Archive for August 2012
You are browsing the archives of 2012 August.
You are browsing the archives of 2012 August.
Here is what we are hearing:
Morgan Technical Ceramics is extending its electro ceramics portfolio, with the launch of a new range of high temperature piezoelectric bimorph components, suitable for sensor and actuator applications in the fields of aerospace, automotive, medical and general industry. Manufactured in the company’s facility in Ruabon, North Wales, the new bimorph components are two-layered PZT devices, which feature a specially-formulated core created from high-temperature conductive epoxy glue. Some components in the range are also reinforced with a central metal alloy vein, to make them more mechanically stable. All of MTCs’ innovative components can operate in continuous temperatures of up to 180°C, which represents half the Curie temperature of the piezoelectric materials. PZT bimorphs can be used in a range of applications including oil viscosity monitoring, machine and equipment monitoring, automotive engines, feedback sensors and high-temperature accelerometers. Components from the range are currently being used in the maritime industry for oil viscosity measurement in ship yards, and can effectively work as both an actuator and sensor.
There will be a new edition of the professional conference for glass construction, “Engineered Transparency,” held in conjunction with Glasstec 2012. The conference with a scientific theme takes place Oct. 25-26, 2012, at the Congress Center East/Ost at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Center. It offers a unique opportunity to experience top-quality presentations on the current developments in glass construction and façade and solar technology in connection with the leading international trade fair on glass production, processing and products. “Engineered Transparency” is directed particularly at an audience from the areas of research and development as well as construction and implementation. The target audience includes scientists, structural engineers, planners/architects/designers, construction experts and employees of construction authorities. The conference is being organised jointly by Messe Düsseldorf and the technical universities of Dresden and Darmstadt. Main points in the area “Glass Constructions” are stress and stability, laminates and composites as well as concave and bent glass. As far as façades are concerned, the specific topics discussed will be the building shell and its structure, as well as energy and sustainability. Projects and case studies will be introduced.
Toyota Motor Corporation has developed a power supply system that uses electricity generated within a fuel cell bus to supply electrical power to devices such as home electrical appliances. An FC bus equipped with the new power supply system has two electrical outlets (ac 100V, 1.5 kW) inside the cabin that can supply a maximum output of 3 kW and potentially power home appliances continuously for more than 100 hours. As part of the emergency power-supply training section of the comprehensive disaster-control training to be conducted by Aichi Prefecture and Toyota City on Sept. 2, 2012, the system is to power approximately 20 information display monitors inside a disaster control headquarters tent. Toyota is also developing a vehicle-to-home system for supplying electricity from an FC bus to a building’s existing electrical wiring with the goal of providing a maximum output of 9.8 kW for 50 hours. With a full tank of hydrogen, an FC bus with the V2H system could be used to power the lights inside an average school gymnasium (with a power consumption of approximately 100 kWh) for approximately five days. Toyota plans to test this V2H system for FC buses in 2013 and 2014 as part of the Toyota City Low-Carbon Verification Project.
Air Science USA has introduced its new mobile ductless fume hood. The mobile EDU is excellent for classroom demonstrations and industrial training. It is totally self-contained and provides all around visibility. The EDU is easily moved from laboratory to laboratory. The ductless design allows easy installation and the base is mounted on large heavy duty wheels for ease of transport. The height is 77.5″, which allows it to easily pass through a standard door. The multilayered EDU filter has been independently tested to have 99.9% filtration efficiency for chemicals normally found in a typical chemistry curriculum. These units exceed OSHA, ANSI, BSI and AFNOR safety standards.
(PV Magazine) Under a new $20 million partnership, Ceres Technologies will supply CIGS manufacturing equipment to the US Photovoltaic Consortium, which is headquartered at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s Albany NanoTech Complex. Specifically, the company will help to establish an advanced manufacturing development facility at CNSE and provide two vacuum thin-film deposition tools to manufacture copper indium gallium selenide thin film solar cells. The partnership is part of the DOE’s goal to reduce the cost of installed solar energy systems from $5 to under $1/W over the next decade. “These CIGS-based solar cells represent the next generation of solar photovoltaics, offering improved performance at a reduced cost to manufacture and install,” read a statement released by New York state Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo on August 29 announcing the partnership.
(PV Magazine) At the end of this year, Bosch Solar Energy AG has announced it will close its 30 MW silicon thin film module plant down in Erfurt, Germany. Spokesperson for the electronics giant, Heide Traemann, told PV Magazine that 130 employees will be affected by the decision. She added that in attempt to avoid redundancies, Bosch will try to either relocate the employees internally or help them find new employers in the region. In the future, Bosch has said it will concentrate on crystalline photovoltaics in Arnstadt and CIGS development in Brandenburg. The company said these business areas offer the greatest potential for the group. The reasons attributed to the Erfurt closure are the current photovoltaic price pressures and global overcapacity. The company also referred to the photovoltaic tariff cuts recently applied to large solar parks in Germany. Referring to recent media reports that Bosch could completely pull out of the photovoltaics industry, Traemann said production is still in full swing in Arnstadt. In line with its competitors, the company is looking to significantly reduce production costs. However, it will continue to produce and sell its modules worldwide.
A reconstructed soda lime silicate Pyrex glass bowl fractured by thermal shock. Credit: George Quinn.
Not all Pyrex glass cookware is made the same. Surprised? So was I when I first started looking into this story.
Corning devised and first manufactured the ubiquitous clear “Pyrex” cookware in the early part of the 20th century. In the beginning, it was made from low thermal expansion borosilicate glass, aka Corning 7740. Some borosilicate glass Pyrex (“original Pyrex”) products are still being made, such as Corning’s excellent line of laboratory ware (PDF) and Arc International’s glass cookware sold in Europe.
However, aside from its labware, Corning no longer makes Pyrex products and it has licensed the use of the Pyrex brand name for many years to World Kitchens LLC for sales of cookware in the US, and to the aforementioned Arc International.
But, here is where it gets confusing and problematic for consumers. World Kitchens’ Pyrex cookware is not made of the original Pyrex borosilicate glass composition. World Kitchens’ Pyrex-labeled cookware is composed of a soda lime silicate glass. (World Kitchen correctly notes that Corning, itself, changed the composition from original Pyrex to a soda lime glass before it got out of the business).
To make matters more complicated, the Anchor Hocking Glass Co. also makes clear glass cookware products using soda lime silicate glass, and has done so for decades. Apparently, Anchor Hocking first got into the market in the mid part of the 20th century by offering a something of a copycat product to compete with Corning.
Why am I explaining all this? Because borosilicate glass behaves very differently from soda lime glass, however, you don’t have to be a glass or materials scientist to know that. No less than the independent and reputable Consumer Union organization (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine and website) figured out there was a difference after it starting receiving reports of glass cookware suddenly shattering, including reports of dangerous, explosive-like failures and severe injuries when glass shards were sent flying several feet.
After learning of these anecdotal problems, Consumer Reports staff conducted a year-long investigation in which they tested various glass cookware in their labs, including those made by Anchor Hocking, World Kitchens and Arc International. They were able to show that under unprescribed, although not unreasonable circumstances (in the context of a typical kitchen, e.g., taken from a 450°F oven and put on a countertop where moisture is present), the soda lime cookware samples frequently were, in fact, prone to frequent failure. In contrast, the organization found that the borosilicate glassware is more resilient and did not shatter until removed from a 500°F oven. See the video below:
While Consumer Reports verified the existence of the shattering problem with the soda lime glass, it didn’t attempt to explain why the problem occurs. Leave that to R.C. Bradt and R.L Martens, who in the pages of a paper (“Shattering Glass Cookware”) in the September issue of ACerS’ Bulletin deftly lead readers through fairly simple materials science to make sense of these failures.
Bradt and Martens review concepts such as thermal stress, elastic modulus, thermal shock and temperature differentials and then apply them to the borosilicate and soda lime glasses.
Perhaps surprisingly, Bradt and Marten explain that their findings show that the glass failures (soda lime and borosilicate glass) have less to do with the maximum temperature of an oven and more to do with the total temperature change the cookware is subjected to. According to their calculations, soda lime glass cookware shatters more frequently because, in theory, it can resist fracture stress as long as the temperature differential is less than about 100°F. In contrast, borosilicate glassware can tolerate a differential of about 330°F. That, obviously, is a big difference. (Bradt and Marten acknowledge that time-dependent heat transfer conditions are another factor, as well as whether the cookware is pristine or contains nicks and scratches.)
While it is clear that borosilicate glass performs better, thermally speaking, than soda lime, World Kitchens and Anchor Hocking say their soda lime glassware is mechanically stronger than original Pyrex. Basically, their argument is that soda lime glass will not break as easily if it is dropped on a floor or countertop, or struck with a utensil.
In their defense, manufacturers of the soda lime cookware also say they use heat strengthening or thermal tempering to further increase its impact resistance and resistance to thermal stress fracture. However, Bradt and Marten also looked into this and found minimal, if any, evidence of thermal or heat strengthening in commercially bought soda lime silicate glassware.
Concerned? If so, you will want to read Bradt and Marten’s entire paper. The authors emphasize that consumers should read and follow the warnings contained in the glass cookware packaging. However, they sound a final note of caution, based on their research:
“[D]ocumented reports of incidents of dramatic shattering failures during what most kitchen cooks would consider normal use suggests that the margin of safety for avoiding thermal stress failures of soda lime silicate cookware is borderline. It does not appear to be adequate for all household cooking.”
Meanwhile, Consumer Union is urging the Consumer Product Safety Commission to delve deeper into the complaints about the soda lime silicate cookware.
The physics of football. Credit: Ainissa Ramirez; You Tube.
Today is the start of the Labor Day weekend, and The American Ceramic Society extends its best wishes to all who work with ceramic materials. Indeed, the Society’s very existence is founded on the need of ceramic engineers in the late 19th century to have a network of colleagues to whom they could turn for information and advice to solve work-related problems. The Society continues to meet that need today and has extended its reach around the globe.
Many colleges and universities kickoff their football seasons this weekend, too. Here in Columbus, for example, Ohio State University plays Miami University of Ohio under the watchful eye of Urban Meyer in his début as head football coach. Meyer, in turn, will be under the watchful eyes of one of the largest student bodies and alumni associations in the country.
At CTT we are big fans of Ainissa Ramirez, Yale professor and “science popularizer.” Ramirez has a talent for explaining fairly complex materials science concepts in about four minutes on topics such as thermoelectrics, nanomaterials, shape memory and more. She created this video on the physics of football for Super Bowl 2012, and it seemed a nice way to acknowledge the start of the new collegiate season.
A while back, she also posted a video on the materials science behind the Titanic. It’s a little unsatisfying because she does not dive into specifics; rather she just convinces us that properties are temperature dependent. See whether you agree in the video below.
Happy Labor Day, and Go Illini!
Rivet failure on the Titanic. Credit: Ainissa Ramirez; You Tube.
I have heard of a lot of honorary and informal titles in science and technical fields, but Wolfgang Rossner’s ”King of Ceramics” appellation has got to be one of the best, especially when it has been bestowed by an international powerhouse corporation such as Siemens. Rossner is a technology leader at Siemens and he and his team work in the company’s Global Technologies offices in the Ceramic Materials and Devices division in Munich, Germany.
Besides giving Rossner his regal nickname, Siemens has recognized him as one of its top innovators in Global Technologies, the business’ R&D wing.
In this video presentation, made at an ACerS Ceramic Leadership Summit meeting, Rossner provides a nicely detailed presentation on how Siemens approaches the development of its technical strategies, beginning with emerging megatrends. It then tries to project how various internal competencies and competitive advantages—such as ceramic science and engineering—enable the development of components and systems to produce successful applications in the marketplace.
In brief, Rossner reports that Siemens is playing close attention to megatrends related to increased urbanization, demographic shifts, climate change and globalization. With these in mind, the company has made a strategic decision to pursue technologies and applications related to opportunities in “sustainability.”
Siemens defines sustainability as “the capacity to endure” and breaks sustainability down into three target components: environmental, social and economic.
Ceramics already has been a proven solution provider for Siemens (e.g., LED lighting, gas turbines and CT imaging) so ceramics is being turned to again, this time to deliver advances in global sustainability. In his talk, Rossner expounds on several new work project areas where ceramic materials are expected to play important roles, such as ultrahigh efficiency power generation, high-voltage direct current power transmission, renewable energy sources, “e-mobility,” Smart Grid, advanced medical diagnostic tools, efficient electronics and water/air quality.
Rossner also provides many insights about how advancements in ceramics are being driven both by “traditional” fields of ceramic research (e.g., structural, functional, multifunctional and adaptive ceramic materials) and emerging perspectives related to materials interfaces, “intelligent” ceramics, simulation and modeling, and low-temperature process and manufacturing.
Relative stock prices of Molycorp (blue line) and Lynas (green) compared to Dow Jones Industrial Average (red) since August increase in China’s rare earth exports quota. Source: Yahoo Finance.
Recent developments around the world related to rare earth elements continue to suggest that strategic concerns are being supplanted by shorter-term economic, environmental and technical considerations, all of which are adding together to put tensions over REE supplies on the back burner.
In no particular order, here are some of the major news items that are coming into play.
• For the previous six years, China has been pulling back on the amount of rare earth mining and exports, but that changed last week when the nation surprised some observers by actually increasing the total export tonnage for 2012. According to a story (sub. req’d) in the Wall Street Journal, the amount of the increase wasn’t huge, about 2.7 percent, and it probably won’t make a difference anyway because demand for exports have declined significantly.
The period of restricting exports (which paralleled sharply rising prices) was triggered by many causes, many of which are still being debated among business and economic circles. But, clearly, two significant and linked considerations stimulated Chinese officials in the past to impose restraints. The first, was (and still is) China’s desire to cut down on REE-related environmental damage and bootleg deals, the most onerous of which have been small and corruption-prone mines. The second is China’s desire to ensure a short- and long-term supply of REEs for the nation’s humming energy, transportation and electronics industries. To accomplish both, China combined sharp export limits with promulgation of new environmental and business regulations. These moves have consolidated most, if not all, of REE mining and refining to a limited group of certified companies. However, tough regulations and falling prices (due to falling international demand) have meant that even “blessed” REE producers in China are unable or unwilling to meet their theoretical export quota, and, according to a Bloomberg story, REE exports have actually declined—regardless of the export ceiling—by 36 percent this year.
• Although the US has taken allegations of unfair REE trade practices by China to the WTO, the above mentioned shortfall in the sales of exports has taken much of the wind out of the WTO pleadings. Demand for REE supplies by US, European and Japanese manufacturers has dropped considerably as each of these geographic regions endure unpredictable economies and significant drops in consumer spending ability. With China’s REE trade restrictions easing, another bit of nasty fallout is the financial effect on REE mining enterprises outside of China. After China raised the export limit, sector business analysts immediately slashed the value of the US-based Molycorp, which had already been struggling to mount significant competition to China. For example, JP Morgan Chase immediately lowered its estimated value of a share of Molycorp by 35 percent (from $11.50 to $8.50), a gloomy sign for a company that wants to a vertically integrated RE provider and consumer. Australia-based Lynas Corp. has also seen its share price beaten down in the past 30 days (see chart at top), unfortunate news for a company that also has had the opening of a major refining plant in Malaysia repeatedly delayed. Vertical integration and new refining initiatives are tough to swallow when falling prices play havoc with the mathematical models of the present value of future revenues and internal rates of return.
• There is a new alternative to traditional REE mining (new to me, at least). I ran into this when I saw an announcement about a presentation made last week at the recent ACS meeting about progress being made by researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab in extracting uranium from seawater. In brief, an ORNL group has been experimenting with special high surface area, high-capacity (”HiCap”) fibers. According to Chris Janke, one of the inventors and a member of the lab’s Materials Science and Technology Division, “HiCap effectively narrows the fiscal gap between what exists today and what is needed to economically extract some of the ocean’s estimated 4.5 billion tons of uranium. Although dissolved uranium exists in concentrations of just 3.2 parts per billion, the sheer volume means there would be enough to fuel the world’s nuclear reactors for centuries.” HiCap fibers have also been used to extract other toxic metals from water.
Janke goes on to explain how the fibers work. He says, “Our HiCap adsorbents are made by subjecting high-surface area polyethylene fibers to ionizing radiation, then reacting these pre-irradiated fibers with chemical compounds that have a high affinity for selected metals.” He says the uranium is extracted from the fibers using an acid elution method, and the fibers can be regenerated and reused.
So, it slowly dawned on me that if they can use HiCap to extract uranium, why not rare earths? Indeed, it turns out that HiCap fibers are a candidate for REE extraction. Just to be clear, ORNL HiCap fibers were manufactured by a custom spinning company in Florida, Hills Inc., in conjunction with the lab. And, in a prescient move, late last month R&D Magazine recognized Hills Inc. and ORNL as joint recipients of a 2012 R&D 100 award for using the fibers to extract a variety of metals. But, Hills Inc. is a specialty spinning company, not a materials developer. Regrettably, the R&D award omitted the significant development role of another company, the Australia-based Water Resources Group and WRG’s Campbell Applied Physics division.
Once I got directed to WRG/CAP, it didn’t take much to turn up mention in the company’s April 2012 quarterly report that
[T]he Company is investigating the application of its O3CD System to economically extract and separate rare earth elements, which have become increasingly important in the defense, alternative energy and communications industries. The project will be developed in cooperation with the US Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Further commercial agreements are expected to follow in the near term, which may involve WRG entering into a joint venture to share the revenue from the sale of the rare earth metals.
The company’s most recent annual report (PDF) also provides some revealing information.
Recent meetings between ORNL and CAP have focused on investigation of optimum techniques for identification and extraction of REE. A combination of CAP’s O3CD front end system, employing a REE optimized [capacitive desalination], followed by one of several candidate separation technologies from ORNL could enable economical extraction of REE as metal sulphides, metal oxides or zero-valence metals. … CAP and ORNL recognize the opportunity for combining their resources to demonstrate their first-rate capabilities in extracting REE from waste streams on a commercial scale, and to develop a new, reliable source of these materials for the United States. In order to fast track testing, CAP will have access to the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source facility located at Oak Ridge. This unique facility provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development.