8|
|Western Europe||3,550||2,725||3,240||- 5.2||+ 3.5|
|Asia/Pacific||13,350||21,340||21,340||+ 9.8||+ 5.5|
|Other Regions||5,460||4,990||6,460||- 1.8||+ 5.3|
Freedonia’s full report is available for $5,900 from The Freedonia Group, Inc., 767 Beta Drive, Cleveland, OH 44143-2326, through the company’s website or call 440-684-9600.
Using $570,000 in NSF seed money, Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering and the school’s Division of Student Affairs are launching an innovative leadership program for engineering students. The program, called Engineering Leadership Education and Development, will begin as a five-year program to identify and work with a group of 16 students at the university, plus help attract high school-aged females to the field of engineering.
Doreen Edwards, dean of AU’s engineering school, explains E-LEADS by noting that leadership and teamwork skills are needed for a successful engineering career. She says, “We hope to teach students that leadership occurs at all levels within an organization and that they can apply their leadership skills during their very first job as new engineers. We are particularly interested in developing leadership around issues related to gender in the science and engineering fields.”
The leadership program Edwards and others are crafting at AU might not fit the stereotyped notion of “leadership” and will be based on what is known as the Social Change Model (pdf). Julia Overton-Healy, director of the Women’s Leadership Center, explains that SCM “assumes that there are core values held within ethical leadership, and taken together, create change for the common good. Leadership, then, is not positional: it becomes a shared endeavor of committed persons working toward a common goal.”
Overton-Healy says scholars selected for E-LEAD will learn specific leadership skills. Moreover, she notes, the scholars will be helped in three strategic areas: identifying their core strengths, aptitudes and values; understanding how their experiences, privileges and disadvantages shapes how they lead; and locating opportunities to improve gender inequity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Skills training will include public speaking, meeting management, time management, listening, and conflict resolution.
Overton-Healy says they expect the mix of theory, self assessments, skill building and real-world application will give E-LEAD scholars higher self confidence and efficacy in assuming leadership roles. They say one component will be “community building” that will include peer mentoring, colocated student housing and networking events. E-LEADS will also be able to leverage programming already offered by AU’s Women’s Leadership Center.
In regard to career development, E-LEADS will provide on-campus research opportunities for first-year students, résumé and interviewing workshops, optional co-op educational experiences and summer internships.
Edwards and Overton-Healy will serve as coprincipal investigators. They plan on using the first year of the project on program development and recruitment of the first group of E-LEAD scholars. The grant is expected to provide scholarships to 16 male and female students throughout their academic career, plus support outreach activities aimed at increasing the number of female students in engineering.
While the NSF funding provides support for the first five years, Edwards and Overton-Healy view E-LEADS as a long-term effort, and say they will be seeking corporate support to make it a sustainable program for engineering students.
Experimental setup shows an IR free-electron laser light source and perovskite superlens consisting of BiFeO3 and strontium titanate SrTiO3 layers. Imaged objects are strontium ruthenate patterns (orange) on a SrTiO3 substrate. The near-field probe is shown in blue and the evanescent waves in red. Credit: Kehr, et. al.
The DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Ramamoorthy Ramesh are in the news again. A new release from the Berkeley Lab announces a novel mode of fabricating a superlens for the infrared spectrum using, for the first time, perovskite-based oxides.
Ramesh is the leader of this research and senior author of a recent Nature Communications paper titled, “Near-field examination of perovskite-based superlenses and superlens-enhanced probe-object coupling” (doi:10.1038/ncomms1249).
The innovation is an alternative to super-resolution imaging approaches that are based on metamaterials. In brief, metamaterials are tough to make and absorb a lot of precious light energy.
According to the release, “The perovskite-based oxides on the other hand are simpler and easier to fabricate and are ideal for capturing light in the mid-infrared range. This opens the door to highly sensitive biomedical detection and imaging. It is also possible that the superlensing effect can be selectively turned on/off, which would open the door to high dense data writing and storage.”
The group says it able to achieve an imaging resolution of λ/14 at the superlensing wavelength.
One of the biggest challenges for the researchers according to the report was finding the right combination of perovskites that would make an effective superlens. What they landed on was a layer of bismuth ferrite and a layer of strontium titanate with thicknesses of 200 and 400 nanometers, respectively. These thin-films were grown by pulsed-laser deposition.
In the lab’s release, Susanne Kehr, formerly with Ramesh’s Berkeley research group and now with the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) and Yongmin Liu, a metamaterials expert at Berkeley’s NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, provide additional information about the advantages of perovskites. “The bismuth ferrite and strontium titanate material feature a low rate of photon absorption and can be grown as epitaxial multilayers whose highly crystalline quality reduces interface roughness so there are few photons lost to scattering,” they say. “This combination of low absorption and scattering losses significantly improves the imaging resolution of the superlens.”
This research was carried out by an international collaboration of scientist, including ACerS member Lane Martin at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
Because of thickness and related wavelength issues, these investigators sought and found a way to gain detailed control over the superlens, selective tuning sections or toggling the effect via an external electric field.
“The ability to switch superlensing on and off for a certain wavelength with an external electric field would make it possible to activate and deactivate certain local areas of the lens,” Kehr says. “This is the concept of data-storage, with writing by electric fields and optical read-outs.”
Liu says that the mid-infrared spectral region at which their superlens functions is prized for biomedical applications. “Compared with optical wavelengths, there are significant limitations in the basic components available today for biophotonic delivery in the mid-infrared. Our superlens has the potentials to eliminate these limitations.”
Liu suggests there the world is full of opportunities for these materials, saying, “Perovskites display a wide range of fascinating properties, such as ferroelectricity and piezoelectricity, superconductivity and enormous magnetoresistance that might inspire new functionalities of perovskite-based superlenses, such as nonvolatile memory, microsensors and microactuators, as well as applications in nanoelectronics.”
For some time, it has been common to use enzymes as a biocatalyst. When the enzymes required are difficult or expensive to extract, the utilization of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi is an alternative.
For many applications, the living cells are immobilized within a stable matrix system. This prevents the embedded cells against culture washout and protects them from external impact like shear forces, pH, or solvents. Besides commonly used natural polymers some porous inorganic matrices have become increasingly important for immobilizing living cells.
Results of former studies have shown that bacteria can be successfully embedded within a very hard concrete matrix and remained viable for a period of four months. This encouraged the R&D organization GMBU and the company InnoTERE (both Dresden, Germany) to investigate the immobilization of microorganisms in cements. The researchers examined the viability and biocatalytic applicability of the bacteria Rhodococcus ruber and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in particular their dependence on preparation conditions.
For their investigations, they used magnesium phosphate cement, which can be easily prepared by mixing hard-burned tribasic magnesium phosphate powder and ammonium phosphate solution. Due to the stiffness of the cement matrix bioactive MPC could be very interesting for applications in bioremediation, in biotechnology as bulk material in large columns or reactive walls, or as bioactive cement plaster within sewers.
To evaluate the applicability of MPC for the immobilization of living microorganisms the researchers determined the glucose conversion using immobilized S. cerevisiae and the phenol degradation using immobilized R. ruber.
The results of the study, “Cements with embedded living microorganisms — a new class of biocatalytic composite materials for application in bioremediation, biotechnology” (doe:10.1002/adem.201080040) revealed that the bioactive composite material exhibits good mechanical and chemical stability. The embedded cells survived the embedding within the cement matrix even though the cements showed much slower glucose and phenol consumption in comparison to non-immobilized cells.
Limitations in mass-transfer probably cause the reduced activity of the embedded cells. To overcome such limitations further examinations especially to the size and pore structure are necessary. Nevertheless, combining a cement matrix with living microorganisms very promising biocomposite materials for application in biotechnology can be fabricated.
Last week I posted about a utility-scale concentrating photovoltaic being built in the San Diego–Imperial Valley area using CPV units built by Concentrix, a division of Soitec. Soitec, based in France, is planning on building a manufacturing facility in the region to supply units for the San Diego project, plus for sales to other utility-oriented renewable-energy developers.
Below are two videos about CPV. The first features Concentrix CTO Andreas Gombert, who provides some more details about the science and multijunction technology his company is using. Gombert says in the video that Concentrix is achieving solar-to-grid-AC efficiencies of 25 percent. He also predicts grid parity will be achieved in some world markets in 2012 (for the record, parity probably has already been achieved in isolated areas, such as Hawaii, where carbon-based fuels are expensive and sunlight if available in abundance).
Concentric/Soitec are the only CPV players. The second video features interviews with several companies that also are active in this field.