It’s amazing to consider the long-term potential of carbon nanotubes as a polymer reinforcement if major issues (cost and health concerns) can be overcome. Research reveals the possibility of cross-linking CNT molecules prior to incorporation in a polymer matrix to form a super composite with a tensile strength of 20 million psi. Single-walled nanotubes exhibit unique electric properties and may be used for miniaturizing electronics beyond the micro electromechanical scale. Big producers are placing major bets on the technology. In Japan, Showa Denko is building a 400 million metric tons per year production plant. In Germany, Bayer is building a 200 million metric tons per year plant. They’re betting they can dramatically reduce the cost of CNTs which had been in the stratosphere as a pilot scale product, say $40,000 per pound. Multiwall nanotubes are down to $50 to $70 per pound now. Prices will drop as new plants come on line. Health issues must also be addressed.
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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