Fuel cell generates electricity
Professor Raymond Gorty is one of several scientists in the University of Pennsylvania's Chemical Engineering Department who is developing fuel-cell technology that could someday be used in portable generators, automobiles, or other applications where clean, efficient power is needed. The new fuel cell combines oxygen and hydrocarbon molecules for producing electricity. The only by-products are water and carbon dioxide. Unlike a battery, the new fuel cell does not run down or need recharging, as long as it is supplied with oxygen and hydrocarbons. Gorty notes that his fuel cell is different from other fuel cells because it generates electricity by direct oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels rather than reforming the fuel to first produce hydrogen. The new cell is less than a square centimeter and constructed from inexpensive materials, according to Gorty. "Our primary goal now is making the material stronger and making fuel cells easier to manufacture," he says. Contact Gorty at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Pump design is self-sealing
A new rotor pump design under development has tooth tips that self-adjust and automatically tighten, thereby creating a self-sealing mechanism. The inner rotor drives the circular teeth of the planetary outer gears. GKN Sinter Metals (Auburn Hills, MI) developed the planetary rotor pump, which fits into conventional G-rotor housings with minor modifications. "The new design eliminates back flow losses often associated with G-rotor designs," says Mark Herderich, an engineer at GKN Sinter Metals. "The way the gears are positioned makes them mesh better, eliminating any diametrical clearance and back flow of oil," he says. Target applications include those requiring between 30 and 6,500 rpm. "We have more work to do on verifying energy consumption, but preliminary results indicate the new pumps are much more efficient than traditional G-rotor pumps," Herderich says. The pump uses powder metal technology instead of cast metal products. Contact Herderich at (248) 371-0847 or e-mail email@example.com .
New applied-research and design center
IBM, Dassault Systems, and Purdue University are collaborating on the creation of a new applied-research center where manufacturers manage product concept development, production, and other aspects of product manufacturing. The center consists of a lab, workstations, and a website which makes it possible to digitally create, manage, simulate, and communicate information about products, processes, and resources. Many CAD/ CAM/CAE software packages operate on the site. Goals of the center include developing new product design and manufacturing methodologies, and teaching students problem-solving techniques. Eric Zurschmiede, project manager and aeromautical engineer, says that corporations will benefit from the center by participating in collaborative projects. For information, call (765) 494-4585 or visit the center's website at www.tech.purdue.edu/centers/dec .
Fold-up television screens
Ghassan Jabbour believes that one day soon we'll have flexible television screens that fold up so that people can carry the screens around in their pockets and purses. Jabbour, an optical sciences research professor at the University of Ari-zona, says that his research and development of organic light-emitting diodes is moving the new technology from concept to reality. Using screen-printing techniques, Jabbour and his team made, for the first time, thin films that are nearly a thousand times thinner than a single strand of human hair. The screen printing technique uses a frame, a fabric, a design stencil, ink, and a squeegee. A polymer and molecular blend combine to form the ink. "The organic material we use is very viscous, so we can make film a few nanometers thick," he says. The organic materials act as the ink in this case. The ink is deposited onto several substrates situated under the screen in direct contact with the fabric. The process yields a very thin film that is used as one of the active layers in organic light-emitting diodes. "Its applications include toys, signs, and many other products," Jabbour points out. Contact Jabbour at (520) 626-8324 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ferro-electric materials for electronics
Scientists from the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology at Boulder are working with perovskite oxide, a ferroelectric material, for applications in random access memories, pyroelectric detectors, acoustical transducers, and microwave devices. Perovskite oxide is used as a thin film for both cryogenic and ambient-temperature applications. Thin-film ferroelectric materials are desirable for their ability to change dielectric constants when an external electric field is applied. Perovskite oxide thin films have a high dielectric strength, so they are considered potential candidates for use in high-temperature, super-conducting tunable microwave devices such as micro-strip line-phase shifters, resonators, and tunable filters. The University of Colorado scientists published a paper that outlines their research concerning film growth, structural properties, and low-frequency dielectric properties of the films. The paper also contains data on the high-resolution X-ray diffraction studies conducted on the films for determining their dielectric properties. For a copy of the paper, A Tunable, Low-Loss Epitaxial Oxide Films for Microwave Electronics, call (303) 497-3237.
Super-conducting magnet research
"It's the world's most powerful pulsed super-conducting magnet," says Joseph V. Minervini, a research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He's referring to a 150-ton magnet that is part of a fusion energy research project. The magnet produced a magnetic field 260,000 times more powerful than the earth's magnetic field. It stores 640 megajoules of energy. The magnets provide the magnetic fields needed for initiating and sustaining the plasma—the electrically charged gas needed for fusion reaction. The magnet was built by engineers at MIT, Lockheed-Martin Corp., and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Charging the magnet was achieved without quenching, a time-consuming procedure common in the early operation of superconducting magnets. The technology involves arrangement of 1,000 individual wires twisted into six cables that, in turn, twist around a hollow tube and form the magnet. The resulting device is called a cable-in-conduit-conductor (CICC). The CICC is then wound into a coil resembling a giant spring that forms the bulk of the magnet. Fabrication of the magnet was funded in part by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. For more information, contact the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Box 808, L-404, Livermore, CA 94551-0808.