Polymers fashioned to replace structural metals
A new family of rigid-rod polymers created by Maxdem, Inc., San Dimas, CA, is said to be more than four times stiffer than conventional plastic materials. Called Poly-X Self-Reinforced Polymers, the inexpensive, durable materials have the potential to replace structural metals-including aluminum and stainless steel-particularly in aerospace and defense applications. They could also substitute for expensive fiber-reinforced composites, says Matthew Marrocco, Maxdem's vice president of research and development. Unlike most composites, however, the rigid materials can be injection molded, extruded, or compressed. Estimated cost per lb: $10 to $12. Structural foams, coatings, films, and membranes made from the materials are on tap. Maxdem is seeking development partners. FAX Marrocco at (909) 394-0615.
'Shrinking' wavelets aid statistical modeling
The StatSci division of MathSoft, Seattle, will use funds from the National Science Foundation to produce a software module for statistical modeling and analysis based on "wavelet shrinkage." The software will run with StatSci's S-PLUS data analysis language for engineers and scientists. The recently developed wavelet transform is said to offer better data compression and noise-corrupted data filtering than its precursor, the fast Fourier transform (FFT). It should allow an engineer to decompose a noisy signal into components, then empirically reconstruct the signal to eliminate noise, while retaining signal components. FAX Lisa Eaton at (206) 283-8691.
Thermal technology promises to cut weight, costs
A new thermal management technology-microencapsulated phase change materials-should have a number of cost-saving, weight reducing uses in aerospace and commercial applications. The micron-sized MicroPCMs, produced by Frisby Technologies, Freeport, NY, consist of a heat-absorbing core material encapsulated within a proprietary, durable shell wall. Because of their size and wall formulations, they readily adapt as a thermally enhancing additive. When incorporated into a host material for end-product use, the MicroPCMs "create a dramatic improvement in thermal storage within the product-over 10x in solids and up to 40x in liquids," says Frisby CEO Greg Frisby. For example, in an avionics cooling application, a MicroPCM slurry reduced coolant flow rate by 40% and ECS electrical power by 58%. FAX Jennifer Olsen at (516) 378-0262.
Will glass fiber crash on the info superhighway?
Glass fiber continues to replace copper communication lines along the information superhighway. But, unlike metal, it is subject to static fatigue, a phenomenon in which stressed glass fibers can get tired and break. Under a contract from the Department of Energy, Minoru Tomozawa, a professor of materials engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, hopes to learn how such static fatigue occurs. He and other researchers have developed special coatings to keep out moisture and prevent fatigue, but they require an expensive extra manufacturing step. To more accurately predict how damage occurs and how long the lines will last would help companies decide how much to spend on such prevention. FAX Tomozawa at (518) 276-8554.
Inductor technology tackles harmonic currents
Marelco Power Systems, Howell, MI, has developed a new Variable Inductor Technology to trap and filter out harmonic currents from electrical circuits that can damage sensitive equipment. Previous inductor models in the same size range as the Marelco inductors were only available with fixed values pre-tuned at the factory, according to David Ratliff, vice president for engineering. The Variable Inductor Technology can be adjusted while in operation to accommodate changes in harmonic conditions at higher power levels. They will operate in up to 600V environments and 400 KVAR power levels. FAX Ratliff at (517) 546-9565.
World speed record set for magnetic bearings
SatCon Technology Corp., Cambridge, MA, has set a world record in successfully completing a test that it claims is a breakthrough for magnetic-bearing technology. The firm ran a turbine shaft at 36,000 rpm with no lubricants, and no physical contact between the "floating" spinning shaft and its bearings. "This means there is no wear; greatly reduced noise; and no cumbersome, expensive lubrication system in the magnetic bearing setup," says SatCon CEO David Eisenhaure. The work is part of a government program designed to double the thrust-to-weight ratio of jet turbines. FAX Eisenhaure at (617) 661-3373.
Heat test sheds new light on superconductors
Delicate heat measurements performed by Aharon Kapitulnik, a professor of applied physics at Stanford University, indicate that the force that binds electrons into pairs-a coupling that makes superconductivity possible-is strong in some directions, but drops to zero in others. The results agree with and "significantly strengthen" evidence that the electron-pair binding in high-temperature superconductors takes a form that scientists call "d-wave." Since 1987, when materials that superconduct at temperatures as high as minus 150C were discovered, physicists have tried to reveal what makes them work. FAX David F. Salisbury at (415) 725-0247.
Microbes feast on underground oil spill
Sandia National Laboratories at Livermore, CA, recently threw a dinner party. The main course: diesel oil. The guests: several "zillion" soil-dwelling bacteria. The microbes will chomp their way through almost 60,000 gallons of the black goo over a five-year period. The spill occurred in 1975 when workers accidentally punctured an underground transfer line at the Livermore site. When the microbes finish their feast, they will have cleaned about 1.2 million cubic feet of contaminated soil, cut disposal costs, and added to the scientific knowledge of microbe-assisted cleanup processes. Sandia researchers also have used a new holographic technique to map an underground oil spill without sinking boreholes into the contaminated area. FAX Julie Clausen at (505) 844-6367.
Process improves mold-making technology
An agreement between Metallamics, Inc., Traverse City, MI, and the Oak Ridge Centers for Manufacturing Technology has resulted in a major improvement in mold-making technology. The technique reduces the cycle time by as much as 25% and manufacturing costs up to 50%, according to William Jones, engineering director for Metallamics. The process involves the use of a variety of thermal plasma operations to coat the surface of specially designed molds with a layer of specific metals. "These improvements apply to all blow mold, foam mold, and some sheet molding applications," Jones adds. FAX Jones at (616) 929-9999.
Composite material for rapid prototyping debuts
DTM Corp., Austin, TX, has introduced the "first" composite material for use in rapid prototyping. Laserite® LNC-7000, a glass-filled nylon, will yield parts with the highest properties of stiffness and heat resistance of any prototyping material now on the market, according to Mark Ganninger, a senior application engineer at DTM. The new material exhibits many of the same attributes of standard and fine nylon-durability, heat resistance, and chemical resistance-to produce parts with very fine features that can withstand functional testing conditions. DTM is the developer of the SLS® Laser Sintering process for the rapid creation of 3-D models, prototypes, and production patterns. FAX Kent Nutt at (512) 339-0634.
Delta clipper rocket to resume test flights
McDonnell Douglas will resume flight tests this month of the Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X) rocket. The single-stage, vertical-takeoff and landing vehicle was originally developed for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's Single State Rocket Technology program. The tests are designed to demonstrate subsonic maneuverability and validate "airplane-like" operations and maintenance. During a flight test last June, an external detonation of fuel cloud vapors caused by the ground support equipment damaged the DC-X. Despite a 4- by 15-foot vertical tear in the aeroshell during takeoff, the 42-foot-high rocket executed a controlled emergency landing on the desert floor. FAX Anne C. Toulouse at (714) 896-1308.
V-22 osprey to get new liquid crystal display
Using an innovative process, Crystaloid, Hudson, OH, will produce prototype displays for the V-22 Osprey tilt-wing rotor aircraft under development by Bell-Boeing. The new hybrid displays will incorporate a dye in the liquid crystal fluid, which Crystaloid says should reduce off-axis colors, enhance display contrast, and improve overall readability. The "multiplexed dye-doped display" will serve as a radio frequency indicator/selector. FAX Ed Stiles at (216) 655-2176.
Free internet resources for design engineers
CERA Research, Newark, CA, has announced the release of three new resources for design engineers and Windows programmers. They include FAQ Roadmaps for: Embedded Systems Internet, Windows Development Internet, and Search the Internet. The embedded systems resource identifies FTP sites, WWW sites, and mailing lists, and includes a comprehensive index to integrated circuit manufacturers. The Windows program designates the same resources, as well as useful archives of free shareware and Microsoft Developer Network Internet sites. The search program explains how to find resources for searching (FAQ reports, USENET groups, etc.) and includes a comprehensive index of the best WWW search engines. FAX Jason McDonald at (510) 745-7929 or e-mail email@example.com.