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Technology Bulletin

Technology Bulletin

Emission-control system targets 21st-century automobiles

Corning Inc. has developed a new emission-control system that combines adsorber technology with catalytic-converter technology. In independent laboratory tests, the system, a passive underbody main adsorber, or PUMA(TM), easily beat U.S. ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) standards for post-2000 automobiles. The system consists of a zeolite adsorber positioned between two catalytic converters. An innovative exhaust-flow-management system diverts cold exhaust gases to the in-line adsorber, which traps and holds hydrocarbon gases until the conventional catalysts reach operating temperature. The system can be located under the car, limiting the catalyst's exposure to high temperature, and freeing up engine space. FAX Robert W. DeMallie at (607) 974-2233.


Solid liquid crystals created as three-dimensional thin films

A material similar to the color-changing liquid in mood rings might some day provide ultra-thin photographic lenses, optical filters, gas sensors, and broad-range temperature sensors, according to researchers at Penn State University. These devices, called helicoidal bianisotropic media, would be made of the solid equivalent of cholesteric liquid crystals realized as thin films. "Normal liquid crystals are somewhere between a solid and a liquid," says Akhlesh Lakhtakia, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics. "A helicoidal bianisotropic medium has a rigid backbone sculptured by nanoengineering." The material that Lakhtakia theoretically designed is a helicoidal or twisted material with specific electromagnetic propagation properties. The twist of this material would affect the way light and electromagnetic fields propagate through it and could be tailored for specific electromagnetic propagation. E-mail Andrea Elyse Messer at aeml@psuvm.psu.edu .


Patented process minimizes automotive body-sheet defects

Reynolds Metals has received a patent for an improved automotive alloy body sheet that the company claims eliminates ridging or line surface defects. The new 6111 body-sheet alloy has received an internal temper designation of T4R81. "Ridging lines can be a drawback to using 6111 alloy for exterior body panels because appearance is critical," says Chester Roush, automotive sales and engineering manager, Reynolds Mill Products. Such "paint brush" line surface defects usually appear on conventional 6111 alloy body panels as a series of straight lines spaced about 1 mm apart and 0.2 microns high. They occur after sufficient strain has been applied during stamping or forming operations. "Our 6111-T4R81 body sheet has proven in commercial production that it eliminates ridging, has high formability, and provides superior surface finish," Roush adds. Internet http://www.rmc.com/auto .


Digital watermarking technique protects copyright of images

Scientists at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, NJ, believe they have developed "a fundamental enabling technology" for protecting the copyright of images and music on the Internet. The development involves a way to produce a digital watermark, an invisible code that identifies the owner, permanently embedded in the multimedia data. The method places the watermark in perceptually significant components of a signal, making any attempt to remove the watermark virtually impossible without degrading the image quality. Inserting the watermark into the spectral components of the data makes use of techniques analogous to spread-spectrum communications. The technique, says NEC, also would prevent counterfeiting. E-mail Kazuko Andersen at andersek@ccgate.ml.nec.com .


Saabs to feature 'world's first' active head-restraint system

Saab, together with Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems, has under development an innovative active head-restraint system designed to reduce the risk of whiplash injuries. Called Pro-tech(TM), the system will be introduced as standard equipment in next-generation Saab models, according to company officials. Based on simple mechanical principles, the restraint connects to a pressure plate in the seat back. In a collision from the rear, the occupant is pressed into the backrest, moving the pressure plate towards the rear. This action moves the restraint upwards and forward to meet the head--before dangerous whiplash movement starts. Precise activation of the system is determined by the force with which the occupant's back is pressed against the backrest, the magnitude of the collision, and the occupant's weight. FAX Elke Martin at (770) 279-6589.


Catalytic converter 'revolutionizes' cost, efficiency

Bosal North America has introduced what it claims to be a radical new concept in catalytic converters. The Radial Flow catalytic converter "represents the first significant advancement for the catalytic converter since the device was introduced in the U.S. during the 1970s," says James Humlong, Bosal's O.E. sales director. In conventional converters, ceramic or metallic substrates are formed into channels to create thousands of small cells which comprise the "brick" inside a metal shell. The brick is coated with precious metals, which, when heated, produce the chemical reactions that create exhaust gases. Instead of relying on conventional channels, Bosal's design employs a substrate built up from corrugated layers to create slits through which the gases flow. The substrate, placed in a "V" arrangement inside the converter shell, improves the flow characteristics for lower back-pressure. In addition, the design uses cell densities more than twice that of current converters. FAX (313) 994-5579.


Thermoplastic polyester drives drive tapes

General Motors has specified tape-drive window regulators from the Dymetrol Co., Hoekessin, DE, for its planned 1998-model electric cars. The Dymentrol tape-drive regulator system relies on a high-durable-drive tape made from DuPont's Hytrel(R) thermoplastic polyester, oriented by a "unique" process. "Weight savings and design flexibility are keys to the success of this window regulator system, compared to traditional metal gearing mechanisms and cable drive systems," says Gene Engelhardt, vice president technical/marketing for Dymentrol. The tape is then punched with sprocket holes to raise and lower side windows. With a basic tensile strength of up to 30,000 psi, the tape drives can withstand the high tensile loading in motor-operated units, Engelhardt adds. FAX (302) 234-2690.


Steering-column airbag inflator offers weight, styling benefits

Conventional auto design wisdom says the best place to install the inflation device for a driver-side airbag is right below the airbag--in the steering wheel. AlliedSignal Automotive engineers feel they have surpassed traditional thinking by developing a lightweight, tubular inflator that mounts inside the hollow steering column. The new design, which makes the inflator an integral part of the steering column, "offers weight, performance, and packaging advantages over current steering-wheel-mounted inflators," says John LaFond, manager of airbag product planning for AlliedSignal Safety Restraint Systems. The design weighs less than 400 grams and contributes to better driving feel, since there is less low-frequency vibration in the steering systems. It also permits more compact airbag cushion folds, allowing the cushions to be installed slightly deeper into the wheel. This, in turn, contributes to improved airbag performance for "out-of-position" drivers, LaFond adds. FAX (810) 726-4153.


Technology expands automotive use of thermoactuating motors

Hoechst Celanese has developed a new high-performance polymer technology that holds the promise of making thermoactuating motors suitable for a wide variety of fractional-horsepower, linear-motion motors in automobiles. Thermoactuators have conventionally found application in automotive thermostats for water-cooled diesel and gas engines and oil-flow control valves. The new technology is said to offer higher thermal conductivity to produce higher actuation speeds. Speed depends on the rate at which the volume of the actuating material expands. As the Hoechst polymer is heated it melts and expands, moving the piston of a linear-motion thermoactuator with high force. As it cools the polymer contracts, reversing the direction of the piston. Tests show the Hoechst technology increases the rate of expansion by 45%, with no loss in maximum expansion. FAX Rachel Kohn at (908) 522-7883.


Butane/propane blends proposed as low-emission fuel alternative

Engineers at Southwest Research Institute's Research Department recently completed a project that demonstrates the feasibility of using butane and a variety of butane/propane blends as low-emission automotive fuels. Butane has been used for many years to upgrade the octane of gasoline, and to aid in cold starting during winter. Reformulated gasoline requirements for lower fuel vapor pressure, however, have resulted in removing increasing amounts of butane from the gasoline pool, creating surplus supplies of a potentially useful fuel. "Our study shows that for a 'current technology vehicle' converted to operate on liquefied petroleum gas, not only was the use of butane blends feasible, but in all cases resulted in significantly lower emission rates," says Senior Research Engineer Matthew Newkirk, the project leader. FAX Elizabeth Douglas at (210) 522-3547.


GM launches 'do-it-all' automotive diagnostic tool

The latest technology from the General Motors Service Technology Group (STG) could change dealer/customer relations around the world. The hand-held diagnostic tool--Tech 2--uses computer technology to give service technicians a user-friendly, powerful device to "fix-it-right-the-first-time--all the time." Tech 2 development began in 1993 due to the increased use of electronics in powertrain and on-board diagnostics, which control the engine management systems on GM vehicles. "The launch is one of the most important industry introductions in quite some time," says Ron Smisek, director of product engineering for STG. More than 200 GM technicians were surveyed to provide input into the design of Tech 2. Made by Hewlett-Packard, the diagnostic tool features, among others, these software and hardware enhancements: upgraded Motorola 32-bit, 16 MHz processor, memory capacity of 10 megabytes, removable and upgradeable memory card, and diagnostics translated into 19 languages. FAX Gracemary Allen at (810) 492-0292.

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