Some surprising materials being used in interesting ways.

Nanocrystals and nickel catalyst substantially improve light-based hydrogen production

Hydrogen is an attractive fuel source because it can easily be converted into electric energy and gives off no greenhouse emissions. A group of chemists at the University of Rochester is adding to its appeal by increasing the output and lowering the cost of current light-driven hydrogen-production systems. The work was led by chemistry professors Richard Eisenberg, Todd Krauss, and Patrick Holland, and included graduate students Zhiji Han and Fen Qiu. Their paper will be published in the Nov. 23 issue of Science. The process is similar to other photocatalytic systems; it needs a chromophore (the light-absorbing material), a catalyst to combine protons and electrons and a solution, which in this case is water. Cadmium selenide quantum dots were the chromophore, and nickel nitrate was the nickel catalyst. The nanocrystals were capped with DHLA (dihydrolipoic acid) to make them soluble, and ascorbic acid was added to the water as an electron donor. Photons from a light source excite electrons in the nanocrystals and transfer them to the nickel catalyst. When two electrons are available, they combine on the catalyst with protons from water, to form a hydrogen molecule.

Sweet new approach discovered to help produce metal casting parts, reduce toxicity

Based on a new discovery by researchers at Oregon State University, the world’s multi-billion dollar foundry industry may soon develop a sweet tooth. Some modern technologies use various types of binders with foundry sands and other materials to form sophisticated metal casting molds. While effective, some materials used today, such as furan resins and phenol formaldehyde resins, can emit toxic fumes during the process. However, experts in adhesion science in the OSU College of Forestry have discovered and applied for a patent on a new use of a compound that appears to also work surprisingly well for this purpose. They say it should cost less than existing binders, is completely renewable and should be environmentally benign. It’s called sugar.

Sherwin-Williams to buy Mexico City company in $2.34 billion deal

Sherwin-Williams Co. (Cleveland, Ohio) is making a major effort to expand its North American operations by signing an agreement to acquire Consorcio Comex, S.A. de C.V., of Mexico City for $2.34 billion. Sherwin-Williams said the purchase price includes assumed debt in the all-cash transaction. Comex, founded in 1952, is privately held and has operations in Latin America, the United States and Canada. It had sales last year of $1.4 billion. The company makes and sells architectural and industrial coatings in Mexico through 3,300 stores and other points of sale. In the United States, Comex sells paint and coatings products under a variety of brand names through 240 company-operated paint stores. In Canada, it markets multiple brands of paint and coatings through 78 company-operated paint stores and about 1,500 independent paint dealers.

Quartz Imaging introduces next generation FA-LIMS system at ISTFA 2012

Quartz Imaging Corporation will be showcasing its newest release of its FA-LIMS system (Failure Analysis Laboratory Information System) at the International Symposium for Testing & Failure Analysis (ISTFA 2012), held in Phoenix, Ariz., on November 13th and 14th. The first generation of the Quartz Basic LIMS and FA-LIMS has been successfully deployed in many companies. Quartz FA-LIMS is designed specifically for semiconductor failure analysis labs. The new FA-LIMS system uses new underlying technology to operate with Windows Server 2012 and supports the latest browsers including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari. This web-based system has an improved security model making it easier to administer system security. The job management process has been further streamlined from previous versions while providing more advanced management reports of key performance indicators.

Building bones from wood

European research has investigated ways of transforming complex, organised natural products such as wood to make materials suitable for rebuilding the human skeletal system. The metamorphosis of wood to a ceramic that is identical to the mineral part of bone tissue hydroxyapatite takes place at the molecular or nano-level. The EU-funded “New bio-ceramisation processes applied to vegetable hierarchical structures” (TEM-PLANT) project aims to develop and apply novel processes to hierarchical materials like wood to produce smart ceramics that behave like bone and ligaments. TEM-PLANT developed several types of materials with huge practical potential. These included bone scaffolding to help bone regrowth with properties very like the real thing. There is a strong possibility that the new scaffolding concept could make an appearance in the clinic in the next 5 to 10 years. Success has also been achieved for that all-important soft skeletal tissue. The project team have shown in vivo that natural polymers can be processed to produce regenerative scaffolds for both ligaments and tendons. (Original information provided by the National Research Council of Italy.)