The connection between military success and technology is the stuff of many history PhD dissertations. And, for many of those technological triumphs, materials have been the focal point—from hafting stone spearheads onto rods, heat treating of steels, crafting stainless steel armor suits, or building today’s highly sophisticated weapons and protection systems.
Today, ceramic materials are engineered to “protect and defend” in ways that take advantage of their unique combinations of properties. These materials bring opportunities that no other materials can provide, such as new armors that offer ballistic protection and optical transparency (scroll down to see video of two ballistic tests of aluminum oxynitride armor tiles), but there is much yet to discover, too.
Three feature articles in the March issue of the American Ceramic Society Bulletin highlight engineered ceramics for defense applications:
- Transparent polycrystalline cubic spinels protect and defend, by Mohan Ramisetty, Suri Sastri, Uday Kashalikar, Lee M. Goldman, and Nagrenda Nag;
- “Atoms to armor”—Army invests in basic research to design new materials, an interview of ARL’s James McCauley by Eileen De Guire;
- New opportunities for transparent ceramics, by Shi Chen and Yiquan Wu.
Also in this issue learn about exciting new developments at the Society, including
- ACerS launches new Art, Archaeology and Conservation Science Division,
- Back to school: Revived EIC to boost Society’s education efforts.
Plus, we have our usual coverage of business news and trends, and the latest advances in ceramic materials technology.
Also included is information of the St. Louis Section–Refractory Ceramics Division’s 49th Annual Symposium in March, plus the preliminary programs for June’s PACRIM 10/GOMD 2013 meeting and September’s UNITECR meeting. These are shaping up to be great opportunities for the ceramics community to advance the state of knowledge, network, and conduct business. Be sure to check out the programs to see what they offer you.
Returning to the topic of defense materials and the March Bulletin’s theme, here are a few videos, courtesy of Surmet Inc. (Burlington, Mass.) showing ballistic tests of their AlON, aluminum oxynitride armor.
Here’s what we are hearing:
The current business year for the CeramTec Group begins with a decision to start planning a major expansion of the Marktredwitz plant. An €80 million will flow into the Marktredwitz plant by 2015, creating around 120 new jobs. Investments will be made in new buildings and state-of-the-art production facilities for the advanced ceramics components of the three divisions based in Marktredwitz - Electronic Applications, Medical Products and Chemical Applications. The Electronic Applications Division manufactures various components for the electronics industry such as ceramic PCBs, substrates for passive components and heat-sinks for innovative LED lighting technology. The Chemical Applications Division produces catalyst carriers, components for foundry technology and a range of other products. The Medical Products Division has been producing components for hip and knee joint replacement systems at the two sites in Plochingen and Marktredwitz for the last 40 years. To date, CeramTec components have helped improve the quality of life of over eight million patients with hip joint problems. CeramTec now manufactures over a million components per year - on average, a ceramic component is implanted in a patient every 30 seconds worldwide. The planned investment in new buildings and production facilities will nearly double the division’s existing manufacturing capacities.
ClearEdge Power, a manufacturer of scalable, distributed power systems, has closed on its acquisition of UTC Power, marking a major milestone for the company and strengthening its position in the commercial fuel cell industry. UTC Power, formerly a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., has long been considered a leader in fuel cell systems with decades of experience. The infusion of talent and complementary products resulting from the UTC Power acquisition significantly advance ClearEdge Power’s leadership at a time when the fuel cell industry is poised for growth. “We are excited about the strategic combination of ClearEdge Power and UTC Power and the capability it provides us to address the demand for clean, continuous, distributed power solutions,” says David B. Wright, ClearEdge Power president and CEO. “This acquisition establishes our position as the most experienced innovator in the industry, having the broadest technology portfolio and an agile, passionate, visionary team that delivers dependable customer solutions.”
In the culmination of a year of hard work, RAK Ceramics - the largest ceramics manufacturer in the world-is proud to announce that its SAP system went live on the 1st of Feb. 1, 2013. The integrated software solutions incorporate key business functions of an organisation. Christened RAK-on SAP, the move sees RAK Ceramics improve transparency, efficiency and productivity with solutions rolled out across all its plants and administration offices in UAE as part of its 1st phase plan. With the complete implementation of Phase 1 of SAP ERP System, RAK Ceramics migrates away from a 13-year-old ERP System in order to strengthen its ability to improve customer satisfaction with enhanced processes, while it rationalizes production and procurement costs, improves working capital management and business integration. RAK-on SAP will improve the complete operational processes within RAK Ceramics and is expected to deliver positive results to all its stakeholders of the company.
Thermal Technology, a leading manufacturer of crystal growth equipment and high temperature furnace systems, recently shipped 14 K1 High Brightness (HB) LED-grade sapphire crystal growers to a customer in Europe. The K1’s large 90 kg sapphire boule is optimized for 4- and 6-inch cores used in LED production, with 8-inch cores possible. As Thermal Technology completes sapphire growth protocol transfer at its customers’ facilities, K1 sapphire production has increased dramatically with customers producing large, high quality boules and reporting yields of 4200 millimeters “two-inch equivalents” (TIE). Refined LED technology has led to the development of high brightness LEDs used in electronic display backlighting and other high tech applications. Producing HB LED requires higher quality, single sapphire substrate and Thermal Technology’s K1 crystal grower is intended for production of this substrate. The company also has successfully tripled its Santa Rosa, Calif., manufacturing facility.
Polysilicon suppliers to the solar photovoltaic industry have been significantly lowering plant use rates during the past six months, with average quarterly rates falling below 70 percent, as released in the latest NPD Solarbuzz Q4′12 Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report. This contrasts with historic plant use rates at above 90 percent typically provided by the leading polysilicon suppliers to the solar PV industry. Even when polysilicon spot prices declined 70 percent between Q1′11 and Q2′12, Tier 1 polysilicon suppliers maintained the high rates. But, when average spot prices fell below $20/Kg in Q3′12, and continued down to $16/Kg in Q4′12, even Tier 1 makers with best-of-class cost structures were forced to adjust production levels.
On Feb. 7, 2012, Daniel G. Dupont at Inside Defense published an article titled the “DOD Sets Aggressive Time Line For FY-14 Budget Release.” In conjunction with that article was a posting of the entire 60-page memo (with attachments) that Deputy Controller John Roth, Office of the Undersecretary of Department of Defense, published on Feb. 5, 2013. Being the analyst that I am, I scanned the entire 60 pages for interesting material. And here’s what I found: Paragraph X. Paragraph X in the memo provides instructions to the Service Components to submit an exhibit on body armor procurement and the template for that information (referred to as Attachment 10 in the 60 page memo). Here’s a copy of Attachment 10 for you to look at.
HED International, a leading designer of advanced thermal systems, is developing rotary furnaces with GE and Rutgers material science engineers for processing nanopowders. The goal is production of advanced submicron particle size material under precisely controlled thermal and atmosphere conditions to make stronger, lighter, energy efficient ceramics and metals. To develop more effective armor, the Army has enlisted the help of industry and several universities, including the Rutgers Ceramic Composite and Optical Materials Center. There, the Center Director Richard Haber, a professor of material science and engineering, selected HED to design a new continuous rotary furnace for the production of redesigned boron carbide crystals at the atomic level suitable for fabrication into large shapes. While boron carbide already in armor applications is very tough and lightweight, its current atomic structure is insufficient as armor to withstand the kind of high pressure impacts that many new powerful weapons can inflict. “The goal is to revolutionize armor” Haber says. “HED has the technical expertise and the rotary furnace designed to help us reach our objective.”
Mettler Toledo is pleased to announce the launch the latest Excellence dynamic mechanical analyzer, DMA 1. This highly flexible analyzer offers six different deformation modes to more accurately gauge materials performance. As a single piece of equipment able to handle multiple dynamic and static measurements to characterize viscoelasticity, glass transition, softening, crystallization, phase transformation, and more, the DMA 1 is ideal for both academic and manufacturing labs that handle many different types of materials under budget and time constraints. Researchers can set the sample arm and analysis head at multiple angles based on sample nature and geometry. Simple adjustment of the sample arm—without having to calibrate in between configurations—means samples of many shapes and sizes can be processed in quick succession. Rapid cooling to as low as -190ºC with minimal liquid nitrogen consumption also helps improve sample throughput, reduce costs, and improve operator safety. A high-end temperature range of 600ºC further increases the DMA 1 application range.
Owens-Illinois Inc. laid out a corporate strategy that aims to reduce the company’s structural costs and increase innovation during a conference with investors Thursday. The Perrysburg glass-container company held an “investor day” in New York City. The seminar, which drew investors, financial analysts, and viewers on the Internet, gave executives a chance to highlight the company’s emphasis on expanding business in South America, China, and other parts of the world. Those operations would help offset slowed financial growth in the United States and Europe, they said. The company will grow its research and development unit, with a goal of increasing Owens-Illinois’ earnings by 10 percent each year, said Al Stroucken, the firm’s chief executive officer. A new research-and-development facility is scheduled to open in Perrysburg, Ohio, later in the year. “The glass packaging market has been growing at a modest rate and we are well-positioned to take advantage of that growth,” Mr. Stroucken said. The company is taking measures to tighten its belt and strengthen its balance sheet, Mr. Stroucken said.
Here is what we are hearing:
Unifrax, the Niagara Falls, N.Y.,-based manufacturer of ceramic fiber insulation products, announced today that it has acquired Lauscha Fiber International (LFI) from Bürger Glass- und Fasertechnik GmbH and JLR Holding W.L.L. Bahrain. LFI develops, manufactures and sells innovative, glass microfibers to a global customer base. LFI fibers are used by their customers to produce products utilized in a variety of end-user applications primarily in the filtration and battery separator markets. The LFI business is headquartered in Lauscha, Germany, where its largest manufacturing operation is also located. It also has manufacturing locations in Summerville, S.C.; Sudogda, Russia; and the Kingdom of Bahrain. The business has approximately 250 employees, who are now members of the worldwide Unifrax team.
AVX Corp., a leading manufacturer of advanced passive components and interconnect solutions, has developed a unique new series of high-voltage, conformally coated, radial leaded MLC capacitors for automotive applications. An extension of its successful Skycap Series, AVX’s new X7R dielectric High Voltage AR Series capacitors feature a working voltage range of 1000-3000V, are AEC-Q200 qualified, and are readily available in two popular sizes, AR21 and AR30; additional sizes are available upon request. The new capacitors possess the robust construction, excellent vibration characteristics, considerable thermal resistance, and high quality for which the Skycap Series is known. Capacitance values for the AR Series range from 470-68,000pf and its tolerance values are ±5 percent, ±10 percent, ±20 percent and +80-20 percent.
Rubicon Technology Inc., a leading provider of sapphire substrates and products to the LED, semiconductor, and optical markets, today announced that it will showcase its line of optical products for use in defense and aerospace, instrumentation and analytical processing, sensors and detectors, semiconductor process equipment, and medical and laser applications at the Photonics West Exhibition, February 5-7 at The Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif. The company will showcase a very large 12-inch sapphire window. Sapphire is a desirable material for high-performance applications due to its hardness and strength, transparency in the visible and IR spectrum, thermal conductivity, thermal shock resistance, abrasion resistance, high melting point, and chemical inertness. As a result, it is ideally suited for extreme environments where material durability is just as important as optical clarity. In addition to its 12-inch sapphire window, the company will display its line of optical products including 85 kg boule, sapphire tubes and rods, one small dome, and sapphire ingots at Photonics West.
IPG Photonics Corporation, the world leader in high-power fiber lasers, announced at Photonics West a new generation of kilowatt-class low-mode ytterbium fiber lasers offering lower cost-per-watt of laser power, operating expenses and service requirements. Leveraging its experience from delivering thousands of kilowatt fiber lasers to commercial customers over a decade of time, the improved 1060 nanometer laser from IPG offers customers exceptionally simple operation and extends the range of applications for fiber lasers. “Drawing from our deep experience from more than 5,000 Kilowatt class fiber lasers in demanding industrial applications, our new generation of fiber lasers improves upon IPG’s industry-leading product performance, reliability and low cost of ownership,” says Valentin P. Gapontsev, CEO of IPG Photonics and inventor of the high power fiber laser.
Aggressive Grinding Service Inc., a North American leader in precision carbide grinding and advanced ceramic finishing, has hired Tom Shearer to be responsible for the company’s daily business operations, as well as sales and marketing. Shearer is a mechanical engineer by training who comes to Aggressive Grinding from General Carbide, where he was director of marketing, business development, and managing director of the General Carbide UK plant. In that capacity, he led a branding campaign which increased market share and resulted in substantial revenue gains. Earlier in his career, Shearer held a variety of engineering and management positions with Kennametal Inc., Sandvik, Norton Materials, and Leybold Vacuum Products. Shearer also is the author of The Designer’s Guide to tungsten carbide, a reference guide specifically targeted to help engineers, designers, fabricators, and end users better utilize tungsten carbide materials. He has also written numerous technical articles. Aggressive Grinding offers a wide range of grinding, honing, EDM, and rotary tooling services for industrial wear, flow control and metal forming, and metal cutting applications in the aerospace, industrial, mining & construction, oil and gas, and transportation markets.
The ceramic-based material that originally allowed F1 teams to exploit the “blown diffuser” aerodynamic advantage has made its road car debut on Aston Martin’s One-77. Developed by Oxfordshire-based Zircotec, the ThermoHold for composites material is applied to both the car’s diffuser and underbonnet air intakes, enabling Aston Martin’s designers to specify lightweight and aesthetic materials for high-temperature environments. Zircotec’s coating can lower composite surface temperatures by more than 125°C, creating opportunities to use composites under the bonnet. “Our discreet ceramic coating protects the One-77 composites components and in the case of the diffuser, enables exhaust gases to pass through, just as they did in F1,” says Terry Graham, Zircotec’s managing director. “Our coating not only protects the composite induction system from heat but also ensures that the air intake temperature is lower. Moreover, a decrease in this temperature creates a denser charge and is a feature relied upon by many Le Mans racing teams we supply.”
(Olean Times Herald) Later this summer, an electronics manufacturer in Olean, N.Y., is slated to shut down permanently. In a filing with the New York state Department of Labor, Advanced Monolythic Ceramics (AMC) is slated to close on Aug. 31. The closing will leave 65 unemployed. In the filing, officials with Johanson Dielectrics, a Sylmar, Calif.-based corporation, which owns AMC, said the shutdown is part of efforts to consolidate resources. The Constitution Avenue plant’s operations will be moved to a facility in California. According to its website, the electronics manufacturer has provided services for the “aerospace, biomedical, military, satellite, industrial, and communication electronics industries since 1994.” The company specializes in electronic devices, primarily ceramic planar array and discoidal capacitor filters.
Lino Tagliapietra, Italian glass maestro and glass artist from Murano was given the distinguished 2012 Phoenix Award at the 42nd gala banquet held in Venice. In recognition of his contribution to the glass industry in the field of glass art, many of Tagliapietra’s family and close friends attended the Phoenix Award ceremony. Unlike many of the awards past winners, Tagliapietra is not directly associated with large scale industrial glass production, but dedicated his life to exploring the artistic possibility of handmade glass and the teaching of some of the World’s most talented glass blowers and artists.
The first “business” day of the ICACC’13 meeting plenary and award speakers (plus the awarding of the best paper and best poster awards from the 2012 session). The photos below come from some of the opening events and awards.
Lots of interesting research occurring:
Researchers at North Carolina State University have come up with a technique to embed needle-like carbon nanofibers in an elastic membrane, creating a flexible “bed of nails” on the nanoscale that opens the door to development of new drug-delivery systems. The research community is interested in finding new ways to deliver precise doses of drugs to specific targets, such as regions of the brain. One idea is to create balloons embedded with nanoscale spikes that are coated with the relevant drug. Theoretically, the deflated balloon could be inserted into the target area and then inflated, allowing the spikes on the balloon’s surface to pierce the surrounding cell walls and deliver the drug. The balloon could then be deflated and withdrawn. But to test this concept, researchers first needed to develop an elastic material that is embedded with these aligned, nanoscale needles. That’s where the NC State research team came in. The researchers first “grew” the nanofibers on an aluminum bed, or substrate. They then added a drop of liquid silicone polymer. The polymer, nanofibers and substrate were then spun, so that centrifugal force spread the liquid polymer in a thin layer between the nanofibers—allowing the nanofibers to stick out above the surface. The polymer was then “cured,” turning the liquid polymer into a solid, elastic membrane. Researchers then dissolved the aluminum substrate, leaving the membrane embedded with the carbon nanofibers “needles.”
MIT engineers have created a new polymer film that can generate electricity by drawing on a ubiquitous source: water vapor. The new material changes its shape after absorbing tiny amounts of evaporated water, allowing it to repeatedly curl up and down. Harnessing this continuous motion could drive robotic limbs or generate enough electricity to power micro- and nanoelectronic devices, such as environmental sensors. The new film is made from an interlocking network of two different polymers. One of the polymers, polypyrrole, forms a hard but flexible matrix that provides structural support. The other polymer, polyol-borate, is a soft gel that swells when it absorbs water. The film harvests energy found in the water gradient between dry and water-rich environments. When the 20-micrometer-thick film lies on a surface that contains even a small amount of moisture, the bottom layer absorbs evaporated water, forcing the film to curl away from the surface. Once the bottom of the film is exposed to air, it quickly releases the moisture, somersaults forward, and starts to curl up again. As this cycle is repeated, the continuous motion converts the chemical energy of the water gradient into mechanical energy.
(Nature Materials) Recent experiments indicate that glasses prepared by vapour deposition onto a substrate can exhibit remarkable stability, and might correspond to equilibrium states that could hitherto be reached only by glasses aged for thousands of years. Here we create ultrastable glasses by means of a computer-simulation process that mimics physical vapour deposition. These stable glasses have, far below the conventional glass-transition temperature, the properties expected for the equilibrium supercooled liquid state, and optimal stability is attained when deposition occurs at the Kauzmann temperature. We also show that the glasses’ extraordinary stability is associated with distinct structural motifs, in particular the abundance of regular Voronoi polyhedra and the relative lack of irregular polyhedra.
(Materials Review) Corning developed a thin, flexible glass, but the real breakthrough was figuring out how to mass-produce it. In 2011, a Corning researcher named Terry Ott faced a problem that nobody else had needed to solve in the company’s 160-year history: how to make sheets of glass that could be rolled onto spools. The challenge arose because Corning had developed a new kind of glass, known as Willow, which is as thin as a sheet of paper and acts a bit like it, too-if you shake it, it will rattle, and it can bend enough to be spooled. It could be the basis for displays in thinner, lighter cell phones and tablets-or for entirely new products, like displays that fit the curve of your wrist. Willow, which is one-third as thick as Gorilla Glass, would be a meaningless breakthrough if Corning couldn’t figure out how to make it in large quantities-and in a way that customers could use on their own production lines. The way Corning solved the problem of mass-producing Willow helps illustrate the extent to which technological innovation depends on close connections between R&D and manufacturing.
Super-small particles of silicon can react with water to produce hydrogen almost instantaneously, according to University at Buffalo researchers. In a series of experiments, the scientists created spherical silicon particles about 10 nanometers in diameter. When combined with water, these particles reacted to form silicic acid and hydrogen. The reaction didn’t require any light, heat, or electricity, and also created hydrogen about 150 times faster than similar reactions using 100-nanometer-wide silicon particles, and 1,000 times faster than bulk silicon, according to the study. “With further development, this technology could form the basis of a ‘just add water’ approach to generating hydrogen on demand,” says researcher Paras Prasad, executive director of UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics. “The most practical application would be for portable energy sources.” The speed at which the 10-nanometer particles reacted with water surprised the researchers. In under a minute, these particles yielded more hydrogen than the 100-nanometer particles yielded in about 45 minutes. The maximum reaction rate for the 10-nanometer particles was about 150 times as fast. Though it takes significant energy and resources to produce the super-small silicon balls, the particles could help power portable devices in situations where water is available and portability is more important than low cost.
(Gizmag) A USPTO patent application suggests that Google is planning to use bone conduction audio with its Project Glass headset. Google Glass is an augmented reality headset. Bone conduction transmits audio directly to the innermost part of the ear by means of a transducer, usually placed on the bone just in front of the ear. This does away with the need for traditional headphones, has the advantage of increased privacy and reduces the risk of hearing loss. Google’s patent describes the technology as using “at least one vibration transducer located on [...] at least one side section.” If just one transducer makes its way into the final design, then it’s likely that the resulting mono audio would be more suited to things like notifications than media. Mountain View’s patent also suggests that no additional contact point will be required for its application of the tech. Instead, the transducer vibrates the “support structure” of the glasses, rather than directly vibrating the wearer.
(Gigaom) Picture a Nike FuelBand that’s just a small ring on your index finger, or a cell phone that’s as slim and pliable as a credit card. Those types of thin, tiny or just down right unusual shapes could be created if there were batteries that were both slim, flexible and also powerful enough to run the gadgets. It’s the batteries, it turns out, that are the main barrier to modern electronics design. But in a small, brightly-lit lab in an office park behind the Oakland Airport in Alameda, Calif., a young startup called Imprint Energy, is using research created at the University of California, Berkeley to develop just such a battery that could free gadget makers from the constraints of the standard lithium ion battery. Well, that’s the plan anyways. Using zinc, instead of lithium, and screen printing technology, Imprint Energy is already churning out low volumes of its ultrathin, energy-dense, flexible, and low cost rechargeable batteries for pilot customers.The problem is, it’s hard to make standard lithium ion batteries thin and flexible, explained Imprint Energy CEO Devin MacKenzie in an interview in the startup’s lab last week. There’s a “lot of packaging,” required to seal off the highly reactive lithium in the battery from the environment, says MacKenzie.
(Alabama.com) Almost two years since a failed intercept during a flight test, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system completed a successful fly-out mission last weekend, according to officials with Boeing. The non-intercept test was held last Sunday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and included the launch of a GMD ground-based interceptor carrying a next-generation Enhanced Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, or EKV. The test measured the EKV’s performance as to the vehicle during stressful space conditions. The data from the test will be used to assess the EKV’s design as well. Produced by Raytheon, the EKV allows the GMD to lock on and eliminate high-speed ballistic missile warheads in space using force of impact. Raytheon officials said the EKV performed as planned, maneuvering the interceptor to the appropriate altitude and closing velocity required for an intercept. The EKV has eight successful intercepts throughout its program life. GMD is the United States’ only defense against long-range ballistic missile threats. Boeing stopped flight tests in early 2011 after a guidance error caused a failed intercept in a December 2010 test.