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Other materials stories that may be of interest

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The final countdown for engines

(Construction Europe) The start of 2012 marked the introduction of another tranche of emissions legislation in Europe and the U.S. – an extension of the EU Stage IIIB and U.S. Tier 4 Interim laws that came into force at the start of 2011 for the 130kW to 560kW power band. As of Jan. 1, 2012, the strict emissions limits – which call for a 90 percent reduction in particulate matter along with a 50 percent drop in nitrogen oxides (NOx)—also apply to the 56kW to 129kW power categories. These laws take emissions down to near-zero levels – in fact, some manufacturers say that in certain areas and inner cities, the requirements are so strict that their Tier 4 Final engines will act as air cleaners. To achieve this next step, engine manufacturers will have to use all the tools in their emissions reduction armoury. Depending on the engine size, this could mean a combination of cooled exhaust gas recirculation, selective catalytic reduction and diesel particulate filters.

Energy Secretary offers supercomputer resources to industry

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, speaking at an innovation conference organized by Oak Ridge National Lab, told industry leaders about the opportunity to use DOE’s supercomputing capabilities to accelerate the development and design of new products and to improve industrial competitiveness. Some of the country’s top technology CEOs were in attendance, including AMD’s Rory Read, Cray’s Peter J. Ungaro, NVIDIA’s Jen-Husn Huang and others. Through the national laboratories, DOE operates several of the fastest, most powerful supercomputers in the world and allows industry to use its facilities and expertise to for advanced computational modeling to accelerate product development. Chu says the supercomputers can aid the design of everything from advanced nuclear reactors to more efficient automobile engines.

Inspired by curly leaves, scientists learn how to shape gel sheets

Inspired by nature’s ability to shape a petal, and building on simple techniques used in photolithography and printing, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a new tool for manufacturing three-dimensional shapes easily and cheaply, to aid advances in biomedicine, robotics and tunable micro-optics. To date, the UMass Amherst researchers have made a variety of simple shapes including spheres, saddles and cones, as well as more complex shapes such as minimal surfaces.

New VULCAN tests of Japanese superconducting cable for U.S. ITER’s central magnet system

Neutron testing of the Japanese-made superconducting cable for the central solenoid magnetic system for US ITER begins next Tuesday, says Ke An, lead instrument scientist for the VULCAN Engineering Materials Diffractometer at SNS. The 3-meter-long cable, mounted in a specially designed cryostat, can be cooled down to 80 K (-193.5°C). The mapping experiment will be performed at both room temperature and cryogenic conditions, for one week. U.S. ITER is contributing 100% of the design, R&D, and fabrication of the central solenoid for the giant ITER tokamak experimental fusion reactor. The CS is one of three magnet systems that will contain the burning plasma inside the tokamak. Past tests showed cable degradation under cyclic power loading conditions

Hydrogen from acidic water: Berkeley lab researchers develop a potential low-cost alternative to platinum for splitting water

A technique for creating a new molecule that structurally and chemically replicates the active part of the widely used industrial catalyst molybdenite has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). This technique holds promise for the creation of catalytic materials that can serve as effective low-cost alternatives to platinum for generating hydrogen gas from water that is acidic. Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, chemists who hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, led a research team that synthesized a molecule to mimic the triangle-shaped molybdenum disulfide units along the edges of molybdenite crystals, which is where almost all of the catalytic activity takes place. Since the bulk of molybdenite crystalline material is relatively inert from a catalytic standpoint, molecular analogs of the catalytically active edge sites could be used to make new materials that are much more efficient and cost-effective catalysts.

Two for one: Simultaneous size and electrochemical measurement of nanomaterials pioneered at NIST

NIST researchers have done a mash-up of two very different experimental techniques – neutron scattering and electrochemical measurements – to enable them to observe structural changes in nanoparticles as they undergo an important type of chemical reaction. Their recently published technique allows them to directly match up particle size, shape and agglomeration with the “redox” chemical properties of the particles. The measurements are important both for the design of nanoparticles for particular applications and for toxicology studies. The NIST team was interested in the redox properties of zinc oxide nanoparticles, which are used or being considered for a wide variety of applications ranging from sunscreens and antibacterial coatings to semiconductor and photoelectronic devices.

Envia Systems claims energy density record for lithium-ion batteries

(Gizmag) California-based Envia Systems claims to have broken the world record for energy density in a rechargeable lithium-ion cell, with an automotive-grade battery that reportedly has a density of 400 Watt-hours/kilogram. Not only is that figure two to three times higher than what is currently possible with commercially-available cells, but Envia also claims that its battery should cost less than half the price of existing li-ion batteries. Testing of the battery was performed by the Electrical Power Systems Department at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind. Envia uses a high-apacity manganese-rich cathode based on technology created at Argonne National Laboratory. It consists of nickel, cobalt, manganese and Li2MnO3. Envia has introduced a patented nanocoating process to that mix, to enhance cycle life and safety. The HCMR is said to have twice the capacity of regular cathodes, and should be available for use in pilot vehicle projects later this year. A low-cost silicon-carbon nanocomposite acts as the anode. The composition of the Envia-developed electrolyte isn’t being revealed, although it is reportedly able to remain stable at higher voltages than currently used materials.