Published on July 15th, 2013 | Edited By: Jim Destefani
The Department of Energy’s network of 17 national laboratories and five related facilities has been responsible for a multitude of materials science and other innovations since World War II. Now Washington think tanks, Congressional leaders, and the new Secretary of Energy are beginning to look at how possible reforms to the labs’ structure and management could bring them into the 21st century and facilitate transfer of lab-developed technologies to industry to boost the US economy.
A joint report (pdf) from three ideologically disparate think tanks—the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the Center for American Progress—got the reform ball rolling in June. Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who became energy secretary in May, drafted a letter in response to a query from the US House of Representatives’ Energy Subcommittee expressing his willingness to consider reforms, and last week the subcommittee held a hearing on the matter.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Credit: DOE
The report, entitled Turning the Page: Reimagining the National Labs in the 21st Century Innovation Economy, makes several recommendations on how the lab network could be improved to address changing scientific and technological challenges and promote closer ties to industry to move technologies from the basic research to the industrial implementation phase.
The national laboratories manage more than $10 billion of scientific and national security activities, according to the report, which says: “…As the nature of technology and the needs of the nation have evolved, the lab management and stewardship model has failed to keep pace. This report proposes a series of pragmatic nonpartisan policy reforms needed to ensure the labs remain effective and continue to deliver national benefits to the taxpayers.
“The working group’s policy reforms described herein have three main goals:
Increasing the effectiveness of each dollar spent on research to get the greatest benefit to taxpayers,
Ensuring that labs are well positioned to leverage private-sector investment in serving the national interest,
Making lab research more nimble, relevant, and accessible to public and private interests.”
More timely and efficient transfer of lab-developed technologies to the market is one of the key drivers of the reform movement. The report also suggests allowing labs to charge the market rate, rather than cost recovery, for services; merging the existing Offices of Science, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, and Nuclear into a new Office of Science and Technology, which would coordinate all research functions; eliminating top-down overhead accounting rules; expanding DOE’s Agreements for Commercializing Technology program, and creating a high-level task force that would be aimed at giving the labs greater authority to manage themselves and developing better technology-transfer metrics.
Researchers at Penn State University are using sound waves to position nanowires in repeatable patterns for potential use in a variety of sensors, optoelectronics and nanoscale circuits. The researchers looked at the placement of metallic nanowires in solution on a piezoelectric substrate, applying an alternating current to the substrate to create a standing surface acoustic wave in the solution that positions the nanowires nodes in the wave, where they remain. They also used perpendicular currents to form 3D grid patterns.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created movies of the crystallization of phase change materials used for optical and resistive memory. A solid understanding of crystallization kinetics during laser and resistive heating is extremely important, because kinetics directly impact device speed, according to the scientists.
Through-Focus Scanning Optical Microscopy can detect differences as small as 10 nm in the 3D shapes of circuit, according to scientist at the National Insititute of Stnadards and Technology. The method uses a conventional optical microscope, but rather than taking a single image, it collects 2-D images at different focal positions to form a 3-D data space. A computer then extracts brightness profiles from these multiple out-of-focus images and uses the differences between them to construct the TSOM image.
The United States should establish a National Sustainability Policy and take additional steps to encourage federal agencies to collaborate on sustainability challenges that demand the expertise of many agencies, such as improving disaster resilience and managing ecosystems, says a new report from the National Research Council. Currently, the government is generally not organized to deal with the complex, long-term nature of sustainability challenges, the report says. Statutes and government culture encourage agencies to focus on a single area — energy, water, or health, for example — with little attention to how areas affect one another. The report offers a decision-making framework that can be applied to sustainability-related projects and programs. Given the inherent complexities and uncertainties of many sustainability issues, strategies may need to be altered based on emerging results; the framework builds in an “adaptive management” approach that allows for these adjustments. Although the framework can be applied to many sustainability challenges, the committee identified four challenges of national importance: connections among energy, food and water, diverse and healthy ecosystems, resilience of communities to natural disasters and other extreme events, and human health and well-being.
Nanomaterials and nanotechnology are key to innovation in industries from pharmaceuticals to consumer electronics, a point made clear by the White House’s Materials Genome Initiative. To help meet the growing demand for workers who can keep pace with these emerging technologies, North Carolina State University is launching a master’s degree program in nanoengineering. The degree program begins this fall and will hold classes on campus, but will also be the first master’s degree program in nanoengineering that is offered via online distance education – making the program available to students who are already in the workforce. The program will also offer concentrations in biomedical science in nanoengineering, materials science in nanoengineering, and nanoelectronics and nanophotonics.
(MIT Technology Review) Wind and solar power keep getting cheaper, and that is encouraging their adoption even as government subsidies falter, a new report from the International Energy Agency concludes. In just a few years, more power will come from renewables than from natural gas, the report said. However, while renewable energy use is growing, so is the use of coal, which means that so far, carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. Coal is attractive because it is cheap, and because it produces electricity on demand—it is not subject to the time of day or the weather. The US Energy Information Adminstration has a helpful chart showing the relative costs of various electricity generating technologies, including wind, solar, nuclear, coal and natural gas.
Published on September 21st, 2012 | Edited By: Peter Wray
Nuclear power plant control room. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.
When Japan’s government last week suddenly announced that it would phase out its nuclear power plants by 2040, it probably thought it would be scoring some popularity points with its population where public opinion has been strong in opposing the continued use of nuclear power since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. But, the policy announcement clearly caught a lot of people—inside and outside the country—by surprise. Perhaps the two groups most caught off guard were Japan’s industrial sector and the communities where the nuclear power plants are located.
Thus, it isn’t totally surprising that government officials are attempting to “walk back” the policy and recast the phase-out as a general “target” rather than a specific goal.
Reuters reports, “Since the plan was announced on Friday, Japan’s powerful industry lobbies have urged the government rethink the nuclear-free commitment, arguing it could damage the economy and would mean spending more on pricey fuel imports.” The news agency goes on to say that although the Japanese Cabinet approved a new policy that would move the country to less reliance on nuclear power, a specific date for closing all reactors was omitted.
As with most reactors, the ones in Japan were designed for a 40-year lifespan. The approved policy calls for operators to adhere to that lifespan, however the same policy also permits the designed life to be exceeded if regulators certify a reactor’s safety.
There still will be a ban on new reactors, but it is not clear what the fate will be of the two reactors currently under construction
The government is also hoping that a newly launched, more credible regulatory agency will ease public concerns.
Published on September 14th, 2012 | Edited By: Peter Wray
Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011
This is a bit of a surprise, and I have no idea how this will fully reverberate through the scientific and technical communities, but Japan and France apparently have made major decisions to back away from a reliance on nuclear power, and in the case of the former, move to embrace renewables on a much larger scale.
Nuclear power, obviously, has been a touchy subject in Japan ever since the Fukushima Daiichi mess. Reuters now reports that Japan, which once produced 10 percent of the world’s total nuclear power, will shut down all of its plants by 2040. If I understand the proposal correctly, no new reactors will be built and all existing reactors will be shut down as they reach the end of their 40-year life span. This apparently means the shutdowns will start in earnest around 2030. The country has about 50 reactors.
Japan can’t unilaterally lose that much energy-generation capacity, so it is also announcing that it is setting a target of making renewables 30 percent of its power portfolio.
On a lesser scale, but perhaps more profoundly because of its unflinching dedication to nuclear power, France is making news with its decision to initiate a big reduction in nuclear power in that nation’s portfolio. Reuters says President Fransois Hollande is pledging to shrink nuclear power from 75 percent of the mix to 50 percent.
To complicate matters, Hollande is also calling for the European Union to slash CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2040.
Previously, Italy, Switzerland and Germany also pledged to end their reliance on nuclear power by various dates. Germany has set the cutoff for 2022; Italy is aiming at 2034.
Returning to Japan’s policy, the BBC is predicting the decision may trigger a fight within industrial sectors:
The plan faces strong opposition from businesses. Before the nuclear disaster, Japan had wanted to raise its nuclear energy use to 50% by 2030.
“There is no way we can accept this—I cannot think this is technologically possible,” Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
Japan’s policy announcement also pledges to cut CO2 emissions by 10 percent from 2010 levels.
Neither country has outlined how the CO2 cuts will be achieved. In the short run, the AFP News Service says the country’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan mentions the use of smart metering, developing resources in nearby waters—presumably gas and oil, plus expanded use of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels.
In the cement industry, the ball mill is probably the nemesis of all staffs. Why? Everybody knows that a cement mill is a technological heresy on an energetic point of view. The mill’s efficiency is extremely poor and the work to get some improvement is huge! We hope this site will give a little help for those who spend a large part of their lives for their ball mill. In this site, you will find some tools, such as calculators for volume load power, cement mill-2 compartments power, cement mill-3 compartments power, monochamber mill power, raw mill power, birotator central discharge mill power, ball charge make-up, Tromp curve, RRB Curve, drying capacities and heat balance.
(GigaOm) As early as this summer, Solar Mosaic plans to start offering people a way to buy into rooftop solar panel projects, and make back a return on their investment over time. Essentially for the investor it will be like buying the safe and predictable return of a mutual fund. The way it works is that a building owner will lease the solar equipment and enter into a contract for a fixed, low, electricity rate, commonly over about two decades. Solar Mosaic is working with solar lease providers like Sungevity, but Solar Mosaic is the one that organizes the crowd-funding of the money to get the solar rooftop installed. Once the project gets funded Kickstart-style, the rooftop solar panel installation process starts. Solar rooftops are a surprisingly low risk investment. As Daniel Rosen, cofounder of Solar Mosaic put it in an article for us last month: solar loans are backed by a revenue-producing asset (electricity) and the building owners are just continuing to pay for the electricity that they are used to paying for day in and day out. There is little risk to investors that the buildings owners will default on their electricity payments, particularly since they are also saving money on their energy bills from day one. In addition the costs, timelines and returns for solar panels are pretty transparent as the technology has become increasingly commoditized.
Westinghouse Electric Company and the Missouri Electric Alliance led by Ameren Missouri announced the formation of a utility participation group called the NexStart SMR Alliance. The Alliance is a consortium of current and prospective nuclear plant owners and operators and includes cooperative, municipal and investor-owned electric service providers, as well as public enterprises to advance energy security. Alliance members signed a Memorandum of Understanding that recognizes the importance of advancing nuclear energy in helping secure clean, safe and reliable electricity in the future by deploying the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor. The initial membership of the NexStart SMR Alliance includes Ameren Missouri, Exelon Generation Company, Dominion Virginia Power, FirstEnergy Generation, Tampa Electric Company, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, Savannah River National Laboratory, and members of the Missouri Alliance: Missouri Public Utility Alliance; Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Inc.; The Empire District Electric Company; and Kansas City Power and Light Company. Westinghouse and Alliance members are also in discussions with other utilities and enterprises considering NexStart SMR Alliance membership in order to support the potential deployment of a Westinghouse SMR at Ameren’s Callaway Energy Center in central Missouri.
Architectural coatings protect and beautify buildings, but use tremendous amounts of petroleum, water and energy. Environmental imperatives mean that sustainability of architectural coatings is increasingly vital, and their role in building energy efficiency is growing with the widespread acceptance of building standards such as LEED and NZEB, according to a Lux Research report. Lux defines sustainability along three dimensions – environmental impact, energy efficiency and resource efficiency – to create a simple “Sustainability Value.” Comparing this metric with “Technical Value,” Lux Analysts mapped out the technologies that will impact the architectural coatings market. “Sustainable coatings technologies reduce the energy, resource, and environmental impact of paints and coatings, but often get confused with ‘greenwashed’ unsustainable alternatives,” says Aditya Ranade, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, Painting a Green Future: Opportunities in Sustainable Architectural Coatings.
Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. announced its products have achieved a combined one million hours of operation. The company’s first field trial units were operated in Australia, New Zealand and Germany from early 2006. In 2007, the company developed its high-efficiency Gennex fuel cell module, which is the core of the company’s BlueGen product and integrated mCHP products. Up to May 1, 189 units have been operated at Ceramic Fuel Cells’ facilities in Melbourne and Germany, as well as at customer sites in nine countries. Brendan Dow, managing director, said milestones such as this are important. “These units are not just operating in our labs, but at many customer sites in nine countries around the world,” he says.
(MaterialsViews) Bayer MaterialScience plans to establish a global wind energy competence and development center at its existing site in Otterup, Denmark. The new competence center will spearhead and coordinate the global development activities for advanced materials used in wind energy applications. The plan for the center underlines the commitment of Bayer MaterialScience to develop innovative and sustainable materials and technologies for generating power from renewable sources. It will bundle the development capabilities from across the company’s entire portfolio of polyurethanes, polycarbonates as well as coatings, adhesives and specialties materials, pooling expertise from research and development teams around the world. While full details of the global wind energy competence center have yet to be decided, Bayer MaterialScience CEO Patrick Thomas sees it as an opportunity to deploy the company’s expertise in chemistry and processing to help achieve a sustainable reduction in the cost of generating energy from wind turbines.
(MaterialsViews) The Carl Zeiss AG Supervisory Board has elected Dieter Kurz as the new chair of its supervisory board, effective immediately. “With Kurz, we are gaining a chair who is very familiar with the company and the challenges of our portfolio through his many years of successful work as a member of the executive board and president and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG,” says Michael Kaschke, president and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG. “We at Carl Zeiss are looking forward to working with him.” Kurz was already appointed as chair of the shareholder council of the Carl Zeiss Foundation in March. According to the foundation’s constitution, this means that he is a member of the supervisory boards of the two foundation enterprises, Schott AG and Carl Zeiss AG, and is to be elected as chair by the two supervisory boards.
Representatives of leading international companies in the solar photovoltaic industry have announced the founding of the Global Solar Council, a CEO-level industry coalition whose aim is to expand the global deployment of solar energy in a sustainable and cost-competitive way. Global Solar Council members will engage with policymakers worldwide to demonstrate the progress towards abundant, affordable and low emissions energy already made possible by the solar industry and to emphasize the importance of a supportive policy and trade environment, which will enable the ongoing development of competitively-priced solar energy, driving job creation and economic growth. Through its members, the Global Solar Council brings industry knowledge and insights from all sides of the solar photovoltaic value chain; from the supply of materials to product manufacturing and financing, policy, research and innovation, cross-border cooperation, and grid development and management. Council founding members are Applied Materials, Dow Corning, DuPont Electronics & Communication, First Solar, Lanco Solar, Phoenix Solar and Suntech.
Conventional metalizing and brazing techniques used for Alumina and sapphire are not directly applicable to ALON. However, Surmet has now successfully demonstrated a novel metalizing technique that results in hermetic brazed joints with high strength and durability while preserving ALON’s optical, IR and RF transparency. Mechanical integrity of the braze joint is maintained over a wide range of temperatures. This is a significant development as it enables materials and engineering challenges to be addressed in such applications as: sensor housings, windows for harsh chemical and windows for high pressure/temperature environments. The bonding of ALON to engineering metals and alloys such as Kovar, Hexalloy, stainless steel, niobium and molybdenum is now possible.
Kyocera Corp., Osaka Gas Co. Ltd., Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd., Chofu Seisakusho Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. recently announced that they have completed co-development of a residential-use solid oxide fuel cell co-generation system. The resulting product-ENE-FARM Type S-reportedly achieves a power generation efficiency of 46.5%, the highest level in the world for a residential-use fuel cell. The SOFC system has been developed based upon the companies’ advanced technologies. Within the co-development agreement, Kyocera produces the cell stack; Aisin the generation units with the incorporated cell stack ; and Chofu the hot-water supply and heating unit using exhausted heat. Osaka Gas will commence sales of the system on April 27 (only in the Japanese market). The companies will successively expand their production operations and will strive to promote the widespread use of this SOFC system.
CoorsTek, the world’s largest technical ceramics manufacturer, today officially launched a new online store offering direct sales of their ceramic tubes and ceramic rods. The site enhances customer convenience with online, 24-7 ordering, enables factory-direct orders, and saves customers 10% off list price for a limited time. In business for over 100 years, CoorsTek has produced ceramic tubes and ceramic rods since the 1960s. These components are a staple in industrial furnace and kiln industries to work as heating element supports, temperature measurement components, thermocouples, furnace work tubes, electrical insulators and several other components. They are also used in the investment casting processes to form vanes on aircraft turbine engines and in medical and laser applications.
Onyx Solar CTO, Teodosio del Caño, was invited by Repsol to share his expertise in a science and technology forum organized by Repsol to discuss the scientific challenges laying on a global change environment. In the event, which took place in March at Repsol CTR (Repsol Technology Center) in Madrid, also participated some of the main personalities in Innovation of Spain, such as Fernando Temprano, CTO of Repsol. Del Caño pointed out what are the main challenges, what sectors will need to adapt to a strong technological environment change and what a company should do to becoming a leader in the new scenario ahead.
(The Engineer) E.ON and RWE npower have withdrawn from Horizon Nuclear Power, an equal joint venture aimed at developing a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain. Alternative investors will now be sought to advance Horizon Nuclear Power’s plan to deliver around 6,000 MW of new nuclear power station capacity by 2025 at sites in Wylfa and Oldbury. Both projects would require more than £15 billion of investment. E.ON said in a statement that its decision was made following a full review and against the backdrop of the wider group’s financial constraints. The company will now focus on what it describes as other strategic projects. Prof Dame Sue Ion, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “Not only is new nuclear build stalling, but investment is stalling generally across the energy industry, including the major investment needed for offshore wind projects. Large amounts of capital require large amounts of cash and the recession, especially in Europe, is making access to cash difficult. Companies are very risk averse and worry about the continuity of energy policy and, particularly for renewables, the longevity of subsidies. This decision will bring home to the government how challenging it is when investment decisions are left entirely to the market. We are now in a position where investment by UK utilities in the UK is being affected by decisions taken overseas.”
In the highly detailed report pioneered by Paumanok Publications and Dennis Zogbi since 1993, markets are organized into demand by configuration (MLCC, SLC, MLC axial, MLC radial and chip array); demand by performance (X7R, X5R, Y5V, NPO, X8R and other); demand by MLCC case size (01005, 0201, 0402, 0603, 0805, 1206, 1210 and above); and demand by world region and key consuming country (China, Japan, Germany, US, Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Philippines, Malaysia, Brazil). Market shares are given on a year-over-year basis for the top 23 manufacturers from 2008-2012; and quarterly market shares are also given for the top tier manufacturers. Market shares are also assessed by world region. Ceramic capacitor consumption volume in key end products is also addressed, including handsets, notebooks, desktop computers, tablets and ultrabooks, TV sets, automobiles, other consumer AV equipment and industrial and specialty electronics is also addressed; as is consumption by end-use market segment, including wireless telecommunications, computing, consumer AV, automobiles, power supplies, telecom infrastructure, defense electronics, medical electronics, lighting ballasts, instrumentation and oil and gas electronics.
US demand for well stimulation materials is projected to increase more than 10 percent annually to nearly $12 billion in 2016. Growth will be sustained by continued advances in hydraulic fracturing technology designed to increase the productivity of both new and existing wells. Ongoing growth in horizontal drilling activity and development of shale resources will boost demand for proppants and the fluids used to deliver them into formation fractures. In the early portion of the forecast period, use in oil well drilling will provide most of the impetus for growth, as oil prices are high by historical standards and natural gas prices are not. However, shale gas development activity was strong in 2009, 2010 and 2011, despite low prices. Through the forecast period, shale gas producers will continue to embrace innovations such as multiple-well drilling pad systems and advanced hydraulic fracturing materials in order to improve drilling efficiencies and increase per-well output, all of which will benefit well stimulation material demand.
(Gizmag) Fisker Automotive has revealed the shape of its future with the unveiling of a new design prototype—the Fisker Atlantic. The wraps were taken off the four-door Atlantic – which Fisker sees as the “next step in its transition from start-up automaker to mainstream American manufacturer” – in a preview event on the eve of the New York Auto Show. Like the Karma, Atlantic uses a hybrid range extending set-up. Dubbed EVer (Electric Vehicle with extended range), the system relies on a four-cylinder gasoline engine to generate charge for the vehicle’s lithium ion batteries, but the electric motor provides the drive.
PPG Industries’ fiber glass business presented a technical seminar on Innofiber specialty glass composition fibers during the recent JEC Europe 2012 in Paris. PPG presented key benefits of its glass composition fibers as well as recent laboratory test results from PPG’s Shelby, N.C., fiber glass research and development facility. The results, using rovings that paired Innofiber glass composition fibers and proprietary fiber glass sizing chemistry, displayed how these products exceed the corrosion-resistance and modulus-performance limits of standard E-Glass.
Published on March 27th, 2012 | Edited By: Peter Wray
Love him or hate him, Bill Gates does have influence. In this new Wall Street Journal video of an on-stage interview at WSJ’s recent “ECO:nomics” conference, Gates discusses several key points, including:
• Energy is what enabled civilization to evolve dramatically over the most recent centuries.
• People in “poor” nations pay more for energy than anyone because there is no grid, so they basically are paying for diesel power.
• People, including knowledgable scientists and engineers, underestimate how hard it is to develop and change a global energy system so that we can get to the point where fossil fuels provide only half of the energy needs in 50 years. People tend also not to look deeply at subsidies or appreciate the energy needs of developing world.
• The potential for innovation in the 20-year range can be dramatic. If one looks at the 75-year range, there is a chance to set some aggressive goals and see substantial reductions in CO2.
• People overestimate what can be done now. There are limits because of what has already been installed or what will be installed over the next 20-30 years. But by 2050, however, we could have all new energy generation plants in the “rich” world built with zero CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, we would still need much more time to have significant reductions in CO2 because of dependency on previously installed bases.
• The ability to run digital simulations and models in energy-related work is much more advanced than people appreciate, but the IT experience over the last two decades also tends to make people overly optimistic about the possible speed of innovation in the energy field.
• Gates discusses the need to have at least one of five “miracle” things to happen, such as 1) dramatically increase reliance on natural gas and be aggressive about related carbon capture during gas processes at 90+ percent level or 2) signficant adoption of Gen IV Nuclear energy with full “passive safety” design (doesn’t require human intervention), or 3) address the special storage and transmission needs of energy sources that require “farming” (solar, wind or biofuel).
• Gates says that for every one of these energy innovation paths, we need 200 “crazy” people who think their idea alone can provide the solution, “some of who we will declare ‘sane’ in the future.” He says, “It’s what should happen because it drives both conservation and innovation.”
• For society’s future, he says we need to fund basic energy research at at least twice the level we do right now. That would increase the probability of success for achieving one of the miracles.
• Gates says the greatest energy failure of our energy policy is to not have a carbon tax being imposed or rolled in at some point in the future that incentivizes power industry into reducing CO2 emissions.
• He says the division of financial support for intermittent energy (such as wind) is wrong, with only 2% going to R&D and most of the rest going in various forms of subsidies, tax credits, etc.. for manufacturers and wind farm investors. Gates says he isn’t really talking about things like DOE’s budget, which he believes is just modest, but things that are hidden or not obvious to the public in the form of tax credits, etc. When all that is aggregated, it should seem obvious that we are spending the money foolishly, he says.
• Gates predicts that the lack of political will or good policies in the US over time will be strongly influenced when energy prices in other countries (he suggests China, for example) becomes less expensive in the US.
Published on March 23rd, 2012 | Edited By: Eileen De Guire
Materials engineering will drive development of the next generation of energy efficient vehicles. Credit: Wikipedia.
News is ubiquitous about efforts and advances in the realm of energy, often in the context of transportation, environmental impact and efficiency. Just yesterday, for example, President Obama announced $14.2 million in new DOE funding to develop lightweight materials for advance materials. According to the press release, a 10 percent weight reduction can improve fuel economy by six to eight percent.
Don’t get too excited, though. The new funding will support three specific materials research areas, none of which include ceramic materials:
1. Predictive modeling of carbon fiber composites
2. Predictive modeling of advanced steels
3. Advanced alloy development for automotive and heavy-duty engines.
We know, however, that ceramic materials have properties that are unique, making them critical contributors to engineered systems of materials. But, ceramic materials are subtle; you have to know what you are doing, especially when used in sophisticated applications.
It is no wonder, then, that the Energy, Environment and Transportation track of the 4th International Congress on Ceramics has attracted the largest number of participants. Kevin Fox, of Savannah River National Lab, led the technical programming committee for this track. He says, “Ceramics will be highlighted as the enabling technology for clean and renewable energy production, environmental stewardship, and efficient transportation.”
The triple-themed track covers a lot of ground and addresses issues that are global. Recognizing this, Fox said the programming committee “carefully coordinated the themes [energy, environment, transportation] to reflect the cross-cutting impact of ceramic materials in these topical areas. Representatives from across the globe will provide presentations on the current and future influence of ceramics in these areas, as well as focused accounts of leading edge developments for specific applications.”
Here is a sampling from the ICC4 Energy, Environment and Transportation track. Profiles of invited speakers in the track can be seen on the website. ICC4 is July 15-19 in Chicago.
ENERGY The Unique Role of Ceramics in Energy Technologies: Recent Developments and Opportunities Juan Nino, University of Florida
This talk start with an overview of the unique role that ceramic materials currently play in energy related technologies (chemical, electrical, and nuclear). It will be followed by a summary of recent critical material developments in several areas including fuel cells, batteries and ultracapacitors, the opportunities that these advancements enable and a path to realization will be highlighted. In addition, the essential role that ceramics can play in transitioning from fossil and radioactive energy sources towards a sustainable energy landscape will be emphasized. In particular, ceramic solutions to current materials needs in proton conductors and the nuclear fuel cycle will be presented. The talk will then transition towards the role of ceramics in sustainable electrical energy generation such as thermoelectric and piezoelectric energy harvesting. Finally, the challenge to scientists and engineers from industry, government and academia to realize these opportunities will be discussed.
Change of Energy Mix — Challenges on the Materials Level Wolfgang Rossner, Siemens AG
Sufficient, safe and sustainable generation of energy is an essential key factor for our future global development. The continuous growth of the global population, the progress of industrialization and the increasing urbanization are the main sources for the continuously increasing demand for energy and electric power in particular. To master these challenges and in consideration of the global situation of ‘fuel’ resources, environmental safety and climate change the overall energy mix has started to change. The predominance of fossil and nuclear energy is losing ground while renewable and ‘green’ energy are increasing their contribution. Nevertheless, the change of energy mix has to provide the highest efficiency levels and the lowest emission levels in a holistic evaluation. In consequence this translates to continuous performance improvements of both conventional and renewable power generation. In many cases this is related to the progress of materials performance. High temperature alloys and ceramics in gas turbines or functional coatings and heat transfer materials in solar thermal power plants are just a few examples. Several scenarios will be discussed with respect to the potential of novel and advanced materials to create substantial impact on the future energy mix as well as the challenges where advanced ceramics seem to be predestined to provide progress.
ENVIRONMENT Future of Porous Ceramics in Environmental, Energy and Related Applications Paolo Colombo, University of Padova
Highly porous ceramics are key enabling components for a wide variety of engineering applications, in fields ranging from medicine to the environment, from transportation to energy, from aerospace to defense. The ability to tailor the architecture of the porosity, such as its amount, the pore size, shape and interconnectivity, down to the nano-scale through advanced processing techniques allows researchers and engineers to select the most appropriate set of properties to match the specific requirements of the application. For instance, global environmental concerns over the presence of nano-sized particulate in various environments are prompting researchers to investigate more effective and affordable filters to be used, for example, for the abatement of mobile and stationary diesel emissions, air conditioning, indoor pollution control or individual protection equipments. Typical macro-porous ceramics, in particular ceramic foams, have a low collection efficiency for small dust particles, although they have been extensively used in solid-fluid contact processes in which good fluid mixing degree, increased mass transfer rates and low pressure drop are simultaneously required. A novel development consists in the in-situ growth of nano-wires on the surface of commercially available porous ceramics, via a low cost, effective and versatile method. Porous ceramics play also a vital role in energy generation and storage as catalyst supports, adsorbers, membranes, thermal protection and insulation components; novel processing methods, such as stabilization of foamed slurries via ceramic particles, enable to fabricate large parts in a very wide range of densities, including ultralight components possessing high mechanical strength, therefore extending the range of applications and working conditions in which they can be used. This talk will review the state of the art porous ceramics used in different strategic technological fields, such as environmental management, energy production and storage, and will point out the most promising developments.
Environmental policy and sustainability are core issues within the concrete construction industry. Producers and contractors are increasingly being expected to preserve natural resources while continuing to produce quality products, and thus are searching for construction methods, practices, and products that will promote these objectives. The shift to an environmentally conscious marketplace requires the innovative development of products, practices and procedures. A new, advanced optimization process for concrete mixes, with its main focus on the Nano scale in materials, allows concrete producers to proportion concrete in a new and revolutionary way that achieves new levels of performance, economics and sustainability. This process utilizes optimized proportions of supplementary cementitious materials, non-cementitious fillers, or both, used with special tailored chemical admixtures to meet or exceed performance targets. The understanding of interactions and material properties at the Nano scale allows manipulating and controlling material characteristics at the macro scale. The result are desired concrete properties in the fresh or hardened state that are met without compromising currently accepted practices while improving the state of the art in concrete technology. This presentation will provide an overview of the advanced mix optimization process. In addition, the presentation will illustrate the use of an Eco-Efficiency Analysis methodology to measure the sustainability of concrete. he results of this analysis allows the comparison of different concrete mixes to enable concrete technologists, scientists, engineers and specifiers to choose a concrete mix with the lowest environmental impact for a project.
TRANSPORTATION Micron-Scale Tunable Acicular Mullite Ceramics for Filtration Applications Jim O’Brien, Dow Chemical Company
Acicular mullite (ACM) is a breakthrough, disruptive technology platform for ceramic materials science. The interconnected needle morphology and composition of the ACM microstructure enables this material to exhibit outstanding physical properties and performance attributes that are impossible with conventional ceramics, including high strength, melting temperature, chemical stability, porosity, permeability, and tunable pore size. As such, ACM is an ideal candidate material for numerous high performance applications, particularly filtration and catalysis. By controlling the processing conditions used to produce ACM, the acicular microstructure can be easily tuned at the micron-scale to optimize both porosity and pore size for a particular application. For example, a single ceramic ACM precursor formulation can be used to produce substrates of various forms with porosities ranging from 55-85% and pore sizes ranging from 8-30 microns. ACM is an ideal ceramic for use in diesel engine exhaust aftertreatment applications, such as diesel particulate filters, because products based on ACM provide superior filtration efficiency, pressure drop, hysteresis, fuel economy, packaging size reduction and lower exhaust system cost. The ability to tune the material to high porosity and large pore size also enables high catalyst loading without significant impact to pressure drop. DPFs with integrated de-NOx catalytic functionality (selective catalytic reduction filters) exhibit excellent NOx reduction along with outstanding filtration efficiency, pressure drop performance.
Published on February 20th, 2012 | Edited By: Eileen De Guire
Trends in federal research and development budgets. Credit: OSTP.
Last Monday, President Obama delivered his FY’13 budget proposal to Congress, and today, OSTP chief John Holdren is appearing before the House’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology to offer comments about the civilian science and technology pieces of the proposed budget.
The OSTP has posted a summary (pdf) of the R&D requests in the budget. In a concurrent press release (pdf), the OSTP outlines seven administration goals for “building and fueling America’s engines of discovery”: to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, promote economic growth with a focus on manufacturing, cultivate domestic clean energy, improve healthcare outcomes, address global climate change, manage environmental resources and strengthen national security.
The FY’13 budget requests $140.8 billion for federally supported R&D, which represents an increase of 1.4 percent ($2.0 billion) over the FY’12 enacted level. In today’s testimony (pdf), Holdren says the proposed budget is “designed to ensure that America will continue, in the President’s words, to ‘out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world’.”
Three agencies have been identified as critical to fulfilling the nation’s mission to maintain and advance its economic position: the NSF, DOE and NIST. (Holdren describes them as “jewel-in-the-crown” agencies — an ironic description for agencies that are tasked with driving the economy of a country founded on militant rejection of all things regal, but I digress.) Holdren’s testimony notes that the administration has been working to continue efforts begun under the Bush administration (as part of the America COMPETES Act) to gradually double the budgets (pdf) of these three agencies. The Budget Control Act of 2011 will slow, but not halt, that priority.
Culling through the R&D summary posted on OSTP’s website, provides a glimpse of how things may shake out for the materials science community based on the proposed R&D budgets for agencies that fund the largest chunks of materials science research:
National Science Foundation — $7.4 billion, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2012 enacted levels.
Department of Defense — $71.2 billion for R&D, a $1.5 billion decrease from 2012. The funding request includes $11.9 billion for early-stage science and technology programs, $2.8 billion for DARPA and maintains basic research (6.1) at $2.1 billiion.
NASA — $9.6 billion for R&D on an overall budget on $17.7 biliion, a 2.2 percent ($203 million) bump for R&D, but probably not enough to bring NASA technology up to levels recently recommended by the National Research Council.
DOE — $11.9 billion, an 8.0 percent ($884 million) increase in R&D over 2012 enacted levels. ARPA-E is written in for $350 million, and the DOE budget targets $290 million specifically “to expand activities on innovative manufacturing processes and advanced materials.”
NIST — $708 million for NIST’s intramural labs, a tidy 13.8 percent over 2012 enacted levels, reflecting the administration’s efforts to double its budget. The agency is home to the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership ($128 million request) and the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program ($21 million request).
Department of Homeland Security — $729 million, up 26.3 percent from enacted 2012. The huge increase is to restore cuts imposed in 2012. DHS efforts touch the materials community through R&D on nuclear materials, explosives detection and chemical/biological response systems.
Department of Education — $398 million. This R&D funding addresses the president’s goal of training 100,000 STEM teachers in the next decade and developing educational strategies.
The R&D budget includes budgets for three multi-agency initiatives, including the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NNI member agencies “focus on R&D of materials, devices and systems that exploit the unique … properties that emerge in materials at the nanoscale.” The requested budget is for $1.8 billion, an increase of $70 million over the 2012 enacted budget.
Finally, the contentious issue of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is getting some attention in the budget with collaborative funding streams through DOE, EPA and the Department of the Interior to “understand and minimize the potential environmental, health, and safety impacts of natural gas and oil production.” That’s a broad-ranging mission statement, but materials science has a role to play, for example, with engineered proppants.
For play-by-play commentary, stay tuned to the AAAS website, “R&D Budget and Policy Program.” They do a good job tracking developments and slicing out the parts that are relevant to the science and technology communities. Since 1976, AAAS has issued a comprehensive analysis of the federal R&D budget. Last year it was available in May, so look for a similar report about FY’13 in a few months. The OSTP website, of course, stays abreast of budget developments.
Published on January 16th, 2012 | Edited By: Eileen De Guire
Screenshot from NREL interactive atlas for renewable energy showing energy intensities for solar photovoltaic energy (yellow) and biomass residue (green). Credit: NREL.
People in the renewable and alternative energy business talk about an “energy portfolio,” where the electricity deposited on the local grid will be generated from a mix of what the local natural resources offer (solar, wind, wave power, geothermal) and power plants that can be built anywhere (nuclear, coal).
Like all natural resources, the distribution of energy resources varies. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., recently released an interactive tool, the RE Atlas, that maps the locations of potential renewable energy resources in the US.
In the press release, Dan Getman, whose NREL team developed the tool says, “Ease of use and breadth of data make RE Atlas an excellent tool for policymakers, planners, energy developers, and others who need to better understand the renewable resources available in the United States. RE Atlas is an important addition to NREL’s suite of geospatial tools, because it brings together so many renewable energy datasets in one easy-to-use tool.”
Those datasets include a rich collection NREL maps of energy resources, geographic data and maps, EPA site information, links to research and much more. The energy resources that the atlas maps are
• Hydro (existing small projects) • Geothermal (potential hydrothermal sites) • Biomass residue • Geothermal (enhanced geothermal system) • Concentrated solar power • Solar photovoltaic • Wind speed – offshore • Wind power class – onshore • Wave power density.
Renewable energy resources are distributed as one would expect across the country, and it is interesting to see how broad the swaths of intensity are. For example, solar photovoltaic is most intense in the most southern regions of the Southwest, but it is decently intense in the entire southwestern quadrant of the US. Biomass, too, which would seem to be region-independent, is most intense across the Midwest from the Dakotas down through Missouri.
The intensities of each energy resource are not given in a common energy unit like joules or BTU, but according to the units used to quantify that energy type, which makes it difficult to compare magnitudes of energy available unless you are familiar with the unit conversions. For example, the units for solar photovoltaic energy are kWh/m2/day, biomass is expressed in thousand tons/year, geothermal is categorized into ranges (class 1-5), etc.