I’ve heard of several new plastics that make excellent metal replacements. But concrete? That’s a first for me. A hydrogen-rich polymer loaded with boron actually can replace concrete as neutron-shielding material in nuclear power plants or nuclear submarines. The new Quadrant EPP material is currently available in machinable 1-inch x 48-inch x 96-inch plates. Borotron HD050 is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) enhanced with 5 percent elemental boron to provide extra shielding against neutron radiation. The combination of boron within a matrix of HDPE, a naturally hydrogen-rich material, targets nuclear shielding applications. Hydrogen-rich materials attenuate neutrons extremely well and boron has an affinity for absorbing thermalized neutrons. Potential uses include shielding for radiation therapy rooms, where the product in plate form is integrated into the wall structure. Other application areas include nuclear research centers, nuclear power plants, power generation areas in nuclear submarines, production areas for nuclear detection devices and the equipment itself, and spacecraft exposed to radiation. Borotron HD050 plate is lighter than some other neutron shielding materials such as concrete, and easier to work with in construction than other options including water. The formulation was engineered by Quadrant Engineering Plastic Products (Quadrant EPP).
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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