• Rare earth elementsNew alloy to boost rare-earth elements production

    Rare earths are a group of elements critical to electronics, alternative energy, and other modern technologies. Modern windmills and hybrid autos, for example, rely on strong permanent magnets made with the rare earth elements neodymium and dysprosium. Yet there is no production occurring in North America at this time. Researchers have developed aluminum alloys that are both easier to work with and more heat tolerant than existing products. The alloys — which contain cerium — have the potential to jump-start the U.S. production of rare earth elements.

  • Rare earth elementsAppalachian coal ash rich in rare earth elements

    In the wake of a 2014 coal ash spill into North Carolina’s Dan River from a ruptured Duke Energy drainage pipe, the question of what to do with the nation’s aging retention ponds and future coal ash waste has been a highly contested topic. A study of the content of rare earth elements in U.S. coal ashes shows that coal mined from the Appalachian Mountains could be the proverbial golden goose for hard-to-find materials critical to clean energy and other emerging technologies.

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  • Personal protection equipmentTougher steel could be used for body armor, shields for satellites

    A team of engineers has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites.

  • Rare earth mineralsRare earth minerals are in short supply, so researchers seek to extract them from coal

    With supplies growing scarce of essential materials needed to make products ranging from smart phones to windmills, researchers are working with academic and industry partners in a $1 million pilot project to recover rare earth elements from coal. The pilot effort is important because rare earth materials, used to create powerful permanent magnets in products as common as computer hard drives to electric motors, are in increasingly short supply, particularly heavy rare earth elements.

  • Rare earth elementsExtracting rare-earth elements from coal could soon be economical in U.S.

    The United States could soon decrease its dependence on importing valuable rare-earth elements (REEs) which are widely used in many industries, according to a team of researchers. who found a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to extract these metals from coal byproducts.

  • InfrastructureDeveloping materials for more resilient concrete pavements

    Aging roadways pose a growing threat to transportation infrastructure which is critical to the health of economies throughout the world. Beyond the daunting task of funding extensive restoration efforts, there is an equally pressing challenge to find ways to rebuild major roads which are more sustainable. Researchers have been experimenting with what are called phase-change materials to produce more resilient concrete surfaces for roads and bridges. Phase-change materials are substances which respond to temperature variations by changing their state from solid to liquid or vice versa, and can be sourced from petroleum (such as paraffin wax) or be plant-based. A new project is exploring the use of a phase-change material solution for reducing or preventing temperature-related cracks in concrete pavement.

  • InfrastructureSelf-compacting concrete is now fire resistant as well

    Self-compacting high-performance concrete (SCHPC) has till now suffered from one weakness — when exposed to fire it flakes and splits, which reduces the loadbearing capacity of ceilings, walls, and supporting pillars, thus increasing the risk of collapse in a burning building. Scientists have now developed a method of manufacturing fire resistant self-compacting high-performance concrete which maintains its mechanical integrity under these conditions.

  • MineralsU.S. reliance on nonfuel mineral imports increasing

    Key nonfuel mineral commodities that support the U.S. economy and national security are increasingly being sourced from outside the U.S., according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report. Over the past sixty years, there has been an increase in the number and diversity of nonfuel commodities that the United States imports as well as the extent to which the United States is import reliant.

  • Rare earth materialsRecovering rare earth elements from coal mining waste

    West Virginia could become one of the country’s significant sources for rare earth elements (REE), the “vitamins of modern industry,” without the expense or environmental cost of opening new mines. A new project brings together academia, state regulators, and industry to collaborate on finding a successful recovery technology for total REEs from acid mine drainage, or AMD. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone, it is estimated that AMD generates more than 45,000 tons of total REEs per year or about three times the current U.S. demand for total REEs.

  • Personal protection equipmentFibers from natural fats make bulletproof vests stronger and greener

    Bulletproof vests and other super-strong materials could soon become even tougher and more environmentally friendly at the same time with the help of extra firm, or “al dente,” fibers. These materials, which are powerful enough to stop speeding bullets, can also be used for many other tasks that require strength.

  • Coastal infrastructureU Maine launches center for studying, developing coastal and offshore structures

    During a laboratory dedication on Monday at the University of Maine, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $3.9 million grant to the University of Maine to match $9.98 million already raised, formally establishing the Harold Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory and Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center on campus. The UMaine Composites Center is the largest STEM research and development program located in a Maine university, and is at the heart of one of UMaine’s seven Signature Areas of Excellence — Advanced Materials for Infrastructure and Energy.

  • Infrastructure protectionSolving the problem of “concrete disease”

    When bridges, dam walls, and other structures made of concrete are streaked with dark cracks after a few decades, the culprit is AAR: the alkali-aggregate reaction. Also called the “concrete disease,” or even “concrete cancer,” it is a chemical reaction between substances contained in the material and moisture seeping in from outside. AAR damages concrete structures all over the world and makes complex renovations or reconstructions necessary. Researchers have now solved the structure of the material produced in the course of AAR at atomic level — and have thereby discovered a previously unknown crystalline arrangement of the atoms.

  • Infrastructure protectionSelf-healing concrete being tested

    At present, billions of pounds are spent every year maintaining, fixing, and restoring structures such as bridges, buildings, tunnels, and roads. It is estimated that around £40 billion a year is spent in the United Kingdom on the repair and maintenance of structures, the majority of which are made from concrete. Researchers are testing three separate concrete-healing technologies for the first time in real-world settings, with a view to incorporating them into a single system that could be used to automatically repair concrete in the built environment.

  • Rare earth elementsRecovering rare earth materials from electric and hybrid vehicle motors

    China currently supplies about 97 percent of rare earth materials used in manufacturing around the world. In an effort to help develop a sustainable domestic supply of rare earth elements and lessen the U.S. dependence on China for materials that are vital to the production of electronics, wind turbines, and many other technologies, researchers have developed a method of extracting rare earths from the drive units and motors of discarded electric and hybrid cars.

  • Rare earth mineralsDOE’s rare-earth recycling invention commercially licensed

    The Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of high-tech industries. A new technology developed by CMI aids in the recycling, recovery, and extraction of rare earth minerals. It has been licensed to U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. The membrane solvent extraction system is the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.