Do you keep music or tax files on compact discs you bought at a big box store? Well any money you saved by buying cheap CDs could be lost in a hurry. There are some reports that cheap CDs only last two years or so. Cutting corners on materials’ quality exponentially increases the potential for damage from poor handling or storage practices. You have a couple options: 1) Buy high-quality CDs and be careful when handling or 2) Practice extremely careful storage and handling with special technology.
One way to protected CDs is to pay a quarter for a special plastic sleeve developed by Bell Labs. The sleeve features a semiconductive plastic film or sheet. The base polymer is typically polyethylene or polyester that is chemically reacted with conductive copper and other ingredients to form a covalently bonded, homogeneous structure. If someone walks on a carpet and then touches a CD, they can discharge electricity that can locally oxidize a region of the aluminum layer embedded in the CD. The oxidized aluminum will no longer reflect a CD drive’s laser light properly, so all data recorded in the affected area ceases to be readable. Bell Labs licensed the idea to a company called Intercept Technology.
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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