Jennifer Lewis made a discovery that could effect the future of electrical ceramics. The University of Illinois professor is working with NASA's office of Biological and Physical Research and studying how materials form when gravity is not present. By subtracting gravity from the process, she sees what happens when a given material is produced. Lewis co-authored a paper describing a process called "nanoparticle haloing" that stabilizes particles in fluids and prevents them from coagulating into a disordered structure. She indicates that by varying the composition of colloidal fluids and gels, researchers produce systems whose properties vary dramatically. "This designer capability will assist us in developing improved materials for photonics that control the flow of light," she says. For more information, go to http://colloids.mse.uiuc.edu or http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov. Content for the colloids website includes copies of Lewis's research papers and links to professional societies.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.