Future of Engineering

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scientists Spot 'Invisible' Gold In Nanoparticles

Major gold rushes occurred in the United States, Australia, Canada, and South Africa in the 19th century. Looks like the scientists from Australia are on their way to trigger the next one with their latest findings. Nanoparticles of gold too small to be seen with the naked eye have been created in laboratories, but up until now, have never been seen in nature.

The CSIRO Scientists in collaboration with scientists from Curtin University and the University of Western Australia successfully sighted the elusive particle. Their research reveals that salty and acidic groundwater dissolves primary gold and re-deposits it as pure gold crystals on fracture surfaces and in open pore spaces.

Initially they took the clay from the fracture surface and analyzed it. They spotted a dark band across the crystals, not gold. But reports suggested that the clay contained up to 59 parts-per-million of gold.

Intrigued by the finding they subjected the crystals to high magnification imaging. Now the band showed its true colors. The band revealed the hidden, unseen world of gold nanoparticles. These are identical to those being manufactured in laboratories around the world for their unique properties.

This finding will help give us a deeper understanding of how gold can be transported and deposited by geological processes, and therefore help explorers to find new gold deposits in Australia.

Australian scientists seem to have struck gold, literally.

Source - Net News Publisher

Other Nanotech articles:
Can Nanotubes Be A Source of Energy?
Nanoworms Find, Treat Cancer Tumors Much Better

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Innovative Paint Purifies Air, Clears Foul Odor

"It is about imitating the marvellous process of photosynthesis and, in a similar way to how a plant does it, causes a reaction based on sunlight that eliminates harmful substances," Horst Kisch, professor of chemistry and head of the inorganic chemistry team at Germany's University of Erlangen, told Tierramérica.

Some love it, while others don't. The smell of freshly painted rooms evokes such a response. But everyone's going to love this innovative paint that isn't just interested in making a decorative statement, it also wants to purify the air in the room.

Titanium dioxide is a pigment used in this paint that acts as a photocatalyst, triggering certain chemical reactions stimulated by light. The pigment absorbs energy from UV rays and makes the surface active. In the presence of air it produces oxygen links that breaks down toxic molecules into completely harmless particles.

The paint breaks down compounds like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, dichloroethylene, benzene and nitrogen oxides without producing contaminants.

It is being marketed under the name StoClimasan (for interiors) and StoPhotosan (for exteriors). Initial tests reveal that there is an 80 percent reduction in the concentration of harmful substances in a room. The only disadvantage with this product is the price. You've got to shell out an amount that's five times higher than that of conventional paints.

Kisch and his team has been able to achieve this remarkable feat within five years. Their invention was honoured with the latest Innovation Prize, sponsored by the German Ministry of Economy.

Apply this paint and say goodbye to foul odor and cigarette smoke. Let your homes be filled with fresh air forever.

Source - Ipsnews
Image Credit - Valspar

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Sabic Innovative CEO Brian Gladden @ Plastics News Executive Forum

Keynote speaker Brian Gladden offered some thought-provoking insights into global trends at the recent Plastics News Executive Forum. The president and chief executive officer of Sabic Innovative Plastics LP touched on globalization, future growth, feedstock and energy costs, sustainability and human capital issues, while also suggesting some keys for succeeding in the North American market.

The industry is facing tremendous challenges with sustainability and rising pressure by environmentalists and politicians who want to ban plastics. In the face of this, Gladden suggests four keys to winning the game in the United States

Innovating

Playing global

Finding value-added niches

Driving productivity

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Biocatalysts - Generics Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Go Green

Green chemistry incorporates concepts such as atom economy, convergency (higher process efficiency with fewer operations), reagent optimization (use of catalysis and more selective and recyclable reagents), and raw material efficiency.

One of the emerging green chemistry aspects is biocatalysts.

An advantage of these biocatalysts and of green chemistry in general, is the ability to manufacture a product in more generic facilities, compared to the demands of traditional chemocatalysis, which typically requires high pressure and high or low temperature reactors.
Another green chemistry strategy is telescoping, which aims to minimize the carryover of impurities from one process step to the next. The ability to make a product or an intermediate without any side products eliminates purification steps, saving time, energy, cost, and waste.

Interest in biocatalysis is high in the generics industry, in particular, as the generics manufacturers are actively seeking strategies to lower manufacturing costs and increase profit margins. It is predicted that biocatalysis technology will improve incrementally, with advances in proteomics enabling molecular evolution to be more directed and structure-based and less dependent on random mutagenesis.

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Keywords: Green chemistry, recyclable reagents, BioVerdant, IChemE Alex Tao, CSO, Codexis, biocatalytic enzymes, biocatalysts, green generic facilities, generics industry

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amazing Chemistry Videos - Thermites, Liquid Nitrogen, Stalagmites

Fiery explosions, beautiful reactions, and hilarious music videos are great reasons to be excited about chemistry. Here are some cool videos that are favorites of Wired Science editors.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Anti-ecstasy Antibodies that Remove Methamphetamines (Meth) from Bloodstream

In recent years, crystal meth (methamphetamine) and ecstasy (MDMA) have become some of America's top problem drugs. Meth can cause severe problems in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Furthermore, because there is no way to remove the drug from the body, therapies tend to focus on treating its side-effects.

But antibodies that bind to methamphetamines and methamphetamine-like compounds to effectively remove them from the bloodstream could change that. Michael Owens, director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Arkansas, US, and colleagues claim to have developed a way to generate them.

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Keywords: Anti-ecstasy antibodies, methamphetamine, MDMA, Michael Owens, Arkansas, cardiovascular, central nervous systems

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fuelstar Combustion Catalyst Increases Fuel Efficiency, Cuts Fuel Costs

A 1992 Kiwi invention called Fuelstar, a fit-and-forget fuel combustion catalyst provides greater overall engine efficiency by giving more complete combustion. The benefits are improved performance, better fuel economy, a cleaner engine and lower exhaust emissions.

The car-engine unit is about the size of a soft-drink can and is plumbed into the fuel supply line.
When fuel flows through the unit on its way to the carburettor or injection system, minuscule particles of metallic tin are released into the fuel and are carried through to the combustion chambers.

These particles are far too small to damage engine components. The tin changes the combustion characteristics of the fuel, giving a more complete and more prolonged fuel burn, resulting in improved efficiency and performance.

California Environmental Engineering tested a Fuelstar installed in a 6.9-litre Nissan diesel truck and found it reduced fuel consumption by 27 per cent. It also brought down emissions of CO2 by 30 per cent and particulates by 24 per cent.

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Duroquinone-based Neuron-Like Molecular Transistor Incredibly Powerful

The most powerful computer known is the brain, and now scientists have designed a machine just a few molecules large that mimics how the brain works.
So far the device can simultaneously carry out 16 times more operations than a normal computer transistor.

Researchers suggest the invention might eventually prove able to perform roughly 1,000 times more operations than a transistor.

This machine could not only serve as the foundation of a powerful computer, but also serve as the controlling element of complex gadgets such as microscopic doctors or factories, scientists added.

The device is made of a compound known as duroquinone.

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Guardion-7 Chemical Detector from BYU Scientist Milt Lee

When U.S. Army special forces infiltrate a factory, they need to know quickly whether they've found chemical weapons so they can call in an airstrike. Similar speedy information is important to soldiers who believe they have been exposed to a chemical attack or to police and firefighters who respond to a terrorist attack or a spill that could include hazardous materials

Now, Brigham Young University scientist Milt Lee and the American Fork company he co-founded has created a miniaturized, lightweight device that recalls the fictional Tricorder of the TV and movie franchise "Star Trek." The Guardion-7 chemical detector is a 28-pound portable device that can detect, without false positives and with exact specificity, a wide range of chemicals in fewer than five minutes, even in harsh environments like the Iraqi desert.

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Keywords: Brigham Young University(BYU), Milt Lee, American Fork company, infiltrate, airstrike, firefighters, hazardous materials, Star Trek, Mike Alder, Torion Technologies, Guardion-7 chemical detector, 28-pound portable device, Wintergreen-flavored Lifesaver, miniaturized gas chromatograph, miniaturized mass spectrometer

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The Non-stick Chewing Gum Dream - by Terrence Cosgrove

Terrence Cosgrove, a professor in this town in western England, imagined a world where chewing gum did not stick to sidewalks and shoes, theater seats or hair. Because Cosgrove studies polymers - the chemical compounds that, among other things, make plastics plastic and chewing gum chewy - his was no idle dream. If he could find the right chemical mixture, the professor surmised, he could retain the chewy without the sticky.

The inspiration for Cosgrove's non-stick chewing gum came on a trip to academic conferences in the United States - not in a conference hall, but on American sidewalks, where he noticed wads of hardened chewing gum. Eventually, his team came up with a formulation of polymers that would not stick. To determine whether it came off sidewalks and other surfaces, they pitted it against standard chewing gums on main streets across western England. While the other gums stuck, Cosgrove's rinsed off with rainwater - "though some surfaces are better than others," he said, calling leather a "terrible" magnet.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Electroluminescent, Chemoluminescent Carpets & Rugs to Light Up Nights

Nightlights, including ones that illuminate when you clap, could be a thing of the past now that two inventors have come up with a new rug that lights up when you step on it. The electroluminescent carpet could keep you from stubbing your toe during a nocturnal walk to the bathroom, guide you to the bedroom after a late-night out and even replace a child's conventional nightlight. The electroluminescent rug uses rechargeable batteries and lights up in response to the weight applied when a person walks across the carpet. Electroluminescence relies on an electric field to generate visible light. Other light producers include photoluminescence, which is used in many glow-in-the-dark toys; and chemoluminescence, which involves light-producing chemical reactions (as in the body of a firefly). So-called responsive surfaces such as Footlume are considered by some experts the next big thing in interiors for fashion-savvy and techie homeowners.

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Keywords: Nightlights, electroluminescent carpet, nocturnal, photoluminescence, chemoluminescence, Footlume, fashion-savvy, techie

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Organic, Chemical Materials in Digital Signal Processing (DSP)?

Performing digital signal processing using organic and chemical materials without electrical currents could be the wave of the future — or so argue sotirios tsaftaris, research professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and aggelos katsaggelos, ameritech professor of electrical engineering and computer science, in their recently published "point of view" piece in the march 2008 edition of proceedings of the ieee.

Digital signal processing uses mathematics and other techniques to manipulate signals like images (natural medical, and others) and sound waves after those signals have been converted to a digital form. This processing can enhance images and compress data for storage and transmission, and such processing chips are found in cell phones, ipods, and hd tvs.

But over the past 10 years, scientists and engineers around the world have experimented with performing signal processing using different materials. In their piece, tsaftaris and katsaggelos describe these experiments while stirring the engineering community towards "a possible not-so-electronic future" of digital signal processing.

Keywords: Digital Signal Processing, Sotirios Tsaftaris, Aggelos Katsaggelos, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sugar Beet Pectin - Many Future Uses Including in Plastics

At Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, researchers in the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit are at work on pectin, a polysaccharide component in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. Polysaccharides are polymers made up of many simple carbohydrates (sugars) linked together into long, continuous molecules. Pectin is currently valued for use as a gelling and thickening agent, beverage stabilizer, and fat substitute.

Most commercial pectin is obtained by extraction from citrus peels, but sugar beet pulp is also rich in pectin. About 1.5 million tons of dry beet pulp—an enormous untapped source of a valuable polysaccharide—are generated annually by U.S. processors.

At present, most pulp is dried and sold as animal feed at little profit because of the costly energy required to dry it for storage and shipment.

But sugar beet pectin has different chemical features than citrus pectin, so it could find new uses, especially in industrial products. Beet pulp is also rich in other highly functional cell wall polysaccharides that could be isolated and put to use. To increase profits for sugar beet growers and processors, the Wyndmoor researchers are working on new processes to efficiently isolate beet pectin and associated polysaccharides and find higher value uses for them.

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Amino Acetonitrile, Related to Amino Acids, Found in Interstellar Space

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn have detected for the first time a molecule closely related to an amino acid: amino acetonitrile. The organic molecule was found with a 30 meter radio telescope in Spain and two radio interferometers in France and Australia in the "Large Molecule Heimat", a giant gas cloud near the galactic centre in the constellation Sagittarius (Astronomy & Astrophysics, in press).

The “Large Molecule Heimat” is a very dense, hot gas clump within the star forming region Sagittarius B2. In this source of only 0,3 light-year diameter, which is heated by a deeply embedded newly formed star, most of the interstellar molecules known to date have been found, including the most complex ones such as ethyl alcohol, formaldehyde, formic acid, acetic acid, glycol aldehyde (a basic sugar), and ethylene glycol.

Starting from 1965, more than 140 molecular species have been detected in space, in interstellar clouds as well as in circumstellar envelopes. A large fraction of these molecules is organic or carbon-based. A lot of attention is given to the quest for so-called "bio"-molecules, especially interstellar amino acids. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and therefore key ingredients for the origin of life, have been found in meteorites on Earth, but not yet in interstellar space.

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Dr Richard Pike of Royal Society of Chemistry Warns of Biofuel 'Dead End'

Biofuels may be a "technological dead end" with no practical future, one of Britain's leading chemists has said.

Just one flight to New York would use up a year's yield of biofuel from land equivalent to 30 football pitches, said Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Pressure from farmers and manufacturers as well as muddled planning by decision makers could be leading the country up an energy supply blind alley, he added.

Dr Pike urged restraint on the promotion of biofuel as the simple answer to Britain's future fuel demands, and called for "clear debate and sounder legislation" to ensure future energy challenges were met the right way.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

World Epoxy Resins Market - Research Report on Challenges, Issues

Reportlinker.com announces that a new market research report related to the Chemicals industry industry is available in its catalogue. World Epoxy Resins Market

This report analyzes the worldwide markets for Epoxy Resins in Thousand Tons. The major end-use segments analyzed are Paints & Coatings (Solvent-based, Water-based, and Powder Coatings), Electrical Laminates, Bonding, Flooring & Paving, and Miscellaneous. The report provides separate comprehensive analytics for the US, Canada, Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Rest of World. Annual forecasts are provided for each region for the period of 2001 through 2015. A ten-year historic analysis is also provided for these markets with annual market analytics. The report profiles 85 companies including many key and niche players worldwide such as 3M, Aditya Birla Chemicals (Thailand) Ltd, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Asahi Kasei Chemicals Corporation, Cognis Benelux BV, CVC Specialty Chemicals, DuPont (EI) de Nemours Co., Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc., Huntsman Corporation, Kukdo Chemical, Mitsui Chemicals Inc., Nan Ya Plastics Corporation, Polychem Corporation, Reichhold Inc., Spolchemie A.S., Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd., The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Epoxy, and UPPC AG. Market data and analytics are derived from primary and secondary research. Company profiles are mostly extracted from URL research and reported select online sources.

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Sea Cucumbers Inspire Polymers that Change Rigidity When Exposed to Water

A new polymer made to act similarly to a sea cucumber can soften when its contacted by water.

Stealing a trick from a tiny, pickle-shaped creature that dwells in the depths of the ocean, scientists have designed a new polymer that, when exposed to water, can instantly change its rigidity and strength. The inventors say the innovation could be useful in biomedical applications, such as brain implants for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries or stroke. Those inserts, say some researchers, may fail because they need to be very stiff when they are “installed.”

When contacted by water, the material transforms from a hard plastic, like that of a CD case, to a soft rubber, explains Stuart Rowan, an associate professor of macromolecular science and engineering in the chemistry department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a co-author on the new study, which appears in Science.

Sea cucumbers, of course, are always in contact with water. The animals perform their rigid-to-soft "trick" when they sense a threat, hardening up their skin as a sort of body armor.

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Coal Emerging as Feedstock for Plastics - Bad News for Environment?

We all know that crude oil isn't just used to fuel our cars and heat our homes - it is also used to make a range of chemicals, including those in plastics, lubricants and fertilisers. With dwindling oil reserves, coal is emerging as an easy alternative. This could be true for the chemical applications as well.

Why is this a concern? Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. One megawatt hour of electricity produced from coal produces 974 kg CO2 versus 726 and 469 for oil and natural gas.

Coal becomes an economically attractive option for making plastic when oil sells for $50 per barrel. It ceases to be attractive below $35 per barrel.

So why is coal not already being used? In part because of environmental concerns. Coal gets bad press, and countries that have signed the Kyoto protocol may not be able to "afford" the additional emissions of CO2. Not surprising, then, that coal's potential as a raw material for making chemicals is greatest in China, India and the US -- as yet, none of them have any obligations to reduce their emissions and together, they are home to about half the world's coal reserves.


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chemical Brain for Controlling Nanobots, Nano-machines

The researchers have already built larger 'brains'

A tiny chemical "brain" which could one day act as a remote control for swarms of nano-machines has been invented.

The molecular device - just two billionths of a metre across - was able to control eight of the microscopic machines simultaneously in a test. Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say it could also be used to boost the processing power of future computers. The machine is made from 17 molecules of the chemical duroquinone. Each one is known as a "logic device".

Many experts have high hopes for nano-machines in treating disease.

More from here

Related blogposts
Nanobots Controlled By Chemical Brain

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Metal Hydrides, Alanates, Borohydrides & Hydrogen Cars’ Efficiency

Hydrogen-powered cars seem to be the best solution to the problem of fossil fuels pollution.

David S. Sholl, a professor of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is conducting a new research to identify a new class of materials to be used in making hydrogen engines more efficient than ever.

“We are currently studying the use of metal hydrides, such as alanates and borohydrides, to find materials that could ultimately improve the efficiency of hydrogen cars and curb pollution,” said Sholl.

They’re trying to create new materials that are able to store large amounts of hydrogen in a compressed gas tank and then release it to power the fuel cells of the future cars.

Full report here

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hydrogen on Demand Using Aluminium & Gallium

Purdue professor Jerry Woodall, center, and researchers Charles Allen and Jeffrey Ziebarth display hydrogen gas created by adding water to an alloy of aluminum and gallium.

A Purdue University engineer and National Medal of Technology winner says he's ready and able to start a revolution in clean energy.

Professor Jerry Woodall and students have invented a way to use an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water — a process that he thinks could replace gasoline as well as its pollutants and emissions tied to global warming.

Woodall says the method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen — two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy. The hydrogen is generated on demand. So instead of having to fill up at a station, hydrogen would be made inside vehicles in tanks about the same size as today's gasoline tanks. An internal reaction in those tanks would create hydrogen from water and 350 pounds worth of special pellets.

Read the full story from here

Related blogposts
New Aluminum-Rich Alloy Produces Hydrogen On-Demand
Hydrogen On Demand

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Engineering Safer Tobacco - Removing A Gene Reduces Carcinogens

Knocking out a specific gene in burley tobacco plants significantly reduces harmful carcinogens in cured tobacco leaves, scientists at a North Carolina university have shown.

The findings could lead to less-harmful tobacco products, particularly smokeless forms such as chewing tobacco. The research was sponsored by the tobacco company Philip Morris and conducted at North Carolina State University.

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Genetically Engineered E.coli Bacteria a Future Source of Energy?

For most people, the name “E. coli” is synonymous with food poisoning and product recalls, but a professor in Texas A&M University’s chemical engineering department envisions the bacteria as a future source of energy, helping to power our cars, homes and more.

By genetically modifying the bacteria, Thomas Wood, a professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has “tweaked” a strain of E. coli so that it produces substantial amounts of hydrogen. Specifically, Wood’s strain produces 140 times more hydrogen than is created in a naturally occurring process, according to an article in “Microbial Biotechnology,” detailing his research.

Though Wood acknowledges that there is still much work to be done before his research translates into any kind of commercial application, his initial success could prove to be a significant stepping stone on the path to the hydrogen-based economy that many believe is in this country’s future.

Full report here

Related blogposts
Engineered E. Coli strain boosts biohydrogen production from sugar 140 times compared with wild type

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hydrogen Energy from H2 Stored in Buckyballs

Rice University have discovered that it's possible to store hydrogen inside buckyballs. Hydrogen can be an excellent power source, but it is notoriously difficult to store. The buckyballs can contain up to 8% of their weight in hydrogen, and they are strong enough to hold it at a density that rivals the center of Jupiter.

Using a computer model, a research team has tracked the strength of each atomic bond in a buckyball and simulated what happened to the bonds as more hydrogen atoms were packed inside. The model promises to be particularly useful because it is scalable, that is it can calculate exactly how much hydrogen a buckyball of any given size can hold, and it can also tell scientists how overstuffed buckyballs burst open and release their cargo.

Full report here

Related blogposts
Top Energy Advances from 2007

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Coal as Chemical Feedstock for Oil and Polymers?

Dirty solutions to the price of oil are beginning to ramp up. A troubling new article in the chemical industry trade mag, Chemical and Engineering News, reports that coal is making in-roads as a feedstock for bulk chemical production.

Running directly counter to “green chemistry” companies like one funded in November Novomer, some in the chemical industry are exploring gasifying coal into methanol, which is a step away from the building blocks of bulk chemicals, ethylene and propylene. The economics seem to indicate that crude oil over $50 a barrel will make coal an economical option.

Full story here

Related blogposts
Coal tar is a versatile feedstock

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Busting Ethanol - Here Come Butanol and Second Gen Biofuels

In 2007, ethanol fuel production rose more than 34% in the United States, reaching a record-high of 6.5 billion barrels. Industry groups expect similar growth rates for this year. The ethanol industry should savor the time, however--this could be as good as it gets.

A handful of small companies, including Pasadena, Calif.-based start-up Gevo, are scrambling to commercialize second-generation biofuels such as butanol that they believe will be cheap and clean enough to put ethanol out of business. These new fuels are even designed to be produced by the same refineries that are cranking out ethanol now.

Full story here

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New Membrane Could Improve Fuel Cell Efficiency

A new type of membrane based on tiny iron particles appears to address one of the major limitations exhibited by current power-generating fuel cell technology. While there are many types of fuel cells, in general they generate electricity as the result of chemical reactions between an external fuel -- most commonly hydrogen -- and an agent that reacts with it. The membrane that separates the two parts of the cell and facilitates the reaction is a key factor in determining the efficiency of the cell.

Researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering have developed a membrane that allows fuel cells to operate at low humidity and theoretically to operate at higher temperatures.

Full story here

Related blogposts
New Ceramic Fuel Cell Membrane Could Improve Fuel Cell Efficiency
New discovery could improve fuel cell efficiency

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Taking Lubricant Cleanliness to the Next Level

Lubricant cleanliness refers to the absence of contamination. Microscopic particles are the most harmful form of contamination in lubricants. They can irreversibly damage bearing surfaces, shorten the service life of equipment and cause unexpected breakdowns. The concentration of particles in new "as supplied" drums of lubricant can differ by as much as a factor of 1,000, and some bulk lubricants may contain even higher concentrations of particles. This article looks at how microscopic particles contaminate lubricants and damage machinery, and recommends methods to improve lubricant cleanliness.

Full article here

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Maerogel - Rice Husk to Aerogel, Insulator - Halimaton Hamdan

A Malaysian scientist says she has discovered a cheap way to turn discarded rice husks into a high-tech material that could reduce electricity bills, protect buildings from bomb blasts and make airplanes and tennis rackets lighter.

Aerogel, the lightest solid known to man, was invented in 1931 by an American scientist, but its high cost has limited its use.

Halimaton Hamdan, a University of Cambridge-trained chemistry professor, said her process cuts the cost of producing aerogel by 80 percent, making it so affordable that it could become a commonplace material with widespread use.

So what is aerogel and what are its interesting properties in the first place?

Nicknamed "frozen smoke" because of its cloudy appearance, aerogel is made from silica, the basic ingredient in sand, and is over 95% per cent air by volume. The result is a nearly weightless and translucent material with a white powder that seems to float inside.
Aerogel can withstand mechanical pressure 2,000 times its own weight, making it suitable for bomb-proof panels. It also makes good sound-proofing material. Additionally, aerogel can also absorb oil spills and pollutants in the air - NASA fitted a space probe in 1999 with a mitt packed with the substance to catch the dust from a comet’s tail.

Summary of aerogel properties

1. Space Age nanomaterial (top 10 materials of the millenium)
2. Gel filled with air
3. Fourth state matter
4. Frozen smoke
5. Lightest solid – 3 times the density of air
6. Consists of 96% air
7. Porous amorphous solid with pore diameter of 1-30 nm
8. Large surface area – 600-900 m2 per g
9. Dielectric material – thermal, electrical and acoustic insulator

And what is Maerogel?

It is a silica aerogel produced from rice husk

It is a novel nanomaterial of a highly divided state and exhibits unconventional properties which offers more cost effective methods of production and application.

Aerogel has been around since 1931, but its high cost has limited its use. The new process to make Maerogel cuts the cost of producing aerogel by 80 per cent, making it so affordable that it could become a commonplace material with wide use.

Comparison between Maerogel and Aerogel

1. Maerogel is more superior in quality than the current commercial aerogel. Being an inert, non-toxic and environmentally friendly amorphous material, Maerogel possesses established physico-chemical properties which can be modified for specific applications.
Silica aerogel has been used as a catcher’s mitt in spacecraft to
2. Cheaper alternative of precursor
3. Silica aerogel from rice husk
4. Simpler preparation technique

Product Features & Physical Properties of Maerogel

Product Features

1. Merogel contains pores and properties which are smaller than the wavelength of light and is the lightest solid material
known.
2. A nanomaterial of a highly divided state and exhibits unconventional properties which offers more cost effective methods of
production and application.

Physical Properties

Apparent density 0.03 g/cm3
Internal Surface Area 800-900 m2/g
Mean Pore Diameter 20.8 nm
Thermal Tolerance to 500 oC, mp > 1200 oC
Thermal Conductivity 0.099 Wm-1 K-1

Some useful applications of Maerogel:

1. Dust capture for space applications - capture dust from a comet.
2. Because of being nearly weightless, aerogel is an excellent thermal insulator; particularly for the space crafts industry, where in the vacuum of space, Maerogel provides seven-fold better insulation then fiberglass. also applications in vacuum and heat insulation of hot water tanks, boilers, and refrigerators
3. It is a dielectric with potential applications as support in computer chips, active electronic materials and battery components. Also spacers in computer chips – double the speed of computers
4. Ultracapacitor technology
5. Nanocatalysts
6. Ultralightweight composites, sensors, lenses
7. Window panes – 1” layer of aerogel provides the same insulation value as 15 standard thermopanes
8. A promising material for translucent roofing and particularly potential applications in computer chips, active electronic
materials and battery components.

Sources: ZNMG & this (PDF)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Multimodal Sensing Molecule Sensor Advances Lab-on-a-chip Tech

Single molecule sensor could advance on lab-on-a-chip tech

For the first time, US scientists have found a way of simultaneously performing optical and electrical measurements on the same single molecule, known as multimodal sensing. The study by researchers at Rice University could pave the way for mass produced single molecule sensors and could have significant applications in pharmaceutical lab-on-a-chip technologies.

The experiment consisted of making measurements on a nanoelectronic device constructed from two small gold electrodes separated by a tiny gap. The researchers then used an electric current and measured conduction through the gap, which was built in such a way as to only allow one or two molecules to contribute to the conduction. When this occurs, an "optical fingerprint" is associated with the molecule and the type of molecule can be identified. Other properties such as changes in position and rotation can also be measured.

Full story here

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Coal Gasification to be More Attractive - Utah Scientist

Utah scientist predicts coal gasification will become increasingly attractive

Coal gasification, an expensive but cleaner way to convert coal into energy, will likely become more widespread, potentially offering breakthroughs in curbing emissions that exacerbate global warming and weaning the U.S. from foreign energy, predicted a Utah chemical engineering professor at a major scientific conference in Boston today.

As regulatory frameworks evolve to address growing alarm over greenhouse emissions associated with coal combustion, gasification will become increasingly attractive on economic grounds, according to Brigham Young University's Larry Baxter, who spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual gathering.

Full story here

Related blogposts
Utah scientist predicts coal gasification will become increasingly attractive
Making case for cleaner coal power

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Polyset Epoxy Siloxane (PES) Polymer Aims to Streamline Chip Fabs

Polymer aims to streamline chip fabs

A cheaper, quicker-curing polymer aims to lower the cost and improve the efficiency of fabricating semiconductors, according to researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Working with materials experts at Polyset Company Inc. (Mechanicville, New York), the new formulation of polyset epoxy siloxane (PES) could enhance semiconductor performance for conventional photolithography, as well as ease the transition to nanoimprint lithography.

Full report here

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Sewage Into Drinking Water Using Sewage Treatment Plants

Converting Sewage Into Drinking Water: Wave Of The Future?

Amid growing water shortages in parts of the United States, more communities are considering tapping their sewage treatment plants as a new source of drinking water.

The conversion of wastewater into tap water could help meet increased demand for one of life's most essential resources, according to the article "Treating Sewage For Drinking Water" scheduled for the Jan. 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

Full report @ Science Daily

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Manic Depression / Bipolar Disorder Chemical Signature Discovered

Chemical signature of manic depression discovered by scientists

People with manic depression have a distinct chemical signature in their brains, according to a new study. The research may also indicate how the mood stabilisers used to treat the disorder counteract the changes in the brain that it appears to cause.

Manic depression, which is also known as bipolar disorder, is a debilitating psychiatric condition characterised by alternating mania and depression. Although it is known that the condition can be treated relatively effectively using the mood-stabilising drugs lithium and valproic acid, the reasons why these treatments work are poorly understood. The authors of the new study hope that their research will enable a better understanding of the condition and of how it can be treated.

Full report of the study here

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Manic depression’s chemical signature discovered by scientists

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Microfluidic “Lab-on-a-chip” Devices - MRI/NMR to Microreactors

Lab-on-Chip Technology: Scientists Bring MRI/NMR To Microreactors

In a significant step towards improving the design of future catalysts and catalytic reactors, especially for microfluidic “lab-on-a-chip” devices, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, have successfully applied magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to the study of gas-phase reactions on the microscale.

A team of researchers have developed a technique in which parahydrogen-polarized gas is used to make an MRI signal strong enough to provide direct visualization of the gas-phase flow of active catalysts in packed-bed microreactors. This work, the first application of gas-phase MRI to microfluidic catalysis, shows that parahydrogen-enhanced MRI can be used to track gases and liquids in microfluidic devices as well as in the void spaces of a tightly packed catalyst reactor bed.

Full report here

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Organic Molecular Nanotechnology

Modest from the viewpoint of molecular manufacturing visionaries, but quite fascinating to a lot of scientists, research into nanofibers, as a modification of organic crystals, is making good progress. New research results coming out of Denmark offer the basis for a novel organic-molecule-based nanotechnological concept that allows for a multitude of applications in fundamental research and in device applications. Essentially, this concept is based on three steps: 1) directed self-assembled surface growth of nanofibers from functionalized molecules; 2) transfer and manipulation of individual fibers as well as of ordered arrays; and 3) device integration.

Full report here

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Molecular Nanovalves - Store Gas with Barium Organotrisulfonate

Nanotechnology: Entirely New Way Of Storing Gas Created

new process for catching gas from the environment and holding it indefinitely in molecular-sized containers has been developed by a team of University of Calgary researchers, who say it represents a novel method of gas storage that could yield benefits for capturing, storing and transporting gases more safely and efficiently.

In a new article in Nature-Materials,* Shimizu, fellow U of C professor David Cramb, chemistry graduate student Brett Chandler and colleagues from the National Research Council describe their invention of "molecular nanovalves." Using the orderly crystal structure of a barium organotrisulfonate, the researchers developed a unique solid structure that is able to convert from a series of open channels to a collection of air-tight chambers.

Full report here

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Entirely New Way of Storing Gas Created

A Nanotechnology Way of Storing Gas Created

Nanotechnology: Entirely New Way Of Storing Gas Created

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MIT Team's Nanoparticles to Battle Cancer - Mimic Blood Platelets

MIT team develops nanoparticles to battle cancer

On a quest to modernize cancer treatment and diagnosis, an MIT professor and her colleagues have created new nanoparticles that mimic blood platelets. The team wants to use these new multifunctional particles to carry out different medical missions inside the body, from imaging to drug delivery.

The grant will allow the team to continue work on promising nanoparticle solutions that, while not quite miniature surgical teams, do have the potential to help identify tumors and deliver chemotherapy locally.

Full report here

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why Single Nanotube is Better than Multi Nanotubes Sensors, Flat Planar Sensors

Modeling Technique Explains Why a Single Nanotube Performs Better than Sensors Containing Several Nanotubes or Flat Planar Sensors

A new modeling technique explains for the first time why a single nanotube performs better than sensors containing several nanotubes or flat planar sensors and refutes a popular explanation for why smaller sensors work better than larger ones.

The technique was developed to study and design miniature biosensors, and could help industry perfect lab-on-a-chip technology for uses ranging from medical diagnostics to environmental monitoring.

Full report from here

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DSM Engineering Plastics' PA4T Polymer for High Performance Thermoplastics

DSM Engineering Plastics has a new polymer

DSM Engineering Plastics announces the development of a new polymer, PA4T which expands their portfolio for high performance engineering thermoplastics.

DSM Engineering Plastics, one of the world's leading suppliers of engineering thermoplastics, is the inventor and global market leader in high performance polyamides with Stanyl* , a polyamide 46.

The new PA4T polymer offers an exciting and unique balance of properties including excellent dimensional stability, compatibility with lead free soldering, high melting point, high stiffness and mechanical strength at elevated temperatures, and excellent processability in terms of flow and processing windows. The new polymer will answer to market trends for miniaturization and convergence of electronic devices like cell phones and computers. It will assist automakers in continued weight reduction efforts for better fuel efficiency and lower costs.

Full news report here

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