Other materials stories that may be of interest | The American Ceramic Society Skip to content

Other materials stories that may be of interest


An NREL employee test drives one of the Toyota Highlander fuel cell hybrid vehicles at the lab’s Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle Ride and Drive Event. Credit: Dennis Schroeder.

NREL drives toward the future with fuel cell EVs

Efforts currently underway at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory are contributing to rapid progress in the research, development and testing of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Building from more than 10 years of support from the department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office on these topics, NREL has received four Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicles-Advanced (FCHV-adv) on loan from Toyota. These vehicles will help NREL enhance its research capabilities related to hydrogen fueling infrastructure, renewable hydrogen production, and vehicle performance. The four FCEVs, on a two-year loan from Toyota as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with NREL, will be put through a wide platform of testing and analysis at the lab. The vehicles were originally deployed in California in 2009 and have been redeployed to NREL as part of this CRADA. “Because the vehicles will be four or five years old by the time our loan period ends, we will be able to observe extended durability and reliability, which are critical to the commercial success of these types of vehicles,” says Keith Wipke, NREL Laboratory Program Manager for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies. Testing will include observing how the vehicles interact with fueling infrastructure and fueling stations that operate at different pressures. While most hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas, at NREL, the vehicles will be fueled with renewable hydrogen made from wind and solar energy as part of the Wind-to-Hydrogen project at the lab’s National Wind Technology Center. This project uses wind turbines and solar arrays to power electrolyzers that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Materials science update: New discovery may lead to mile-high buildings

Today most engineers will tell you that the limit of vertical height in buildings has more to do with the steel cable in elevator shafts than any other factor. Known in the industry as the “rope,” conventional materials have limited the travel distance of elevators to about 500 meters (1,640 feet). As buildings have been getting taller elevator transportation has become more problematic. That’s because a single elevator with conventional steel rope carrying 24 passengers consumes 130,000 Kilowatt hours of energy per year and weighs up to 27,000 kilograms (almost 60,000 pounds). And that elevator rope is subjected to severe strains. In fact on windy days building sway can put a steel-cabled elevator out of service. So Kone, a Finnish-based company, decided to create a rope that could withstand building sway and manage weight load while reducing the amount of energy needed for operation. Called the UltraRope, it is composed of a carbon fiber core with a high-friction coating. UltraRope resonates to a different frequency than steel and other building materials and as a result provides stability for the elevator shaft and compartment even on the windiest of days. With UltraRope an elevator would no longer be limited to a 500 meter run. In Fact, Kone believes UltraRope equipped elevators can double the distance an elevator can travel vertically.

Book review: Stuff Matters: The strange stories of the marvellous materials that shape our man-made world

Like most of the generations of metallurgists and materials scientists since the late 1940s, one of the first books the author (Mark Miodownik) would have read as an undergraduate was Street and Alexander’s Metals in the Service of Man, or simply MITSOM, the staple introduction to our subject for over half a century. Stuff Matters is Miodownik’s attempt to bring materials science (no longer just metallurgy) a public audience through the medium of paper – and no doubt e-Reader Ironically, after the first couple of pages, the reader might very well be pondering whether the book wouldn’t have been better entitled Metals in the Disservice of Man (or MITDOM), as Miodownik describes an early and somewhat painful encounter with steel. Forgiveness is swift however, and he spends the next chapter extolling its many virtues, describing its array of different properties and applications and how the material continues to re-invent itself into the 21st Century. The author uses a picture taken of himself sitting on his roof garden as a means of introducing the different types of materials through short vignettes; never attempting to cover the entire spectrum of those materials, but instead focussing on stories that will hopefully grab the attention of young students and the general public alike. Besides steel, materials covered include the familiar (paper, concrete, ceramics, polymers, and glass), the exotic (aerogels, graphene, and biomaterials) and the unashamedly tasty—chocolate, which many readers will be surprised to learn is a very highly engineered foodstuff requiring materials science expertise for its production.

Out of concrete and drudgery come canoes that float

(New York Times) It’s not easy making the unsinkable out of the unthinkable. But at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, civil engineering students use a material that is normally the stuff of dams and parking garages to build a 20-foot-long craft that will float even if completely swamped. To do so, they replace the gravel and sand of conventional concrete with exotic materials like glass spheres. The result, to judge by the finals of this year’s competition, where 23 teams of 10 or more students gathered at the University of Illinois here, is a concrete that is exceedingly light and, with added fibers, strong as well. But as the team from the University of Texas at Tyler found out, it is not always strong enough. On Saturday, after two days of being judged on their engineering know-how and the quality of their final product, the students took to the waters of a nearby lake for races that would count for 25 percent of their overall score. Amid the excitement and noise—the Mississippi State team had brought along cowbells for the occasion—there was also heartbreak, when the Texas-Tyler canoe suffered what engineers soberly call catastrophic failure. That is to say, it cracked in half.

Wind power to run cement plants

(Daily News Egypt) The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company signed a contract on Sunday with Italgen, a subsidiary of global cement producer Italcementi Group, to produce electricity from wind energy. The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company signed a contract on Sunday with Italgen, a subsidiary of global cement producer Italcementi Group, to produce electricity from wind energy. The contract authorises Italgen, which has been studying the possibility of incorporating wind technology since 2008, to become the first private investor to enter the Egyptian National Grid, a wind energy park in the area of Gulf El-Zeit, according to a statement issued on Sunday. Electrical energy generated from the wind park will be transmitted to plants run by Suez Cement, another Italcementi subsidiary, and will help in the reduction of CO2 emissions. The first phase in the project will represent an investment of around €120-130m. It will equate an installed capacity of 120 MW, and is expected to cover around 40 percent of Suez Cement’s power needs. After the completion of the second phase, electrical energy is estimated to reach a capacity of 400 MW.

CMOG’s research department offers glass database

Since 1960, the Scientific Research Department of the Corning Museum of Glass has pioneered the application of numerous scientific techniques to the examination of historical glass artifacts and to the study of the history of glassmaking. Some of this research has focused on the Museum’s collections, but most of it has been conducted in collaboration with archaeologists and scientists from all over the world. The findings of this research have been shared in more than 190 publications on the archaeology, chemistry, and conservation of glass. Many of these publications are now out-of-print or originally appeared in sources that are no longer readily accessible. Browse all publications. The Museum’s searchable database brings this scholarship to the attention of scholars and scientists who might not otherwise be aware of it. Approximately one quarter of the content is accessible in full-text format. Publications not available in full-text may be accessed through the Museum’s Rakow Research Library.


Upcoming DOE webinar June 25: Hydrogen storage materials requirements

The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will present a live webcast on Tuesday, June 25, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. DOE’s Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence has been modeling and developing onboard hydrogen storage systems and components utilizing materials-based storage media to meet the DOE’s technical targets for storage systems. This webinar will address the key materials requirements needed for both adsorbents and chemical hydrogen carriers to meet the 2017 DOE technical targets.