A new study by researchers at MIT and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests that the United States could once again become cost-competitive in photovoltaic solar cell manufacturing. In 2011, China produced 63 percent of all solar panels worlwide, according to the report. But a “bottom-up” cost analysis used by the report authors says the country’s dominance is based on economies of scale and well-developed supply chains, not low labor costs and strong government support as is widely believed. The report says technological innovations could rapidly level the playing field, and improvements under way in every step of the PV manufacturing process—from thinner silicon wafers to greater cell efficiency to better ways of mounting the cells in a panel—could end up making them highly competitive with other sources of power.
According to a new market report, conservative estimates for metal oxide nanoparticle production in 2012 are 270,041 tons, rising to more than 1.6 million tons by 2020. Metal oxide nanoparticles have novel electronic, optical, magnetic, catalytic, and mechanical properties that depend greatly on their size, structure, and shape. The report covers 15 nanoparticle materials, including alumina, ceria, magnesia, titania, yttria, zinc oxide, and zirconia, and some mixed-metal oxides. Information on consumption of metal oxide nanoparticles by industry, applications, prices, and profiles of supplier companies round out the report.
Lafarge has announced the sale of its Honduras cement operations to Cementos Argos, Colombia’s largest cement manufacturer. Assets consist of an integrated cement plant with annual capacity of 1 million metric tons and a 300,000-metric ton grinding station. Totaling $306 million, the transaction is subject to relevant regulatory approvals. In an effort to reduce its debt, Lafarge has divested itself of assets totaling €1.75 billion since January 2012.
According to a new report from NanoMarkets, ceramics represent a major opportunity in the medical materials market over the next few years. Already extensively used in orthopedic and dental implants, bioceramics and ceramic composites have great potential to heal long segmental bone defects, the report says, also citing scaffold-guided bone tissue as a future application for medical ceramics. The publication’s primary goal is to identify market opportunities in the medical ceramics sector over the next eight years. It includes a granular forecast and analysis of the more established medical ceramics markets as well as a comprehensive analysis of medical nanoceramics, especially as nanomaterials enhance the healing properties of implantable materials. The report also profiles key suppliers and analyzes the complete supply chain for medical ceramics.
Blasch Precision Ceramics (Albany, N.Y.) has announced it can provide urethane-encapsulated ceramic shapes directly from its plant, reducing costs and lead time. The integrated Verkapse process can deliver complete encapsulated assemblies in just a few weeks, according to the company. It can be used to produce parts from any of the company’s wear materials, including alumina, silicon carbide, and silica. The process can mold features in the urethane such as mounting flanges. Applications include cyclones, pumps, pipe spools and elbows, chutes, and impact pads.