One of the best stories at K 2007 is the effort under way at SABIC Innovative Plastics to develop new technologies that reduce use of oil and natural gas. Yes, that’s the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp., partly owned by the Saudi Arabian government. SABIC Innovative Polymers is the former GE Plastics, and just became part of SABIC earlier this fall. The company is known for its application development work, and its newest development center is aimed at new ideas in energy. One of the three big projects under way is a new concept in photovoltaic cells. The SABIC unit is developing new polycarbonate chemistries that could amplify the energy-producing power of silicon used at the heart of solar cells. In interviews with Design News this morning, three SABIC executives described the effect as a “kind of light pipe”. Polycarbonate in existing solar cells simply protects the silicon with a transparent shield. The new polycarbonate would also boost the efficiency of the cell. No data on efficiency levels are available now. Rick Pontillo, general manager of global application technology, told Design News the concept could go commercial in two years if it proves out. Work began two years ago on the project, and SABIC officials are said to solidly support it.
A self-propelled robot developed by a team of researchers headed by MIT promises to detect leaks quickly and accurately in gas pipelines, eliminating the likelihood of dangerous explosions. The robot may also be useful in water and petroleum pipe leak detection.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has built and successfully hot-fire tested an entire 3D-printed rocket engine. In other news, NASA's 3D-printed rocket engine injectors survived tests generating a record 20,000 pounds of thrust. Some performed equally well or better than welded parts.
Researchers at MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory are developing shoulder- and hip-mounted robotic arms to help workers in aircraft manufacturing perform difficult or complex assembly tasks that would normally require two people.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.