Engineers still need to make tradeoffs when trying to achieve improved thermal conductivity in plastics. One of the biggest challenges in plastics design today is efficient heat removal from smaller components, some of which operate at higher voltages. Example: LED arrays are becoming more popular in auto headlamps to conserve energy. Research data presented by DuPont at its pre-K 2007 press conference in Prague show three different approaches: 1) Use of high filler content including carbon fiber achieves a high rate of thermal conductivity but is difficult to mold, 2) Boron nitride coated graphite coupled with copper particles coated with glass also work well, but are not cost effective and also have molding issues, and 3) Use of ceramic particles as fillers does not achieve the level of thermal conductivity required by emerging applications.
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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