I have been writing about engineering plastics for more than 20 years, and I never had heard about any relationship between crystallinity and shish-kebabs. That is, until I saw the May 18 issue of Science magazine. It contains an article indicating that polyolefins crystallize into shish-kebab shapes (I couldn’t make this stuff up).More importantly, the researchers who wrote the article say they know how to manipulate the shape of these “shish-kebabs” so that the polymer structure becomes much stronger. "Our discovery is pertinent to the relatively strong and stiff plastics," says Julia Kornfield, chemical engineering professor at Caltech. "For example, it will allow manufacturers to make polymers for complex and beautifully shaped body panels with equal or better quality than currently available—and cheaper and faster." The lead author of the paper is Shuichi Kimata, a former postdoctoral researcher in Kornfield's Caltech lab. He linked Kornfield's group at Caltech with Yoshinobu Nozue's group at Sumitomo and collaborators at the University of Tokyo. The title of the Science paper is "Molecular Basis of the Shish-Kebab Morphology in Polymer Crystallization." What’s the path to commercialization? What’s the timetable? Or is this just an academic tease? Stay tuned.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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