This morning’s newspapers are full of stories of deep budgets that are sure to affect funds for scientific research. And buried deep inside is a story of a call by leading American scientists to research and develop new sources for energy-critical materials, such as lithium and tellurium.
There are two issues. Demand is rising for these materials to produce lighter weight vehicles, batteries for electric cars, thin film solar cells, and a variety of other emerging energy-related applications. At the same time, the largest known source of these materials, China, is taking steps to shut off the spigot.
A lightweight electric urban concept car designed by several European companies weighs only 992 lb without its battery. It would have weighed 26.7 lb more if its windows were made of glass instead of the specially coated LEXAN polycarbonate resin from SABIC Innovative Plastics.
Skylar Tibbits' team in MIT's Self-Assembly Lab is now 4D printing self-assembling shapes made of programmable carbon composites and custom wood grain. The composites are being used in a sport car airfoil, and the wood grain is beautiful.
The NanoSteel Company has produced high-hardness ferrous metal matrix composite (MMC) parts using a new nanosteel powder in a one-step 3D-printing process. Parts are 99.9% dense, crack-free, and with wear resistance comparable to M2 tool steels.
The company that brought you 3D-printed eyeglasses has launched both an improved clear polymer material for 3D printing optical components and a high-speed, precision, 3D-printing process for making small- and medium-sized batches in a few days.
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