12-31 holiday ornaments

[Image above] Credit: PxHere

With less than 24 hours until we reenter the “Roaring Twenties,” it’s eye-opening to look back at all the boundaries we pushed in the 2010s, in fields from energy harvesting (January/February 2010 Bulletin) to residential building materials (December 2019 Bulletin).

For myself, 2019 is the first full year I can reflect on all the boundary-pushing discoveries we reported on in Ceramic Tech Today. And there were a lot of them, which makes it hard to choose only five posts.

My five favorite CTTs highlight a few of what I consider the most surprising discoveries in 2019.

A perfect material for lasers is the 3D analogue of graphene

“Researchers hoped graphene would prove an ideal material for terahertz-range lasers, but those hopes were dashed in the early 2010s. Now, researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology propose Weyl semimetals, a 3D analogue of graphene, could be the answer.”

One of my favorite posts to write this year was on Weyl semimetals. Many aspects of the research, including Auger recombination and Weyl fermions, were topics on which I had only cursory knowledge, and so writing this post taught me a lot about the challenges to achieving terahertz-range lasers. I look forward to seeing if Weyl semimetals can achieve in the 2020s what graphene could not do in the early 2010s!

Flexible glasses in bulk form: A look at sulfur–selenium glasses

“While researching the structure of sulfur-selenium glasses, University of California, Davis researchers discovered something exciting—these glasses are flexible in bulk form!”

If my undergraduate physics research taught me anything, it is that inorganic glasses are brittle. To find out that an inorganic glass is not only flexible, but flexible in bulk form, was an unexpected discovery that I was really excited to report on!

Borophene, graphene’s lesser-known cousin, advances as 2D materials platform

“Borophene, a 2D sheet of boron atoms, is extremely flexible, strong, and lightweight—even more so than graphene, its carbon-based cousin. Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Yale University have succeeded in growing large-area sheets of borophene for the first time.”

Because so much 2D materials research focuses on graphene, I find it exciting to discover research on other 2D materials. Borophene was first experimentally confirmed in 2015, and I was thrilled to learn we may be able to study it more closely now that it can be grown in large-area sheets.

Welding glass to metal: ‘Breakthrough’ expands realm of manufacturing possibilities

“Researchers from Heriot-Watt University and industry successfully welded glass and metal together using an ultrafast laser microwelding process. They are now developing a prototype for the laser processing system to take it closer to commercialization.”

Welding dissimilar materials like glass and metal is difficult due to the materials’ different thermal properties. So a technique that joins these materials without use of adhesives is definitely worth acknowledging in my year-end highlights.

Shorting out? Multilayer ceramic capacitor shortage limits consumer electronic availability

“The market for multilayer ceramic capacitors is ballooning with the rise of connected devices in our homes, automobiles, and pockets—but supply is not keeping pace with demand.”

My final favorite post is not about a new discovery but on a topic I found just as surprising. We often point to rare earth element shortages as a major roadblock to electronic devices production. However, shortages of multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) are potentially more threatening because many people do not realize this shortage exists. I loved this CTT for clearly laying out the factors driving the shortage and for discussing some of the challenges to keeping pace with demand.