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Here is what we are hearing:
Malvern Instruments conducted its global launch of an exciting addition to its Zetasizer family, bringing unique protein measurement and novel microrheology capabilities to this established and market-leading range of dynamic light scattering systems. The new high-specification Zetasizer Nano ZSP delivers enhanced sensitivity and comes with advanced software that drives the two new measurement types. Like other systems in the range, the Zetasizer Nano ZSP is a single, compact unit. It shares the simplicity and ease of use that have made Zetasizer Nano systems a firm favorite in industry and academia for almost a decade. Where the Zetasizer Nano ZSP stands apart, however, is in its unique performance specifications for both size and zeta potential measurement. One of the most significant applications is the measurement of the zeta potential.
With the opening of a new Technology Centre in Singapore, Michelman continues to increase its commitment and investment in the Asia Pacific region. The Centre is strategically designed to allow for fast, efficient development of new water-based coatings and surface modifying additives formulated specifically for the Asia Pacific markets. The Centre is designed architecturally to allow for collaboration between Michelman chemists and application specialists, customers, visiting scientists, local think tanks, universities, and others involved in the research and product development process. Michelman has also installed a new 400 kg pilot batch reactor and state-of-the-art testing equipment at the Centre that are used to help customers accelerate the concept-to-commercialization cycle. Michelman has built, equipped and staffed the facility to serve customers of its paper and flexible packaging coatings, as well as its surface modifiers and additives for paint and coatings. Michelman is a global developer of water-based barrier and functional coatings for flexible film packaging, paperboard and corrugated cartons; and water-based surface modifiers, additives and polymers for numerous industries including wood care, industrial coatings, inks, fibers, composites and construction products.
Xaar announced the launch of the first commercially available Xaar 1001 GS12-based tile printers at Tecnargilla 2012. The Xaar 1001 GS12, which joins the company’s Xaar 1001 GS6, was designed to meet specific ceramics sector requirements. Many of the major manufacturers of tile decoration equipment have chosen to develop new machines using Xaar’s latest printhead because it delivers considerable quality and production performance benefits. Intesa-Sacmi, KERAjet, Projecta SiTi B&T, and TecnoFerrari will present the first printers to feature the Xaar 1001 GS12 at this year’s show.
In a press conference on Sept. 21, 2012, Honda president and CEO, Takanobu Ito, says Honda has been developing a household SOFC cogeneration system in collaboration with NGK Spark Plug. The technology will be tested in a demonstration house featuring Honda’s Smart Home System. The SHS is expected to be introduced to the marketplace in 2015.
Morgan Ceramics will be showcasing a broad range of products at the Investment Casting Institute’s 59th Annual Technical Conference and Equipment Expo, Oct. 7-10, 2012, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn. Highlighting how it works with other businesses within the Morgan Crucible group to provide complete thermal management solutions, the booth will feature products from Morgan Thermal Ceramics, Morgan Technical Ceramics, and Morgan Molten Metal Systems. MTC will be promoting its successful development of a Superwool mold wrap product as an alternative to refractory ceramic fiber high temperature insulation. MTC Certech will be showcasing its full line of injection-molded ceramics engineered for investment casting, including equiax, DS and single crystal, airfoil and IGT cores, and aircraft and general hardware cores. Products on display from MTC Bolt will include rollers, thermocouple tubes, and other components for thermal processing applications, including those made of alumina, Alsint 997, Mullite, Pythagoras Silicon carbide, and Halsic. MorganMMS will be highlighting an extensive range of crucibles and foundry products. On display will be the new Z2 Syncarb crucible, which offers significant advantages in energy efficiency including higher thermal conductivity.
Without indigenous supplies, Japan’s government has been making aggressive moves to establish rare earth recycling programs, and the country’s automotive manufacturers were expected to be among the leaders. Sure enough, one manufacturer has just announced it is nearly ready to launch a large-scale effort to recycle rare earths. What’s surprising, to me, is that announcement is coming from Honda and not behemoth competitor, Toyota.
Last week, the Honda revealed it has been setting up what it claims is the first mass-production process to recapture rare earth metals from used Honda parts and will have the plant in operation by the end of April. This is a actually a joint effort with Honda working with Japan Metals & Chemicals Co.
In particular, Honda seems to be aiming first at recovering rare earth in used nickel-metal hydride batteries and claims it will harvest the rare earths from batteries from both Japan and other markets. Honda had already been recycling the nickel content. Honda says it plans in the future to use the rare earth extraction process on a variety of used parts.
Honda is the second-leading manufacturer of passenger cars in Japan, but Toyota produces three-times that number. Honda has sold around 800,000 HEVs, but again, it is dwarfed by Toyota, which has sold 3.5 million (including 2.5 million Prius sedans). Toyota also uses a lithium-ion battery in some of its HEV and plug-in HEV vehicles.
Honda says, “the successful stabilization of the extraction process at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. made possible the extraction of rare earth metals in a mass-production process with purity as high as that of newly mined and refined metals.” Honda claims it can recover 80% of rare earth metals contained in the used NiMH batteries.
Japan is the world’s biggest importer of rare earths, and in February the government announced that it initially would be offering $65 million in subsidies for projects that would allow the nation to reduce rare earth imports, including recycling efforts, followed by another $45 million later in the year. The government is also considering other steps to require central and local government officials to support rare earth recycling. A story in The Japan Times Online reports that the nation’s Environment Ministry says, “the annual amount of used electronic products disposed of in Japan stands at 650,000 tons, from which 280,000 tons of rare earth and other metal resources worth ¥84.4 billion [$1.03 billion] could potentially be recycled.”
Some are giving Honda praise for setting the standard for other manufacturers, and it is somewhat surprising to see Honda make this type of announcement before Toyota. On the other hand, Honda’s smaller size gives it less bargaining power with rare earth importers and, perhaps, it was feeling more pressure to act quickly.
In late 2010, Hitachi also announced a rare earth recycling program, aimed at recovering materials from compressors and computer hard drives, and said at that time that it hoped its system would be functioning by 2013.
Here is what we are hearing:
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced plans to launch a new Energy Innovation Hub for advanced research on batteries and energy storage with an investment of up to $120 million over five years. The hub, which will be funded at up to $20 million in fiscal year 2012, will focus on accelerating research and development of electrochemical energy storage for transportation and the electric grid. Letters of Intent to apply are due on March 1, 2012 with full applications due on May 31, 2012. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form partnerships when submitting their proposals. The award selection is expected this summer.
The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of joint control of the Spanish company MaxamCorp Holding S.L. by US-based Advent International Corp. and approximately 110 individuals including Maxam’s current managers, technical experts, other employees and co-investors. The Commission examined the vertical links created by the proposed transaction and concluded that the merged entity would continue to face sufficient competition. Advent manages a number of investment funds. It also controls H.C. Starck GmbH, which is active mainly in refractory metals and advanced ceramics, and OXEA S.a.r.l., which primarily produces chemicals.
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Nanocerox recently invested in a new analytical lab at its corporate headquarters located in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Nanocerox continues to invest internally in our infrastructure to ensure the quality of our nanopowders,” says Todd Stefanik, vice president of technology. “As a result of our recent construction of a cleanroom facility for processing nanopowders into transparent ceramic parts, we realized significant improvements in the optical quality of optical parts produced at Nanocerox. With this redesign of our analytical laboratories, we allow ourselves to measure ceramic powder, slurry and transparent part characteristics to ensure consistent production of high optical quality laser, window and scintillator components.”
Ceradyne CEO Joel P. Moskowitz spoke at Cowen and Company’s 33rd Annual Aerospace/Defense Conference in New York on Feb. 8, 2012. He addressed the company’s business fundamentals and growth strategies. Ceradyne develops, manufactures, and markets advanced technical ceramic products and components for defense, industrial, automotive/diesel, and commercial applications. In many high performance applications, products made of advanced technical ceramics meet specifications that similar products made of metals, plastics or traditional ceramics cannot achieve.
Shares of U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. started trading Feb. 1, 2012, as the mining firm with roots going back more than a century raised $200 million in its initial public offering. The producer of silica used in hydraulic fracturing and solar panels was acquired in 2008 by affiliates of Golden Gate Private Equity Inc. It ranks as the second-largest producer in the United States after Unimin, a unit of Belgium-based Sibelco Group. The company originated in West Virginia as a supplier of raw material for glass used in the manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh, before it moved to its current headquarters in Frederick, Md. The company’s growth prospects are tied partially to the rise in domestic shale oil and gas production, which uses sand to break up rock underground to free-up fossil fuel in the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking.
For the first time in the 12-year history of the Greencars.org Greenest Vehicle List, an electric vehicle has topped the list, based on the 14th annual comprehensive environmental rankings provided by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Mitsubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle claimed the top spot from the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which, up until this year, had held the top spot for 8 years running. The i-MIEV scored a high score of 58, the highest Green Score ever awarded since the ACEEE rankings were started back in 1998. The Mitsubishi i-MIEV managed a combined city and highway fuel economy of 112 miles per gallon equivalent.
Ya gotta hand it to Honda for positioning itself at the front of the this game-changing technology. On the heels of the release of its FCX Clarity sedan, Honda displayed a three-seater fuel cell sports car, the FC Sport Wednesday at the LA car show. It has a low profile and centers the driver in the front and adds two passenger seats in the rear. Basically, it uses the same V Flow fuel stack as the Clarity. The V Flow is a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. I haven’t seen a demonstration of exactly how this works, but Honda says, “The enclosed canopy opens upward from the rear to allow for entry and exit. Honda is also trying to leverage the max out of the clean-tech theme. From its press release:
The glacier white body colour is intended to convey the FC Sport’s clean environmental aspirations while the dark wheels and deeply tinted glass provide a symbolic contrast befitting of the vehicle’s unique combination of clean power and high performance. Green construction techniques further contribute to a reduced carbon footprint. An organic, bio-structure theme is carried through to the body construction where exterior panels are intended to use plant-derived bio-plastics.
Update: Here’s a video of the FC Sport, but the host spoils the news by revealing that . . . well, just watch and see: