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March 6, 1995

7 Min Read
Technology Bulletin

Atomic oxygen helps restore art treasures
Removing lacquer from paintings has proved a complex problem for today's museums. Traditional methods not only remove the varnish, they often remove the paint pigments and cause the paint to swell. Scientists at the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland may have a viable alternative. The researchers experimented with a thermal-energy atomic-oxygen plasma, originally developed to simulate the space environment in low-Earth orbit, and found that it easily removed organic materials from paint and painted canvas samples. The samples were exposed to atomic oxygen in a commercial radio-frequency plasma chamber. The lacquer was easily removed, without any noticeable changes in appearance after it was reapplied, and there was no removal or disturbance of the paint pigment. FAX Sharon Rutledge at (216) 433-2221.

Ceramic composite advances gas-filter technology
The Department of Energy has awarded Textron Specialty Materials (TSM), Lowell, MA, a contract to develop and fabricate high-strength gas filters "with greatly enhanced durability." The effort will focus on obtaining acceptable permeability and particulate filtration characteristics in a continuous fiber-reinforced ceramic composite. The material, a nitride-bonded silicon carbide reinforced with TSM's SCS-6(TM) monofilament, has already demonstrated superior resistance to crack propagation and thermal fatigue. The "next generation" filters would be designed for use in Pressurized Fluidized Bed Combustor and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power generation systems. FAX Bruce Thomson at (508) 454-5619.


Corneal tranplant device hastens healing
A University of South Florida ophthalmologist has developed a device with the potential to make corneal transplants easier and speed the healing process. The instrument, developed by J. James Rowsey, uses fewer sutures and could reduce the time in the operating room from two hours to 30 minutes. The device, the Tampa Trephine, could decrease the likelihood of post-surgical astigmatism, and restore visual acuity faster by shortening the healing time from one year to two months. Rowsey worked with engineers at Martin Marietta to develop the prototype. The cutting tool will allow a physician to cut the cornea for a donor eye precisely and insert it in the patient. The design creates a tongue-and-groove fit between the donor cornea and the "bed" into which it is placed for "a nearly seamless fit." FAX Todd Simmons at (813) 974-2888.


Tests portend improved computer storage density
Arecent collaborative effort between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Rocky Mountain Magnetics, Louisville, CO, holds promise for an advanced magnetic read-head structure. Improving the sensitivity of the magneto-resistive heads used to read the magnetic fields of the storage medium is critical to increasing computer storage density. The tests indicated that magnetic materials made from nickel-iron/silver multilayer thin films exhibit low magnetostriction (materials tend to expand or contract when a magnetic field is applied), as well as impressive sensitivity in low magnetic fields. Moreover, the researchers identified an optimal annealing temperature, which results in zero magnetostriction and high sensitivity in low magnetic fields. FAX Steve Sanders at (303) 479-5316.


Intelligent "electronic nose' sniffs out markets
AlphaMOS, Toulouse, France, and Neural Computer Sciences (NCS), Totton, UK, have teamed to develop the "next generation" of intelligent odor-sensing systems designed to control quality within a manufacturing setting. NCS will provide the neural networks to automate the artificial-intelligence decision-making process, which will be embedded within AlphaMOS's PC/Windows-controlled system. The combination, say the two companies, will open a host of automated monitoring and control applications in food, cosmetic, chemical, environmental, and other processing and industrial applications. "This project will allow us to concentrate on creating neural networks that can perform their function in real-time instrumentation systems," says NCS' General Manager Brian Kett. FAX +44 (0) 1703 663730.


Advanced composite bridge spans English canal
A narrow canal separates Stonehouse, England, from neighboring Bonds Mill, a busy industrial complex. Making the passage between the two communities easier is what the erectors claim is the world's first advanced composite road bridge. Maunsell Structural Plastics, Ltd. designed the 45-ton, 8.2-meter-long, 4.3-meter-wide structure. The design employs the Advanced Composites Construction System marketed by Designer Composites Technology Ltd. It consists of a number of interlocking, fiber-reinforced-plastic structural pieces that can be assembled into many different configurations. The sections were pultruded with an isophthalic polyester resin and two types of fiberglass reinforcements from Vetrotex CertainTeed Corp., Valley Forge, PA. FAX Michelle M. Davidson at (610) 293-1765.


Custom footbeds promise to relieve foot fatigue
Ever wish you could find a simple way to solve those tiring foot problems? Look no farther than Fitprints(TM) from Perfect Impression, Cleveland. Using a layering system of dual-zone, moisture-wicking fabric, closed-cell urethane foam, an advanced thermoplastic polymer, a barrier film, and a mesh fabric, Fitprints can provide the user with custom-molded comfort. The footbeds form in less than five minutes using microwave energy. The process enables the polymer to conform to the exact contours of the plantar surface of the foot. The technology is said to eliminate the torquing and twisting of the foot, reducing the main cause of foot fatigue. FAX Bill Weber at (216) 771-8399.


Fluoropolymer coating delivers new properties
Whitford Corp., Frazer, PA, reports it has achieved "a major breakthrough" in fluoropolymer coatings used in mechanical applications. Known as Xylan 61-2-3(TM), the three-layer coating employs proprietary microscopic reinforcing metal filaments to greatly strengthen the film. The reinforcement performs much like glass fibers in composites, making the coating more resistant to mechanical wear, including abrasion, spalling, and erosion, says Whitford's Janice Newton. The coating can be applied using conventional spray systems as three wet films, then cured at 400 to 700F. Nominal buildup is 1.3 mils, although the coating can be built to over 3 mils without blistering. The microscopic filaments unite the primer layer to the fluoropolymer-rich topcoat. FAX (216) 871-6545.


Center focuses on plastics packaging, recycling
The New Jersey Institute of Technology has opened the "nation's first" Center for Processing of Plastic Packaging, according to Melvin L. Druin, executive director. The center's mission: to help industry improve competitiveness through factory automation and advanced engineering and manufacturing. The center will support suppliers, converters, and packer/end users of plastics packaging. Among the first projects: the study of converting post-consumer-recycled thermoplastic polyester bottles into food packaging applications. FAX (201) 642-4594.


Ceramics reinforce metal matrix composites
Advanced Refractory Technologies (ART), Buffalo, NY, has received an award from New York State to evaluate and develop the firm's ceramic reinforcements for metal matrix composites. The project will combine ART's commercial silicon carbide whiskers (SiCw) and a surface-treatment technology developed by Clarkson University. Using ceramic reinforcements like SiCw should improve the metal's mechanical properties and decrease its thermal expansion, providing better performance and enabling tighter component tolerances. "If these coated whisker materials are successfully used in aluminum for pistons, for example, the resulting piston could minimize unburned hydrocarbons and significantly reduce auto emissions," says Donald J. Bray, ART's director of technology. FAX Mary T. Spohn at (716) 875-0106.


Laser may monitor toxic metals in smokestacks
Makers of fireworks long have known that metal salts, when ignited, produce spectacular color effects. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, have applied this trait in developing a technique for measuring types and quantities of toxic metal emitted into the air from smokestacks. The technology, called laser spark spectroscopy, relies on the wavelengths of light emitted by energized metal atoms returning to lower energy states: yellow from sodium, red from strontium, brilliant green from barium, and vivid blue from copper. The Sandia prototype uses a focused, pulsed laser beam to produce a spark as the metal particles and molecules scatter into energized atoms. Each metal radiates light in a unique spectrum, providing a fingerprint that identifies each metal. "Because the measured light intensity increases with concentration, we can infer how much of each metal is present," says researcher Larry Peng. FAX (510) 294-3231.


Fair showcases inventions to improve processes
Need to improve your industrial processes in order to stay ahead of the competition? Then you might want to check out the Concepts Technology and Business Opportunities Fair to be held April 20-21 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. The fair will include 16 ideas whose developers received grants from the Department of Energy's Innovative Concepts Program "to improve the nation's industrial base." Among the posters and papers to be presented: solid-state alloying of metal powders; the "air" process for fugitive emissions control; a rain-drop spray-cooling system for metallurgical industries, structural repair and retrofit systems based on shape-metal alloys; and a fine-crumb rubber from recycled tires. FAX Robin Conger at (509) 372-4369.

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