Back in October, Corning held its second “Advancing the Vision” symposium in Palo Alto, Calif., to hear from a broad and select field of advanced technology consumers (e.g., advanced medical, communications, education professionals) about how their worlds might intersect with high-tech glass products. In the last few days, Corning has posted videos that give a sampling of some of the presentations and discussions that occurred at ATV-2.
As I recall, Corning organized the first ATV gathering after the company published its noted “A Day Made of Glass” video. Although that video stimulated a lot of new thinking about glass, a lot of what was portrayed was informed guesswork by the company. Smartly, Corning also organized ATV to solicit responses and alternative “visions” for glass from an influential cadre of thought leaders.
I don’t know if ATV was part of Corning’s plan all along or an afterthought. In the video above, from the second symposium, Corning VP Jeff Evenson essentially admits that the company didn’t anticipate that the “A Day Made of Glass” would go viral (approximately 21 million YouTube views in two years) and generate so much interest. Regardless, hosting annual ATVs seems wise, and opening up some of the presentations to the public seems to me to be a brilliant PR move.
Below are some (but not all) of the videos from ATV-2 that I found interesting and short. Note, these are not about glass, per se, but represent creative prognostications and potential applications using glass-involved interfaces and applications that are fairly far away on the value chain from the point of glass production:
A perfectly good glass bottle can be broken by the force exerted by collapsing bubbles. A team of BYU fluid dynamics graduate students took the time to figure out how. Credit: Adapted from BYU video.
Peter has been keeping you apprised of the emergence of the Usable Glass Strength Coalition, a collaboration focused on precompetitive basic research to improve glass properties. The coalition’s inaugural meeting of its board of directors took place just last week, here at ACerS HQ. Peter will report more about the meeting, but with the coalition’s birth as background, this video of a bottle breaking caught my eye.
As a materials scientist, my first thought when a material fails—and perhaps yours, too—is to ask what weakness in the material led to the failure? That might not necessarily be the right question to ask, though.
A paper posted on arXiv.org last October (more like an extended abstract), offers proof that what is in the bottle affects how easy it is to break the bottle.
Apparently, a favorite party trick is to break a glass bottle by filling it with water and then slamming the top with an open hand. Rather dramatically (as the video shows), the bottom of the bottle cracks, and water and glass spew forth. (I have never seen this party trick, evidence that I need to get out more, perhaps.)
The trick does not work with fizzy liquids, nor with an empty bottle, which got a curious group of fluid dynamics graduate students—Jesse Dailey, Ken Langley, Scott Thomson, and Thad Truscott—at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah asking, why?
The three minute video is fun to watch, with high speed video showing how the bubbles form, and they insert good explanation slides along the way.
Here is a breakdown of what happens.
- The hand slap exerts a downward acceleration on the bottle, which …
- Creates a low pressure region in the fluid at the bottom of the bottle, which …
- Causes bubbles if the low pressure formed is less than the vapor pressure of the fluid. This bubble formation is known in the fluid dynamics world as “cavitation.”
- The bubbles collapse when the pressure returns to normal, but …
- The collapse happens ten-times faster than it takes to form the bubbles in the first place, which …
- Produces instantaneous, concentrated forces much greater than those caused by the initial acceleration with the hand slap.
- The bottle breaks.
The reason it does not work with fizzy fluids is that the cavities fill with carbon dioxide and float away instead of collapsing.
The group applies rigorous science and experimental techniques to arrive at their conclusions. They use an accelerometer and high speed videography to confirm that the strike to the bottle and the catastrophic crack are not simultaneous. The video clearly shows the burst happening after the bubbles collapse. The team also pulls out some fancy fluid dynamics equations to further explain their conclusions.
So, the point for failure analysis experts and bottling plant engineers to keep in mind is that, sometimes, there really is nothing wrong with the material!
At $299 this is pretty pricey, however, I think the Nectar Mobile Power System, based on a mini solid oxide fuel cell that Lillipution Systems introduced this week at the CES show, could represent something of a breakthrough for consumer thinking about impact what larger-scale SOFCs could have once the technology matures.
What I mean is that, while I think a lot of people have heard about SOFCs (maybe from all the Bloom Energy publicity a while back), not many people have been able to see one up close and at a scale that they relate to.
The basic operations of the Nectar unit are pretty well demonstrated above. From what I understand, the attempt by Lilliputian to bring a mini SOFC to market goes back several years, and a Technology Review story in September reports that the company had first hoped it would occur in 2010. But, as is often the case, finding the right form factor and procuring several rounds of investments to allow for testing and ramping up production (while cutting costs) are well known bugaboos for developers. Lilliputian has been able to hang in there with big-league supporters, such as Intel and the venture cap group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Another big investor is Rusnano, a Russian government-owned venture cap group.
The fuel cell itself starts life as a standard 8-inch silicon wafer, and is manufactured like a chip. This gives them fine control of the physical structures, if you can make sub-micron structures for a CPU, fuel cells are not a big deal to draw. Minute features and surface texturing that are impossible through conventional manufacturing processes are not just possible in a fab, they are almost trivial compared to a modern CPU. This is MEMS at best.
There are a few advances that Lilliputian has brought to the market, sealing tech and thermal management are two of the biggest. To generate 2.5W of electricity at a claimed 25% efficiency, you are going to need to dissipate 7.5W or so of heat. That is easy enough given the size of a pod, but the fuel cell needs temperatures of 600°C to operate, more is better. Getting rid of the heat isn’t the problem, keeping it in long enough is.
To this end, the cell itself operates under a vacuum to prevent thermal transfer. Keeping a vacuum in place over time is hard, but doing so with repeated thermal cycles to almost 1,000°C is very hard. Lilliputian came up with a novel glass sealing technology to do this, and since they have products coming to market, it appears to work.
The other way that you lose thermal energy is IR radiation, and for this, the cell is coated internally with reflective coatings, and hot spots are shielded with other structures to absorb IR wherever possible.
According to the Lilliputian website, the company was a startup launched by researchers who had been at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory who licensed technology from MIT and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.
Is two weeks of cell-phone charging capability worth $300 to consumers. I am guessing there are a few, but not a lot. Lilliputian originally predicted a price point of around $100, which would probably snag quite a few more tech geeks. On the other hand, my guess is that this type of product first finds real interest in defense-oriented applications, and, there, money tends to be less important than performance. If the DOD isn’t interested, maybe the Russian army is.
Just as I finished my previous story on Gorilla Glass 3, Corning began a video dump onto YouTube. The one above is about the ion exchange chemical strengthening I wrote about earlier, and is sort of like an animated schematic. The title, “Why Glass Breaks,” is unfortunate, because that is a much longer and different topic.
Another one, below, elaborates on Corning’s other big product for CES, an optical cable that can unleash the real power of displays, computers, storage devices and other electronic gizmos that are starting to contain Thunderbolt ports (part of Intel’s Light Peak all-optical system). Current Thunderbolt connectors are really just copper cables and necessarily cannot exceed about 10 feet in length (3 meters). Most Thunderbolt systems will support transfer speeds of 10Gps, which is roughly equivalent to what the new USB 3.0 is supposed to deliver, but Thunderbolt/Light Peak can be jacked to 100Gps.
Joel Moskowitz, founder and CEO of the Ceradyne Inc., is well respected as a successful entrepreneur and someone with great instincts about the business of advanced ceramic products. Moskowitz, who on Monday was given The American Ceramics Society’s highest honor (a Distinguished Life Member award), and Ceradyne have been hot topics in business news in recent weeks because of 3M’s friendly offer to purchase Ceradyne.
My experience is that Moskowitz is an extremely smart strategist and genuinely humble guy who understands most of the engineering concepts behind the products in Ceradyne’s portfolio. Despite his incredible success, he doesn’t have the pretentions, aloofness or entourages that many successful business people surround themselves with.
I ran into Moskowitz at a reception held just before the ACerS Annual Awards Banquet and decided to take a chance to see if he was willing to go on camera for a few minutes to discuss 3M’s offer to by Ceradyne and his DLM award. I shouldn’t have been surprised when he readily agreed. In particular, I was interested what his role might be 3M, assuming the purchase offer is approved by shareholders. Moskowitz has always had a talent for identifying opportunities, leveraging assets, mitigating risks and identifying value in acquirable businesses, and the good news is that it sounds like Moskowitz intends to continue to work with 3M under the new management proposal.
Also, below is a video of the speech Moskowitz gave at the banquet after receiving the award.