Membrane could make 4-cylinder engines act
Using oxygen-enrichment membrane technology in automotive engines could
increase engine power significantly for traditional and alternative-fuel
vehicles, or substantially reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emission
during "cold start." It could also aid in the development of lean-burn engines.
That's the result of tests performed by Compact Membrane Systems and Argonne
National Laboratory. The proposed membrane systems, which use DuPont Teflon® AF
fiber as the oxygen exchange mechanism, employ a small underhood module that
feeds oxygen-enriched air directly to the engine chamber. Under development by
Compact Membrane Systems, and based on DuPont technology, the membrane separates
ambient air into oxygen-rich and nitrogen-rich streams. The oxygen-rich stream
is directed to the manifold to improve combustion; the nitrogen-rich stream can
be fed into the exhaust as a plasma to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. FAX
DuPont's Jill Lucius at (810) 583-4556.
Blind benefit from sonar-equipped navigation aid
It doesn't have fur. It won't fetch a ball. It runs on batteries instead of dog food. But to the visually impaired, the GuideCane could give new meaning to the phrase "man's best friend." Developed by researchers in the University of Michigan College of Engineering's Mobile Robotics Laboratory, the computerized, sonar-equipped navigation aid for the blind detects obstacles in the user's path and automatically steers around them. The eight-pound cane consists of a long handle with a thumb-operated joystick for direction control, an array of ultrasonic sensors, and a small on-board computer mounted on a two-wheeled steering axle. The user pushes the cane ahead with one hand. When the device's ultrasonic sensors detect an obstruction, the computer automatically turns the wheels to steer around it and resume the original direction of travel. "A preliminary version of our working prototype has been tested by visually impaired individuals and the reaction was extremely positive," says Johann Borenstein, U-M research scientist. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access UNIX systems from an NT server
Once upon a time, you had to buy client software for all your PCs to get access for all PC users to NFS-based files and other files on UNIX servers. Not now. Intergraph Software Solutions has released AccessNFS Gateway, which provides the access via the NT server. Companies only purchase the number of licenses for the maximum number of users at any given time. NFS is Network File System, a national standard for the file sharing across different platforms originally developed by Sun Microsystems. Intergraph says its new gateway reduces disk memory and the administrative costs associated with installing an NFS client on every node. Additionally, says the company, users don't have to learn new commands. FAX (205) 730-8549.
NASA spinoff to spur carbon/carbon piston production
Hitco Technologies has become the first licensee of NASA's carbon/carbon piston technology for internal combustion engines. The carbon/carbon pistons reportedly offer significant weight savings and improved thermal performance over their aluminum and steel counterparts. They also should reduce emissions and improve engine performance. The material was originally developed in the 1960s as a high-strength heat shield for strategic missile applications. By the late 1960s, Hitco and others began producing carbon/carbon brakes and clutches for Formula 1 racing cars. The advanced composites consist of a carbon matrix reinforced with carbon fibers. Hitco processes the material by chemical vapor infiltration, which results in improved properties compared to other densification methods, according to Dan Pichler, Hitco's VP of marketing. Other applications for the material include: brake stacks on aircraft, heavy truck clutches and limited slip differentials, missile exit cones, afterburner flaps and seals, and specialized semiconductor production processes. FAX (310) 516-5714.
Light-truck project sheds vehicle weight, costs
How do you build a world-class SUV (sport utility vehicle) with the guts of a truck? The Automotive Applications Committee of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) thinks it has the answer. The committee has launched a comprehensive campaign with customers, steel companies, and other audiences to communicate the results of its most recent technical study, Light Truck Structure (LTS). The theme captures the essence of the LTS design concept that offers automakers a way to create lighter, less expensive SUVs and light trucks. It involves the use of holistic engineering and a modular design that emphasizes versatility and commonality to help achieve significant piece-count reductions that can lead directly to weight and cost savings. For example, the modular design enables a family of SUV, standard-cab, and extended-cab trucks to be produced on the same assembly line. Based on the study's results, savings in an LTS compact pickup for part count, weight, and cost come to 46%, 13%, and 12%, respectively. FAX (202) 466-7052.
Supercomputer put to work on building safer cars
A spanking new Ford Explorer delivered to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has come apart, but not because it wasn't built well. Researchers at the lab dismantled the nation's top-selling sport utility vehicle and weighed and measured each piece. Then, as part of the project, they plugged that information into a computer model the Department of Transportation can provide U.S. automakers to make improvements to future vehicles. "It's a lot less expensive to crunch numbers on a computer than it is to crunch metal in a crash test," says Thomas Zacharia of the lab's Metals and Ceramics Division. For the project, the researchers called on the services of the lab's powerful Intel Paragon ZP/S 150 Model Supercomputer. Other institutions are doing the same with other top-selling vehicles. Results from the simulations will be used to assure that future lighter vehicles meet safety requirements. FAX Ron Walli at (423) 574-0595.
Springback predictability reduces auto cycle times
A major challenge in manufacturing lightweight vehicles involves understanding how materials, such as high-strength steel and aluminum, spring back when stamped into complex shapes. The materials have a tendency to relax back into their original shapes after being removed from a stamping die. Current trail-and-error testing proves costly, time consuming, and a roadblock toward shorter design and production cycles. Researchers under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) are attempting to overcome this problem through the Springback Predictability Project. It embraces gathering data on material properties, friction behavior, and die lubrication. This information will be merged into a 3-D computer model that will anticipate stress, strain, fracture, and geometrical imperfections in sheet-metal drawing. If successful, the computer model should allow manufacturing to manage springback in metal and, ultimately, eliminate the prototype phase and shorten hard-tool tryout time. FAX (202) 482-6275.
Aluminum joins push to recycle more auto parts
The Aluminum Association has announced it has signed an agreement with the Vehicle Recycling Partnership (VRP) to help the consortium improve the dismantling, recycling, and reuse of passenger-vehicle components. Members of the partnership include Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Formed in 1992, the VRP oversees a steering committee and several work groups specializing in the design of automotive parts for disassembly and recycling, dismantling processes, and automotive shredder residue. Aluminum comprises only 5 to 10% of an average car's weight, but it represents 35 to 50% of the recycled material value, according to the Aluminum Association. "Specifying aluminum in new vehicle design achieves a higher recycled content, spreading cost benefits to automakers and customers," states David N. Parker, the association's president. The association has released several new pamphlets on recycling and recycling design guidelines. To receive copies, e-mail email@example.com.
Electric car recharging sites hit the Internet
Drivers of GM EV1 electric cars need look no further than the World Wide Web to find where they can recharge their cars in the San Diego County region. CALSTART, an organization for the development and promotion of electric and natural-gas vehicles, recently added 10 new EV1 recharge sites to its popular Clean Car Recharge/Refuel Directory. The web site additions join CALSTART's easy-to-use, Internet-based map listings of electric-vehicle and natural-gas refuel locations. The directory has enabled numerous electric-vehicle enthusiasts and drivers to learn about the availability of the public recharge infrastructure in a graphical interface. Each mouse click upon a geographical map allows users to zoom down to receive precise, street-level driving directions from one recharge location to the next. "CALSTART is committed to helping build a refuel infrastructure for clean-fuel vehicles in California and across the nation," says Michael J. Gage, president and CEO. "We go a step further by providing the industry's best informational web site for alternative-fuel transportation." E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Automotive coating wears like a diamond
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have turned to plasma immersion ion processing (PIIP) techniques to produce novel, diamond-like carbon coatings for automotive applications. The new technology produces extremely smooth coatings with low surface- defect density, good hardness values, high wear resistance, and low coefficient of friction. The highly conformal and highly adherent coatings are said to be easily scalable to large areas (many square meters). They could provide a more uniform coating over complicated surfaces than other methods, according to preliminary results. The multi-group effort involves the lab's Ceramic Science and Technology, Materials Technology, Polymers and Coatings, Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics, and Plasma Physics operations. FAX (505) 665-4584.