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Published on May 31st, 2013 | By: Eileen De Guire

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Ceramics and glass business news of the week

Published on May 31st, 2013 | By: Eileen De Guire

Surmet’s large-scale transparent aluminum oxynitride armor window. The company is on track to scale up fabrication processes to double the size of the windows in the next year. Credit: Surmet.

Surmet achieves major milestone on its ALON window scale-up program

Surmet has successfully delivered 18×35-inch size monolithic ALON windows, achieving a major milestone on its scale-up program supported by US Dept. of Defense funding from DMS&T, Air Force ManTech, and DPA Title III programs. These windows, designed to meet a particular high priority defense application, are the largest transparent ceramic armor windows produced anywhere in the world. These windows will now be laminated and incorporated into the defense system by a major defense contractor. The ultimate goal of the scale-up program is to produce 36×36-inch ALON windows by the 3rd Quarter of 2014. ALON Optical Ceramic combines broadband transparency with excellent mechanical properties and environmental durability. ALON’s cubic structure means that it is transparent in a polycrystalline form, allowing it to be manufactured by powder processing techniques that are suited for scalability in size and production volume. Surmet has established a vertically integrated robust manufacturing process, beginning with synthesis of ALON powder, continuing through forming/heat treatment of blanks, and ending with optical fabrication of ALON windows. ALON transparent armor offers a factor of two in weight and thickness savings over conventional glass armor.

Startup SiO2 Nanotech develops anti-fogging technology for variety of applications

Early-stage nanotech company SiO2 Nanotech has begun beta testing commercial applications of its anti-fogging technology for corporate partners. The new technology, which was developed from patented research conducted in the lab of Nicole Herbots, professor emerita in the Arizona State University’s Department of Physics, can be used on a variety of different surfaces, including glass and plastics. SiO2 Nanotech is part of the first cohort of the Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator, an innovative startup accelerator designed to form, incubate and launch new companies created from intellectual property and patents developed at universities and research institutions. The Arizona-based startup’s objective is to integrate its patented nanotechnologies into specific manufacturing or fabrication lines. One of the company’s nanotechnologies, a proprietary anti-fogging technology called VitreOx, controls the fogging that occurs on surfaces as a result of condensation. Although the technology was originally developed to eliminate fogging on intraocular lenses during eye surgery, the company is now developing beta products that integrate the technology for a number of corporate partners in a variety of industries. The fog-control technology has drawn interest from corporate clients because of the patented method for manipulating moisture on surfaces to maintain a clear field of vision. The technology controls the behavior of water droplets by forming a 2D layer on a surface, resulting in a clear field of vision. Initial tests have shown the treatment lasts not just hours or days but for the life of the product on select surfaces.

3M to bring more color to consumer electronic devices

3M announced it is in the final stages of scale-up for its new 3M Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF). The new film allows up to 50 percent more color than current levels in liquid crystal display devices. 3M has teamed with Nanosys Inc. to produce the 3M QDEF solution specifically to deliver more color, and to make devices such as smart phones, tablets and televisions, lighter, brighter and more energy efficient. Current LCDs typically are limited to displaying 35 percent or less of the visible color spectrum. This means the viewing experience on an LCD can be vastly different than what a person sees in the real world. Wide color gamut displays will allow consumers to enjoy more visceral, more immersive and truer-to-life color. “One of the many advantages of the new 3M QDEF solution is the film’s ability to deliver richly-saturated colors, while minimizing power consumption—a difference you can clearly see,” says Ty Silberhorn, vice president and general manager, 3M Optical Systems Division. “We will have qualification material available to customers for design cycles starting late second quarter this year.” 3M research data shows that devices with 3M QDEF-enabled wide color gamut will be noticeably different from other standard LCD devices, prompting the human eye to dwell on the display longer than less-saturated displays. QDEF utilizes the light emitting properties of quantum dots to create an ideal backlight for LCDs, which is one of the most critical factors in the color and efficiency performance of LCDs. A quantum dot, which is 10,000 times narrower than a human hair, can be tuned to emit light at very precise wavelengths.

Kyocera announces 127 megawatt utility-scale solar installation opens in Arizona with 25MW of company’s modules

Kyocera Solar Inc. joined LS Power and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to officially open the Arlington Valley Solar Energy II utility-scale installation in southwest Arizona. Kyocera is providing 25 megawatts of proven, reliable solar modules for the 127MW photovoltaic installation; all Kyocera modules included in the project were U.S.-made. Block 1 of the five-section installation is now live, with the remaining sections expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2013. “The AV Solar II mega-installation marks a major milestone in Kyocera’s four decades of manufacturing high-quality, long-lasting solar modules,” says Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar Inc. “We’re proud to provide U.S.-made products to this utility-scale installation, which adds to the mega-installations around the world showcasing Kyocera’s unrivaled solar solutions including a 204MW project in Thailand and a 70MW installation in Kagoshima, Japan.” Manufactured in Kyocera’s San Diego production facility, the 245-watt and 315-watt modules are continuing to be installed on approximately 1,160 acres near Arizona’s Hassayampa Substation in Maricopa County. Once complete, the project’s 127MW-generating capacity will place it among the largest solar PV installations in North America.

Nabaltec reports revenues climb to € 34.8 million

Nabaltec AG published its interim report for the first quarter of 2013 and confirmed its preliminary data. The company reported € 34.8 million in revenues in the first quarter of 2013, up from both last quarter (fourth quarter of 2012: € 28.8 million) and the same quarter of last year (first quarter of 2012: € 34.1 million). According to Gerhard Witzany, member of the board of Nabaltec, “The course of business in the first quarter of 2013 was within the bounds of our expectations. After a weak second half of 2012, orders from our customers started to pick up in January and our revenues in the reporting quarter were as strong as they have been in the past.” With prices in Nabaltec’s markets remaining stable or falling slightly, the improvement over last quarter and the same quarter of last year resulted above all from volume effects. The company’s two business divisions, “Functional Fillers” and “Technical Ceramics,” contributed equally to this revenue growth. Revenues in the business division “Functional Fillers” were up 2.2 percent from the same quarter of last year, to € 23.7 million. Revenues in the business division “Technical Ceramics” were up 1.8 percent, to € 11.1 million. The operating result (EBIT) amounted to € 2.3 million in the reporting quarter, down from € 2.8 million in the same period of last year. EBIT nearly doubled from last quarter.

Rio Tinto Alcan gains Commonwealth approval

Rio Tinto Alcan welcomed the Australian Commonwealth Government’s environmental approval of the South of Embley bauxite mining project near Weipa, on Queensland’s western Cape York Peninsula. The project was approved by the Commonwealth with rigorous environmental conditions including measures to protect the marine and terrestrial environment. Rio Tinto Alcan president and chief executive officer, Bauxite and Alumina, Pat Fiore, says approval of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by Commonwealth Environment Minister Tony Burke was a significant milestone. “The Weipa bauxite mine, which has an indigenous workforce of 25 percent, has been a mainstay of the far north Queensland community for nearly 50 years. The South of Embley project would ensure our Weipa operations generate employment and other economic benefits for another 40 years. We are working closely with traditional owners to ensure the prosperity resulting from mining activities on the Western Cape continues to be shared,” says Fiore. He noted that the EIS approved by the minister and assessed by the Commonwealth Environment Department was the culmination of over five years of extensive research and community engagement, including significant input from traditional owners. The project will extend mining operations on an area of the company’s existing mining lease south of the Embley River.


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