Technology Bulletin 265

DN Staff

April 10, 1995

8 Min Read
Technology Bulletin

Nearly diamond-hard substance synthesized

Scientists from Northwesten University report they have created an inexpensive substance second only to diamond in hardness. Possible uses include a wear-resistant coating for gears and driveshafts. The new material appears to contain layers of carbon nitride, a material that several teams around the country have been trying to produce in the lab. Moreover, the new coating can be applied at room temperature. Diamond coatings, on the other hand, require temperatures of up to 1,650F, a heat where ordinary steel becomes soft. Key to the technique, according to Northwestern researcher William Sproul, is the creation of a "sandwich" of layers, alternating the carbon-nitrogen mixture that could yield high strength, with layers of titanium nitride, known to produce a very orderly array of atoms on a surface. FAX Sproul at (708) 467-1022.

Last barrier leaped in recycling mixed plastics

At the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, researcher E. Bruce N. Nauman and his students have successfully demonstrated they can remove pigments from recycled plastics. This eliminates the last major technical roadblock to widespread commercialization of Nauman's recycling technology, known as Selective Dissolution. The processs washes the mixed plastics, places them in a solvent, and filters them. Then, each of the six most common plastics is recovered, one at a time. Recovery is possible because the solvent dissolves each polymer at a different temperature. The solution is sent into a vacuum chamber, where the sudden change to low pressure causes the solvent to vaporize, leaving the pure "virgin-like" polymer behind. FAX Nauman at (518) 276-4030.

Valve enhances natural-gas engine performance

Southwest Research Institute engineers, under contract to the Gas Research Institute, have developed a metering valve with a unique variable orifice to control flow rate and measure fuel metered to engines from low-pressure gas sources. It addresses concerns faced by industries using natural gas engines that generally depend on electronically controlled fuel metering systems. Because they rely on choked flow across a fixed orifice, these engines require gas pressures as high as 80 to 120 psi. However, the flow capacity of most fuel injectors is small compared to the demands of large truck and stationary power generation engines. In addition to the variable geometry metering orifice, the SwRI valve includes pressure transducers and temperature sensors that calculate mass fuel flow, and a microprocessor-controlled stepper motor that provides closed-loop control of flow rate. FAX Elizabeth Douglas at (210) 522-3547.

Transporter operates on hydrogen fuel cell

A three-partner venture has resulted in the development of a vehicle that addresses California's stringent vehicle emission regulations, while solving many shortcomings associated with battery-powered electric vehicles. The concept vehicle project, called the Genesis, uses a chassis supplied by Western Golf Car, a proton exchange membrane fuel cell from Energy Partners, and receives engineering support from Telesis Cogeneration. The all-electric, zero-emission car, powered by hydrogen fuel, can carry eight passengers for up to three hours. It requires only 15 minutes to refill its hydrogen fuel tank. The 7.5-kW power plant can propel up to 2,500 lbs at speeds in excess of 15 mph. FAX Rhett Ross at (407) 688-9610.

Process scrubs toxic air from industries

International Technology Corp., Torrance, CA, has licensed an Arizona State University patent for a chemical process that cleans toxic industrial solvents in the air. The process, called "photocatalytic oxidation," removes organic pollutants, such as trichloroethylene, trichloroethane, and benzene. Gregory Raupp, an associate professor of chemical engineering at ASU, developed the process. It requires a gas-flow device, ultraviolet light, and titania, a substance that spurs chemical reactions. As the gas flows over the titania under UV light, the organic pollutant is absorbed onto the catalyst, then chemically changes mostly into carbon dioxide and water vapor. FAX Raupp at (602) 965-0037.

Proverbial needle in software haystack found

Scientists at Siemens Corporate Research, Princeton, NJ, have developed a graphic computer language for software architecture that can draw "blueprints" of large software systems. Called Gestalt, the computer language can be used for design work, assigning implementation tasks to different teams, planning the integration and testing phases of a project, and analyzing the impact of proposed changes to a system thoughout its life. Gestalt is particularly useful for re-engineering existing systems by checking products that have already been developed and are being maintained, asserts Project Leader Robert Schwanke. FAX Guy Pierce at (609) 734-6565.

Electric-vehicle charging standard approved

The Society of Automotive Engineers has approved the first of two recommended practices developed for electric vehicle (EV) charging systems. The Electric Vehicle Inductive Charge Coupling Recommended Practice describes a common high-frequency EV inductive charging inlet on the vehicle and its rotating coupler, including the physical dimensions, system architecture, power transfer capabilities, and a control communication system. Inductive charging is an innovative way of magnetically transferring battery charging from a charger to an EV. It eliminates the need for direct electrical contact traditionally used in conventional plugs or couplings. FAX David L. Schwartz at (412) 776-2103.

Raytheon, Mobil launch new chemical technology

Raytheon Engineers and Constructors and Mobil Research Development Corp. have announced the first commercial application of a new technology to produce cumene, a chemical used to make phenol and acetone. These intermediates are used extensively in the production of structured wood panels, glass-fiber insulation, and polycarbonate resins. The process is expected to replace existing cumene production technology, according to Morris Smith of Mobil Technology Sales and Licensing, "because it provides higher yields and greater purity, while reducing operating, maintenance, and waste-disposal costs." FAX Raytheon's June Scangarello at (212) 839-2755.

Bubble process enhances printing of black cables

Quantum Chemical Co. has developed a process that allows special black polyethylene (PE) cable and jacketing compounds to be laser printed. With standard black wires and cable jacketing, laser light is absorbed by the carbon black in the compound. With the new Quantum compounds, the laser beam causes microscopic bubbles to form on the surface of the PE jacketing. The areas contacted by the beam turn white. The laser printing is said to have excellent resolution (0.0025 to 0.008 inch), and the printing forms an integral part of the material. The duration of beam contact controls print depth. FAX (513) 530-6119.

'Metallic frost' paints shiny visions of Venus

On Venus, every time it frosts, it frosts metal. At least that's the theory of earth and planetary scientists at Washington University in St. Louis. The researchers have analyzed microwave radar emissions from NASA's Magellan Mission to Venus. Their study of the images and microwave emissivity uncovered clues to the planet's surface composition. The researchers suggest that gases from metals, such as ore minerals found at lowland volcanoes, get caught up in Venusian winds, eventually finding their way to the cooler (750F) highlands. There they condense and gradually accumulate over many millions of years. The condensed minerals adhere to highland rocks as a thin veneer much like frost on the earth's tundra. FAX Susan M. Killenberg at (314) 935-4259.

Federal lab technology finds commercial success

Companies participating with federal laboratories in research and technology development efforts report that more than 22% of their projects have resulted in new products, processes, or services. That's the finding revealed in a National Science Foundation-sponsored report done by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The survey also found that 89% of the participating companies reported that the partnership was a good use of their resources, with a handful of participants reporting benefits in excess of $10 million. However, researcher Barry Bozeman adds that one of the more useful figures is net benefit. "After subtracting costs, the benefit averages about $1.09 million," he reports. FAX Bozeman at (404) 853-6986.

A metals buyer's guide at your fingertips

AlloyTech, Inc., Salem, NH, has arranged with the Copper Development Association to provide access to all data developed by the association. The agreement means that, in addition to its information on titanium, stainless, nickel, and iron-based superalloys, AlloyTech will soon provide users with data on copper and copper-based alloys. The AlloyFax(TM) system is available 24 hours a day using "fax-on-demand." The system allows users to access the database with a touch-tone phone and fax. At present, the computer database contains the inventory and production capacity of more than 1,700 U.S. metals suppliers. FAX Alan C. Gamble at (603) 890-6222.

oneAustralia yacht pushes design envelope, sinks

The America's Cup challenger boat oneAustralia made history March 5 as it became the first-and so far the only-boat to sink during the race's 144 years. The 75-foot high-tech carbon-fiber hull broke in two in heavy winds and fierce Pacific Ocean waves, and sank within two minutes. The Australians essentially paid the price for pushing the design envelope. To best handle San Diego's normally light, shifty winds, the carbon-fiber hulls are built as light as possible and put under extremely heavy loads. Skipper John Bertrand said oneAustralia, Team New Zealand, and France advised the race committee that the conditions were unfit for racing. But the committee ruled that the conditions did not exceed predetermined parameters.

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