Materials

  • Ultrathin radios enable flexible structural-health monitoring system

    Currently, engineers can use single-point sensors or fiber optic strips to detect structural problems, but the devices can collect data over relatively small spaces. The problem is that many failures develop over large areas and cannot be detect that at an early stage. The 2007 collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis, for example, developed over a gusset plate with an area of several square meters, far too large for current monitoring systems to practically survey. Researchers have developed ultrathin radios which can be embedded directly on plastic sheets, which can be applied to walls and other structures. The innovation could be used for new devices ranging from an invisible communications system inside buildings to sophisticated, flexible structural health monitoring system for use on bridges, buildings, roads, pipelines, and other structures.

  • Accessible critical rare Earth deposit confirmed in Montana

    U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. (UREE) the other day announced the results of its 2013 exploration in Lemhi Pass, Montana. The company says the results confirmed that its properties have the highest accessible rare earth deposit in North America.

  • Sandy shows need for more effective preparedness, resiliency standards

    The rebuilding efforts following the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy have triggered a discussion over preparedness and resiliency in America’s commercial and residential buildings.Some experts callfor a presidential appointment of a building resilience “’czar”’ with authority to coordinate and seek synergies between public and private sector initiatives.

  • A 34-story wooden skyscraper to be built in Stockholm

    A Swedish architectural form is building a 34-story wood skyscraper in downtown Stockholm. Solid wood will be the predominant material in the building’s pillars and beams, while inside the apartments, walls, ceilings, fittings and window frames will be also constructed of wood.The firm says that wood is not only cheaper than either steel or concrete, but is also more fire resistant than both. This is due to 15 percent of wood mass being water, which will evaporate before the wood actually burns. In addition, logs get charred which protects the core.

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  • Man-induced quakes to help in building safer, sturdier buildings

    A team led by Johns Hopkins structural engineers is shaking up a building in the name of science and safety. Using massive moving platforms and an array of sensors and cameras, the researchers are trying to find out how well a two-story building made of cold-formed steel can stand up to a lab-generated Southern California quake.

  • Motivating businesses to adopt building resiliency standards

    Increased resilience for buildings in the face of hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, or cyberattacks has been a major national security focus over the past decade. Such resilient buildings not only would be less susceptible to damage and work interruption but could become community gathering places in a general crisis. It will not be easy, however, to secure voluntary adoption of resiliency standards by industry and builders without adequate justification.

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  • Testing the seismic strength of light frame steel construction

    A partnership of leading earthquake engineering researchers from top U.S. and Canadian universities and design professionals from the steel industry have begun the final phase of a three-year project to increase the seismic safety of buildings that use lightweight cold-formed steel for their primary beams and columns. Research to conclude with shake-table testing.

  • Studying rare Earth elements in Alaska may help make them less rare

    A unique deposit of heavy rare Earth elements (REE) at Alaska’s Bokan Mountain could help scientists understand how rare Earth element deposits form, according to new research. Rare Earth elements are important, but scarce, elements used in components in many cutting edge electronic and defense technologies.

  • New technology prevents bridge collapse

    Researchers propose a new technology that could divert vibrations away from load-bearing elements of bridges to avoid catastrophic collapses. The researchers propose a “wave bypass” technique that has many similarities to those being used by researchers looking to create Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks, which exploit man-made materials known as metamaterials to bend light around objects.

  • Ash from olive residue biomass leads to more effective, cheaper concrete

    Researchers have produced self-compacting concrete with ash from boiler combustion of olive pruning residue pellets. The plasticity and cohesion of this type of concrete mean no compaction is needed when used in construction and, moreover, it has other advantages with respect to conventional concrete.

  • U.S. policy may lead to growing global shortage of helium

    Helium is an essential resource in technologies such as medical imaging, rocket engines, and surveillance devices. In response to the element’s scarcity, the United States has been stockpiling helium since the 1960s in a National Helium Reserve called the Bush Dome, a deep underground reservoir outside of Amarillo, Texas. In 1996 the Helium Privatization Act mandated that the Department of the Interior sell off all the stockpiled helium by 2015. Scientists say that this action discourages the active exploration of helium since companies can buy it from the United States at a cheap price and sell it at a premium. The result will be a growing shortage of helium.

  • Making concrete “greener”

    Many factors determine the overall energy and environmental impact of concrete. Reducing the amount of portland cement, which reacts with water to bind all the sand, stone, and the other constituents of concrete as it hardens, provides the biggest opportunity. Portland cement manufacturing accounts for more than 5 percent of U.S. industrial carbon-dioxide emissions. In addition, the U.S. cement industry consumes 400 gigajoules of energy annually.

  • Building stronger, greener concrete with biofuel byproducts

    The world uses nearly seven billion cubic meters of concrete a year, making concrete the most-used industrial material after water. Even though making concrete is less energy intensive than making steel or other building materials, we use so much of it that concrete production accounts for between 3 to 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Precious metal recovery technique ideal for rare Earth elements purification

    Researchers have come up with a new approach to make the recovery of high value precious metals faster and more economically viable. The new technique could be ideal for the purification of rare earth elements, which are vital commodities for ‘green’ technologies such as hybrid cars and novel batteries.

  • New source for rare earth elements: discarded consumer products

    In a new twist on the state’s mining history, a group of Idaho scientists will soon be crushing consumer electronics rather than rocks in a quest to recover precious materials. Two national labs  in the state will apply expertise gained in recycling fissionable material from nuclear fuel to separate rare earth metals and other critical materials from crushed consumer products.