• Glass tableware manufacturer Libbey plans to cut capacity and reduce staff within its North American business. The company said its realignment at its Shreveport, La., site would effect 200 jobs.
• This spring, the 11-year-old amber glass furnace at Gerresheimer Essen will be replaced by a new one. The facility has two furnaces, one for transparent and one for amber glass. The company forecasts a production downtime of six weeks.
• Allied Glass has started work on the furnace repair of the G1 furnace at its Knottingley (West Yorkshire, UK) site. This is the first furnace to be developed by Allied’s own in-house Engineering Project Management team; the old furnace had been built in 1999. For this major repair the team has sourced premium Europe refractory materials and selected equipment from Sorg, ACSI, and STG.
• Ardagh Group has developed an ultralightweight 275ml bottle for Beck’s and Beck’s Blue, reducing the original from 185 grams to 165 grams. The 11 percent weight reduction on 130 million bottles will save 2,642 tons of glass. The new lighter bottle also will mean 1,940 tons of CO2 are removed from the manufacturing process
• Iran’s president inaugurated the Middle East’s biggest float glass factory in the Central province of Yazd. The factory, located in Ardakan city, is the world’s third-largest float glass production complex and the world’s fourth-biggest glass production furnace, based on Iranian sources. The Ardakan Glass Factory has the capacity of producing 900 tons of different types of glasses per day.
• Steklarna Hrastnik (Slovenia) is completing the construction of the new glass furnace, having utilized 660 ton of fireproof material. The project has entailed an investment of €7 million and is almost entirely the result of domestic know-how. The new furnace is expected to bring along energy efficiency, better quality of glass and an improved competitive position on the global market.
• Mineral sands miner Iluka Resources will cut 200 jobs, halve production and idle operations to reduce costs in a low sales period after posting a 33 percent drop in full year profit to $363.2 million. Combined zircon, rutile and synthetic rutile sales volumes were down 52.9 percent at 488.9 thousand tons compared to 1,038.1 thousand tons in 2011.
• German “Quarzwerke” GmbH will acquire majority stake of “Kaolin” AD after the Bulgarian competition protection authority approved the sale of a 67.32 percent stake in the Bulgarian company held by “Alfa Finance Holding,” owned by Ivo Prokopiev.
Credit: Purdue University and INDOT Joint Transportation Research Program.
Many people in the field of high-performance cements and materials have been working on the goal of improving the performance of structures such as roadways and bridge decks, and recently there have been interesting developments in regard to the use of internal curing (IC) techniques and the creation of a new standard specification by ASTM International.
For researchers involved in cements and concrete, a fundamental task has been to prevent deterioration caused, to a large extent by ions from salts and other materials that can lead to crack formation and corrosion of steel reinforcements. A basic consideration is that cement systems must “cure” or hydrate sufficiently to become useful. A nemesis is early-age cracking that can lead to accelerated deterioration of concrete, which can lead to catastrophic outcome in the case of concrete bridge components.
A couple of factors come into play. First, curing is not instantaneous and requires access to water. Curing to a serviceable extent (e.g., to 75 percent of full curing) is typically measured in days and weeks, but the curing process can go on for years if conditions are right.
Another factor is the composition of the concrete constituents. Engineers are employing both “high-performance” concrete and cementitious materials that can substitute for some of the cements, such as fly ash. Unfortunately, both can also lead to curing problems. In the case of the former, although the high-performance materials have the positive property of limiting the ingress of briny fluids and destructive ions, according to John Ries, technical director of the Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute, “these properties also limit the ability of externally applied curing water to reach the interior of the concrete.”
In the case of the latter, cement alternatives can lead to extended curing times. In a recent NIST Tech Beat story, NIST engineer Dale Bentz explains, “In these high-volume fly ash mixtures, internal curing is important because while the fly ash will react with the cement, it takes a lot longer. After 28 days, maybe 30 percent or less of the fly ash has reacted, so you really need to keep the concrete saturated for an extended period of time.”
In both cases, the solution is to achieve a way to encourage internal curing and, says Reis, “provide a source of additional water to maintain saturation of the cementitious paste and avoid its self-desiccation.”
As discussed in the above video, engineers from Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) have been developing an IC approach that involves creating a longer-term internal water source instead of relying water in the mix or externally applied water. A Purdue news release reports that the IC approach is based on creating “water pockets” formed from small porous stones—or fine aggregate, as it is known in the industry—to replace some of the sand in the mixture. Purdue’s Jason Weiss says, “A key step in the process is to pre-wet the lightweight aggregate with water before mixing the concrete.”
Weiss, who is a professor of civil engineering and director of the Pankow Materials Laboratory, as well as a long-time collaborator on the annual meetings of ACerS’ Cements Division, reports that coming up with a suitable IC system did not happen overnight. “Nearly five years of research has been performed to fully understand how to proportion these mixtures and the level of performance that can be expected,” Weiss says.
The video and the Purdue release say a real-world IC study is underway. In 2010, INDOT (with the support of NIST, Lafarge North America and the Expanded Shale Clay and Slate Institute) built two adjacent bridges—one based on IC specifications and one based on traditional specs—and, so far, the results are looking good. In Purdue release, Weiss reports, “The control bridge has developed three cracks, but no cracks have developed in the internally cured bridge. Tests also show the internally cured concrete is approximately 30 percent more resistant to salt ingress.”
Another recent development is that NIST and Purdue successfully gained the approval of the ASTM’s Standard Specification for Lightweight Aggregate for Internal Curing of Concrete (ASTM C1761-12).
Finally, this is a good place to mention that the “4th Advances in Cement-based Materials: Characterization, Processing, Modeling and Sensing” meeting co-organized by ACerS’s Cements Division and the Center for Advanced Cement-based Materials will be he held July 8-10, 2013, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
James Smith discusses PureMadi and MadiDrops—porous clay water purification systems—how they work and the hopes behind it. Credit: UVA, YouTube.
Access to potable water is a priority of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and they address the issue through the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. In the Programme’s 2012 progress report (pdf) they report that they met their goal of reducing by half the number of people worldwide without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
The very good news is that in the ten-year period from 1990-2000, over two billion people gained access to safe drinking water, so that by 89 percent, or 6.1 billion people worldwide now can get potable water for drinking and cooking. In fact, the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (Target 7) was to reduce by half the number of people without reliable, sustained access to safe water. According to the report, the goal was met five years ahead of the 2015 target date!
The accompanying bad news is that 11 percent, or 780 million people still need access to improved, pathogen-free drinking water. Few will be surprised to know that the scarcity hits harder in certain regions and populations. In the foreword, UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, says,
Some regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are lagging behind. Many rural dwellers and the poor often miss out on improvements to drinking water and sanitation. And the burden of poor water supply falls most heavily on girls and women. Reducing these disparities must be a priority.
In these regions where there is a dearth of infrastructure, simple solutions are especially attractive. And, it would appear, that the humble clay pot might be the answer to providing potable water, as well as some local industry.
An interdisciplinary team at the University of Virginia has developed a water purification system based on porous ceramic clay discs (”MadiDrops”"— Madi is the Tshivenda South African word for water) impregnated with nanoparticles of either silver or copper. UVA professor James Smith from the department of civil and environment engineering explains in the idea in the video.
The press release describes the simple concept: Form porous ceramics by mixing and pressing indigenous clay with sawdust, which leaves behind a porous structure on firing. A nanoparticle slurry of silver or copper (both known to have anti-pathogenic qualities) is painted over the surface and impregnates into the pore structure. Water simply filters through and is purified as it passes over the silver or copper. The filters are made in either puck-like tablets or in flowerpot-like shapes. The flowerpot shape is set in a five gallon plastic bucket equipped with a spigot. The flow rate is one to three liters per hours, which is fast enough for drinking and cooking purposes.
The UVA team has established a nonprofit organization, called PureMadi, to set up factories and promote the technology.
PureMadi has set up a factory in Limpopo province, South Africa that has already produced several hundred flower-pot style filters. According to a UVA press release, PureMadi expects the plant, staffed mostly by women, to produce 500-1,000 filters per month. They hope to build another 10 to 12 plants in the next decade. Smith estimates that, based on these plans, the filters will provide potable water for up to 500,000 people per year. Smith says that tests show that the filter eliminates 99.9 percent of pathogens.
The MadiDrop is described as alternative to the larger pot filter, but they also can be used together. “MadiDrop is cheaper, easier to use, and is easier to transport than the PureMadi filter, but because it is placed into the water, rather than having the water filter through it, the MadiDrop is not effective for removing sediment in water that causes discoloration or flavor impairment,” Smith says. “But its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and simple manufacturing process should allow us to make it readily available to a substantial population of users, more so than the more expensive PureMadi filter.”
Smith notes that the MadiDrops can also be mass-produced at the PureMadi factories.
What an active field!
(PNAS) Certain bacterial enzymes, the diiron hydrogenases, have turnover numbers for hydrogen production from water as large as 104/s. Their much smaller common active site, composed of earth-abundant materials, has a structure that is an attractive starting point for the design of a practical catalyst for electrocatalytic or solar photocatalytic hydrogen production from water. In earlier work, our group has reported the computational design of [FeFe]P/FeS2, a hydrogenase-inspired catalyst/electrode complex, which is efficient and stable throughout the production cycle. However, the diiron hydrogenases are highly sensitive to ambient oxygen by a mechanism not yet understood in detail. An issue critical for practical use of [FeFe]P/FeS2 is whether this catalyst/electrode complex is tolerant to the ambient oxygen. We report demonstration by ab initio simulations that the complex is indeed tolerant to dissolved oxygen over timescales long enough for practical application, reducing it efficiently. This promising hydrogen-producing catalyst, composed of earth-abundant materials and with a diffusion-limited rate in acidified water, is efficient as well as oxygen tolerant.
(ProEdgeWire/WSJ) After every election, there’s a mad scramble in Washington over the must-make-it-happen agenda for the newly inaugurated president and Congress. There are welcome signs from the White House’s own Material Genome Initiative that securing America’s access to critical metals and minerals will be high on the list. A good thing, too. Jobs and capital increasingly flow to countries that command the resources to power modern manufacturing, and American manufacturing is more dependent on metals and minerals access than ever before. Yet there is no country on the planet where it takes longer to get a permit for domestic mining. Among other consequences of this red tape, there are now 19 strategic metals and minerals for which the U.S. is currently 100 percent import-dependent-and for 11 of them a single country, China, is among the top three providers.
Researchers at the Universities of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier, Canada, are developing an affordable, energy efficient and ultrasensitive nanosensor that has the potential to detect even one molecule of carbon dioxide. Current sensors used to detect CO2 at surface sites are either very expensive or they use a lot of energy. And they’re not as accurate as they could be. Improving the accuracy of measuring and monitoring stored CO2 is seen as key to winning public acceptance of carbon capture and storage as a greenhouse gas mitigation method. With funding from Carbon Management Canada, Harry Ruda of the Centre for Nanotechnology at UT and David Risk of StFX are working on single-nanowire transistors that should have unprecedented sensitivity for detecting CO2 emissions. CMC, a national network that supports game-changing research to reduce CO2 emissions in the fossil energy industry as well as from other large stationary emitters, is providing Ruda and his team $350,000 over three years. The grant is part of CMC’s third round of funding which saw the network award $3.75 million to Canadian researchers working on eight different projects. Risk is also using a CMC grant to work on marrying specialized sensor-housings, called forced diffusion chambers, with fiber-optic CO2 sensors.
It would be a terrible thing if laboratories striving to grow graphene from carbon atoms kept winding up with big pesky diamonds. “That would be trouble, cleaning out the diamonds so you could do some real work,” says Rice University theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson, chuckling at the absurd image. Yet something like that keeps happening to experimentalists working to grow two-dimensional boron. Boron atoms have a strong preference to clump into 3D shapes rather than assemble into pristine single-atom sheets, like carbon does when it becomes graphene. And boron clumps aren’t nearly as sparkly. Yakobson and his Rice colleagues have made progress toward 2D boron through theoretical work that suggests the most practical ways to make the material and put it to work. Earlier calculations by the group indicated 2D born would conduct electricity better than graphene. Through first-principle calculations of the interaction of boron atoms with various substrates, the team came up with several possible paths experimentalists may take toward 2D boron. Yakobson feels the work may point the way toward other useful 2D materials.
(Nature) Diamond-based quantum devices can now make nuclear magnetic resonance measurements on the molecular scale. Work by two independent groups will make it easier to find out the structure of single biological molecules such as proteins without destroying or freezing them. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and its close cousin magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) give information about a sample’s structure by detecting the weak magnetic forces in certain atomic nuclei, such as hydrogen. They work by detecting how molecules collectively resonate—like guitar strings that vibrate together—with electromagnetic waves of specific wavelengths. The techniques provide information about the structure of samples without damaging them, which is particularly important if the sample is a human body. But to some researchers, whole bodies are less interesting than the molecules that they are made up of. “I want to push NMR and MRI to the molecular level,” says Friedemann Reinhard, a physicist at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. His team is one of two that have used NMR to detect hydrogen atoms in samples measuring just a few nanometres across. The second team was led by Daniel Rugar, manager of nanoscale studies at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. Both studies are published in Science.
(GigaOm) But the next generation of lithium ion batteries are promising to be safer, and a few of them are already starting to be used in real-world situations in the power grid, electric vehicles and gadgets… So what makes Seeo’s batteries safer? It largely involves improvements to the electrolyte, or the medium that shuttles lithium ions back and forth between the cathode and the anode to charge and discharge the battery. Traditional lithium-ion battery electrolytes are mostly made of liquids, while Seeo is using a solid dry polymer based electrolyte, which feels like plastic to the touch. The polymer is non-flammable and when combined with using lithium foil as the anode, the battery can be ultra light weight and also have a high energy density, or amount of energy that can be stored per a given weight. If traditional lithium ion batteries are overcharged they can have a margin of error in the danger zone of about 20 percent above the max voltage of the battery, explained Zarem. In contrast, Seeo batteries have a margin of error of 100 percent over the voltage. The batteries also won’t burst into flames if something penetrates it (for example, during a car crash).