A single automaker will spend as much as $2 billion each year perfecting dies to press sheet steel into body parts for new car models. Sometimes manufacturers must redesign a die as many as 10 times before discovering the mold that forms the proper shape. A new technique, however, promises to assure that the die of the future needs to be cast but once. The technique was described at the American Crystallographic Association meeting in Arlington, VA. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) used an advanced measurement technique, known as in-situ ultrasmall-angle X-ray scattering, to study the evolution of complex defect structures in deformed metals. They designed a special sample holder called a tensile stage for deforming samples in the x-ray beam. Thus engineers can study minute details about the formation of defects while the metal is being stretched and probed by the x-rays. NIST is devising a theoretical model connecting the observed defect structures with the mechanical properties of various materials. It's the first step toward developing new computer models that could help manufacturers slice die costs. Phone NIST's Gabrielle Long at (301) 975-5975 or Lyle Levine at (301) 975-6032.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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