Fossil fuels continue to be the "Big LIe" that we continiue to believe .. We are accepting that there is not much we can do about rising fossil fuel prices that is still doing great damage to our economy. We resort to other measures other than alumiium like what you brought up or others ... Those are good measures but time is of essence .. Aluminium is the most powerful antidote for our economy and we need it now and fast. We must downsize fossil fuel industries with massive solar energy programs that will require massive amounts of aluminium ... This is the only way I can think of to contain the fossil fuel industry that is continuing to enjoy the big lie about supply and demand.. We must divorce ourselves from fossil fuels .. We must educate the investment communities to reallocate their capital away from fossil fuel assets and toward aluminium . Aluminium is the most plentiful metal on Earth, not iron! Aluminium can be used to create infinite energy from the Sun. We must stretch fossil fuel supplies through drastic and aggressive reductions in consumption . We are continuing to fool ourselves that $4 gasoline will be around for many years to come which is not true at all. I wont be surprised to see $10 gasoline in less than 10 years .. The ramifications from the rising fossil fuel prices will hit almost all of us and we will be totally unprepared for that.. We must develop a major alternative source of energy.. Wind power is doing great and it cannot do the job alone. We must add more . Photovoltaics is not going to cut it because of way too low efficiencies . Aluminium has magical properties that we took for granted because we were so used to abundant fossil fuel supplies. Now, it is changed forever. Our political and technical inertia has not caught up with it in timely manner at all. It is very dangerous right now! Only that I wish that it doesnt require so much electricity to make new aluminium that turns off almost everyone especially those who are alligned with enviromentalism. Aluminium is the most misunderstood and most sustainable metal known to mankind , hands down.. Aluminium is not perfect but it offers the best hopes to almost all of us who are as concerned about the well being of our economy and enviroment as well. Time for aluminium is NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gumby, it's clear that you have very strong opinions about this. The good news is that if your ideas about aluminum are correct, then the models which are discussed in this article should show it. If that is the case, then as more engineers begin to use these tools, they will come around to your point of view.
I was very interested to learn about the TRACI model. It looks like EPA has done a lot of work developing tools to help companies evaluate the sustainability of their processes, perform life cycle analysis, compare trade-offs, etc. I have been looking for a tool like this to evaluate alternatives to chromate conversion coatings for aluminum in marine environments, so this article was a big help to me.
Dave, we use 25 tons of steel to one ton of aluminium annually. Whatever your reasoning goes, it just doesnt look right to me. Engineers is not able to do anything as long as the obsolete machinery is still running unbroken to shape, bend, punch steel materials. if the machinery is not broken then no switch to alumiium yet. This makes sense to me as long as our economy is still humming along.. Quite to the contrary, our economy is bust chiefly because we are consuming way too much energy and fossil fuel prices are already itching to spike every time there is a whiff of oil shortage. We have no choice but to ditch the obsolete machinery with new machinery that can handle aluminium like pronto.. I know that we cannot switch to aluminium practically overnight but we can start now and keep at it until the ratio between steel and aluminium is improved to a point that we are returning to stability in energy supplies. People tend to forget how heavy steel is until they try to push stalled cars off the road. Oooh , they would wish that cars are made of aluminium and weigh just one half ton instead of two tons !! Oil never complains and this is the trouble with it.. We just suck tailpipes !!
Carmakers are too focused toward wringing as much horsepower out of engines so that they dont have to take necessary weight out of carbodies by replaceing steel with aluminium which is hard to retool. Cars still weigh tons and we need to wring hundreds of pounds out of the fender benders now. It is kind of an oxymoron to have steel bodied cars powererd by alumninium engines..
I agree with you and I can also add that cost engineering also has a lot to do with this.. Take carmakers, they ought to put in a lot more aluminium but they chose not to out of fear of running out of aluminium supplies.. Carmakers is the biggest consumer of aluminium that I can think of.. As of now, about 300 pounds of aluminium is used in an average fleet car this year which is not enough to convince me that we are doing all we can do with aluminium. There is plenty of automotive componenets that we can replace with aluminium instead of steel. it is almost a no brainer.. The next big thing for aluminium will have something to do with solar thermal technologies which is very wide in designs and ideas.. Some can be used to reflect hot sunlight back from living quarters to help cut down on air conditioning. Some can be used to concentrate sunlight to boost photovoltaic efficiency to 45 % or so. Some can be used to concentrate to generate steam for electricity generation. Some can be used to concentrate sunlight to heat air to be used for indoor heating during daylight hours, of course. Aluminium is the only economical metal known to reflect sunlight. We can use $35 oz /silver or stainless steel , of course. When recyclablity come to mind, aluminium trump everything.. You need only a very thin film of aluminium to gather sunlight in any fashion and manner you wish .. Sure, aluminium fades, but ALCOA already develop treatment agents that can keep aluminium shiny for a very long time... It is known as Durabright . You can see for yourself by examing 18 wheelers for the very shiny wheels found there and you will understand why ALCOA can quiickly become a very formidable energy company that can use sunlight to generate electricity needed to make new aluminium.. this is the sustainabilty I am talking about.. Those huge fossil fuel companies with hordes of self interested investors would have none of that.. They want to maximize earnings at all costs if it mean busting budgets of people, governments, corporations that consumes energy to produce goods and services.. Our fossil fuel industry had already grown so big and powerful and most importantly of all,, UNSTOPPABLE!! We are in for REAL TROUBLE !! I dont think we can afford to debate the merits and negatives about aluminium.. I dont care if we are sloppy about aluminium growth as I know too well that aluminium can easily put our fossil fuel industry genie back in the bottle for eternity to come! I am frankly very bored with the collective pretension in general that aluminium is a metal that is better confined to patio furniture and Coke cans...
Gumby, I agree with you that aluminum may be underutilized in some applications, but I disagree that the electricity used in making primary aluminum is a major factor in this. I guarantee you that this is the farthest thing from most engineers' minds when they are selecting materials for a new design! Most engineers are thinking about strength and stiffness, and maybe cost and manufacturability. Sometimes, they are just thinking about what the last similar part was made out of - this is where I think aluminum gets the short end of the stick.
Just getting engineers to think about sustainability concerns in the first place is an uphill battle. Sustainability is an incredibly complex topic which is extremely difficult to quantify. I was very interested to learn about the models which are out there. These models could be an enormous resource in making "greener" decisions.
I profess to be no engineer of any sorts, but I just know that aluminium is way too underrated. The big reason is the electricity needed to make new aluminium from stratch that spooks everybody with engineering degrees. If you look around yourself and see why we are still using steel instead of aluminium in almost everything we make and buy. It is almost a no brainer to know that something is smelling fishy about our underutilization of aluminium . I can give you a few facts... The worldwide annual production of aluminium is only merely 40 millon tons and climbing (sure!), but if you ask how many tons of steel/iron we produce annually . it is way over one billon tons.. This is a ratio of 25 to one. This is the reason aluminium is way too underrated. ALCOA is somewhat too conservative for its own good. ALCOA can get involved in solar energy with its recent developed solar (parabolic) trough . Maybe ALCOA is so used to consume vast amounts of electricty that it seems nonsensical to start generate solar energy with thin sheets of shiny (Durabright added) aluminium to concentrate sunlight to generate steam for electricity generation. There is also great potential to harness for heating homes direclty with reflected concentrated sunlight. If you happen to own a cabin up in the mountains, you can do well without relying on air polluting firewood and instead erecting solar mirrors to concnetrate sunlight toward your cabin .. Engineers is way too overrated when it comes to aluminium primarily because they are usually preoccupied with the thought of how much electircity is required to produce a pound of new aluminium than the thought of the sustainabilty of aluminium as well as the great returns aluminium will pay with solar thermal technolgoies.. Engineers is too preoccoupied with energy conservation which is a good thing but they ought to be stressing more on increasing energy production with true clean green technolgoies.. Photovoltaics is a great innovation but not as efficient or effective as aluminium. Whatever ALCOA is trying to peddle is fine with me , but I think ALCOA can and will go much further with solar thermal efforts.. It gets to a point where it is already past a national disgrace to have aluminium still piling up in ports unwanted and unloved... Boo hoo!!
Admittedly, I'm always suspicious when big companies talk about sustainability. Still, there's something to be said for reduced part counts, reduced landfill, reduced cost, reduced assembly time and increased recyclables. Sometimes, we can be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of greengab, but good things can still result.
Apple is actively (and secretly) exploring alternatives to aluminum. Material options under consideration for housings include bulk metallic glass, carbon-reinforced plastics (composites), and metal ceramic composites. Interestingly, they would be a step backward from a sustainability standpoint because they are not as easily recyclable as aluminum. But any of the three would provide greater strength as personal electronics' packages shrink in size. Apple also apparently likes the aesthetics and appeal of having a new and different type of material for a showcase product. Those are the kinds of issues that don't pop out on a software "green" review.
Maybe it's just my vantage point since I'm covering the design tools beat, but I think Doug's post is heartening from the standpoint that it shows there are a growing number of products out there to help engineers make better design decisions based on sustainability. All of the ones Doug mentioned in addition to an array of others deliver analytics functions, environmental domain expertise, and dashboard capabilities to help engineers see tradeoffs and the ramifications of their decisions around materials or components far earlier in the design process rather than waiting until the design is complete and it's too late or too costly. I think the fact that there are options is a great thing and we'll see much more of this going forward.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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