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Technology Bulletin

Technology Bulletin

Swedish firm seeks to secure spent nuclear fuel

Questions about what to do with spent fuel from nuclear reactors are nearly as persistent as the waste's toxicity. The Swedish Nuclear Fuel & Waste Management Co. (SKB) posits an answer in the form of copper-clad, stainless steel canisters. Designated KBS-3, and placed in a repository 500 meters deep in bedrock, each five-meter, 15-ton canister can contain spent fuel in perpetuity. The KBS-3 is manufactured by the Welding Institute, Cambridge, U.K. The institute says its welding technique, which employs a tightly focused electron beam, creates exceptionally secure welds. SKB plans to open a $22 million (U.S.) lab for non-destructive testing of KSB-3 welds later this year. The company hopes to receive license approval for building a demonstration repository in 1998. The site would go on-line in 2007. Finnish nuclear engineers, who helped develop the capsule design, are watching closely to see if the method would be appropriate for their country.

For details, phone Hans Forrstrom, SKB technical director, at +(46) 8-665-28-38, FAX +(46) 8-661-57-19.

Collaboration drives competitive high-speed rail

Adtranz, a joint-venture between Sweden's Asea Brown Boveri and Germany's Daimler-Benz, is developing a new train that could turn some of Europe's low-capacity electric train lines into high-speed rails. The Adtranz Intercity Multiple (AIM) disperses its drive motors throughout the train to achieve speeds up to 250 kph. An AIM configuration would include a conventional engine plus at least two special cars with two motors apiece to boost performance. The AIM was derived from Adtranz's X2000 train, which uses a more conventional single engine arrangement. This train, while suited to Sweden's 15-kv electric train lines, could not operate on Italy's 3-kv lines without bulky and expensive transformers. The AIM is able to attain high-performance on the lower voltage lines.

For more information, phone Ake Wennberg, Adtranz development director, at +(46) 21-32-50-00, FAX +(46) 21-13-41-12.

Moving bed shakes up difficult chemical separations

Developed by Des Plaines, Illinois-based UOP, simulated moving bed (SMB) technology shows promise for making difficult chemical separations easier. SMB technology, integrated into production processes for chiral drugs (drugs with un-wanted byproducts that are mirror-images of themselves structurally, and thus hard to separate), provides 99.99% yields of the desired compound. Compared to traditional separation techniques such as crystallization, extraction, kinetic preparation, asymmetric synthesis, and high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), SMB offers flexibility, unsupervised continuous operation, and economic separation for monthly throughputs from 1 kg on up. Countercurrent flow of the stationary phase relative to the mobile phase is mechanically simulated by inter-connecting 16 elution-chromatography columns in a circular configuration. Economic benefits include high production and recovery rates, and lower solvent consumption. Typically, 95% of the solvent's original volume is recovered. Closed-system design offers additional environmental advantages for highly-toxic feed or mobile phase applications.

For more information, contact Gangolf Schrimpf, K. Panknin SOLUTIONS GmbH, +(49) 6151-87-55-15, e-mail [email protected].

Packing in record-breaking bits

Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA, have demonstrated product-level components for a hard disk that reads and writes data at a density of 5 billion bits per square inch. At this density, each bit measures only about 47 x 4 millionths of an inch, a size that would permit nearly 125 bytes to fit across the diameter of a human hair. This test density is three times greater than IBM's Travelstar drive for notebook computers, which currently is believed to be the record holder. Test data was read at a product-level speed of 10 MB per second with accuracies of one error per billion bits. IBM said accuracy could be improved using standard error-correction techniques. The data were recorded onto a thin film of ultra-low-noise, four-component magnetic alloy coating an aluminum disk. IBM said a product based on this technology could hold more than 6 GB of data, greater than the text of 6,000 average novels. Such a product could hit the shelves around the turn of the century.

For more information, call Michael Ross at (408) 927-1283, e-mail [email protected].

New textile regulates its own temperature

Gorix Ltd. of Rotherham, U.K., has introduced a fabric of the same name that maintains a temperature within 0.2C of the desired limit. The electro-conductive material is its own heating element, and functions on 12-24 volts of battery-supplied power. Products produced from Gorix demonstrate even heat distribution and linear change in resistivity in response to temperature change. The uniform distribution and dissipation of heat from its surface allows the Gorix to be used in close contact with the object being heated. The woven textile can be laminated to or sandwiched between a wide variety of materials to form a fully encapsulated element or sensor. Possible applications include tailored dive suits and car seats, athletic wraps, and wide-area temperature sensors.

Contact Robert Rix at +44-1709-370529.

Engineering center explores virtual product designs

Cadcentre of Cambridge, U.K., has built its multi-million dollar Virtual Engineering Centre to explore how 3-D computer graphics can be used for virtual product design. The facility is built around a group virtual reality system called Visuality. The system combines 3-D graphics processed on SGI Onyx RealityEngine supercomputers with wide-screen displays. Eight 250 MHz processors create three images which are projected onto a wrap-around screen. The idea is for designers and clients to examine projects together early on, before physical prototypes have been constructed. Sessions provide walk-around and fly-through capabilities of photorealistic models and assemblies.

For more information, phone Steve Talbott at +44 (0) 1223-556655.

Silver key to faster printed circuit board production

Bree Industrie of Puiseaux, France, a subsidiary of the CIRE Group, has developed a silver polymer process for producing connection holes in double-sided printed circuit boards (PCBs). Electric conductor traces are etched by an automatic screening system. Holes are then filled with paste connecting the two sides of the board. Electric resistance of the silver polymer is 25 M{OMEGA}, and the normal rated current capacity is 500 MA. The silver polymer process is particularly well-suited to PCBs with surface-mount devices, and can be used effectively with low-cost base materials, such as CEM1, XPC, and CEM3. The new process will cost an estimated 30-50% less than traditional copper-plated through-holes, and in combination with direct etching can significantly reduce the number of production steps.

For more information, call Henri Pinard, export sales, +(33) 38-34-34-79, FAX +(33) 38-33-67-49.

Russian-American consortium fuels fuel cell research

Russia and the United States have agreed to pool their resources to research and develop fuel cell technology. The Russian-American Fuel Cell Consortium (RAFCO) establishes official links between Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Fuel cells convert energy released by the catalytic oxidation of fuel into electricity, producing nearly zero pollutants in the bargain. The technology has been a national priority in Russia, which is looking for sources of power for its rapidly developing but often remote oil and natural gas installations. The U.S., through its Sandia, Los Alamos, and Argonne National Labs, has conducted research examining the feasibility of fuel cells for use in transportation and power applications. RAFCO will pursue research on all four types of fuel cell technologies: solid oxide, molten carbonate, phosphoric acid, and polymer electrolyte membrane. International Fuel Cells, South Windsor, CT, is currently building the 100th 200-kw power plant using phosphoric fuel cell technology, which was developed largely with DOE support.

For more information, call Amber Jones, DOE, at (202) 586-5806.

Rocket venture launches new business

Russia's number one manufacturer of liquid-fueled booster rockets, NPO Energomash (NPO-EM), has teamed up with Pratt & Whitney Space Propulsion to form a new joint-venture, RD AMROSS, LLC. The new company, headquartered in Florida, will manage production of and sell a new derivative Russian booster rocket engine, the RD-180, to power Lockheed Martin's Atlas IIAR advanced rocket. Key operations of the new company will also be based at NPO-EM in Khimky, Russia.

For more information, call Patrick Louden, P&W, at (561) 796-6793.

Polymer additive improves wear, strength of plastics

A new polymer developed at the Phillips Laboratory Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base in California, can be mixed with other plastics to enhance wear-resistance, increase fire safety, and add strength. The material, Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxane (POSS), does not require special equipment or major changes in manufacturing methods. Co-inventor Joseph Lichtenhan says POSS can produce classes of plastics with properties between hydrocarbon-based plastics and ceramics. Key to the new material are minute silica-like particles that impart the enhanced properties to plastics. POSS polymers have physically large monomers and add more control over the polymer. This control can allow for better manipulation of the polymer chains in the plastic, producing the new properties.

For more information, call Ranney Adams, director of public affairs, Edwards Facilities, at (805) 275-5465.

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