Titanium might just be the hottest material on the planet earth right now. Out of England comes news that biochemists at Manchester Metropolitan University believe hospital superbugs could be destroyed simply by applying titanium dioxide nanoparticles to hospital surfaces, and then exposing those surfaces to fluorescent light. Titanium dioxide isn’t exactly a rare material – it’s the most commonly used white pigment. The researchers found that other paint additives, such as calcium carbonate, block the killer properties of titanium dioxide. From Toronto comes word that a company is pitching money and credit card clips made of titanium for people who don’t want to carry wallets. Why titanium? It’s lightweight, hypoallergenic, immune to salt water and extremely durable. Immune to salt water? OK, I don’t get that either. And then there’s Sarah Palin. Those titanium glasses she wears are normally slow sellers – about 9,000 a year globally. Ten days after her selection as John McCain’s running mate, the Japanese manufacturer received 12,000 orders.
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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