What do digital cameras, computer game devices, laptop computers, and portable music players have in common? They all use magnetic disk drives that rely on magnetostrictive read heads. "The read head is like a jet flying at supersonic speeds a meter above a pasture and counting the grass blades pointing in two different directions," says Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researcher Bill Butler. He says electronic devices relying on magnetostrictive read heads are about to hit a wall as their disk drives get smaller and smaller. The reader, which works with the read head, is a device consisting of nickel iron and cobalt layers separated by copper spacers only a few nanometers thick. As disk drives downsize, the materials from which they are made approach their fundamental performance limits. "At just a few nanometers, you reach the superparamagnetic limit," says ORNL physicist Malcolm Stocks. "At that point, the magnetic properties are no longer stable." ORNL and the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory are collaborating for the purpose of overcoming the limits. The government researchers are working with private companies and examining the structure of magnetic materials at the atomic scale so that designers of magnetic media may continue shrinking the size of disk drives. ORNL is using an IBM supercomputer for modeling the interfaces between silicon and silicon dioxide as well as helping design structures for smaller read heads. Using computer simulation, ORNL researchers obtained insight into anti-ferromagnetism in iron manganese. The new structures may contain iron, manganese, and rare-earth thin films that offer higher magnetic saturation. For more information, call (865) 574-5163, visit www.ornl.gov or write to ORNL, Box 2008, Oak Ridge, TN 37831.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
ABI Research, a firm based in the UK that specializes in analyzing global connectivity and other emerging technologies, estimates there will be 40.9 billion active wirelessly interconnected “things” by 2020. The driving force is the usual suspect: the Internet of Things.
Just in time for Earth Day, chemicals leader Bayer MaterialScience reported from the UTECH Europe 2015 polyurethane show on programs and applications using its materials to help reduce energy usage. The company also gave an update on its CO2-based PU as that eco-friendly material comes closer to production.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.