Materials

  • Some flame retardants make fires more lethal

    Almost 10,000 deaths from fires occur in industrialized countries worldwide each year, including about 3,500 in the United States; scientists find that widely used flame retardants added to carpets, furniture upholstery, plastics, crib mattresses, car, and airline seats and other products to suppress the visible flames in fires are actually increasing the danger of invisible toxic gases that are the No. 1 cause of death in fires

  • New plastics mimic human skin: they “bleed” when scratched, then heal

    Plastics have become so common, replacing steel, aluminum, glass, paper, and other traditional materials because they combine desirable properties such as strength, light weight, and corrosion resistance; a new genre of plastics that mimic the human skin’s ability to heal scratches and cuts offers the promise of endowing military and first response gear – and consumer goods – with self-repairing surfaces

  • U.S. files trade charges against China over rare minerals

    China mines and sells about 97 percent of the world’s rare Earth elements – seventeen metals used in cell phones, advanced batteries, wind turbines, and more; the Chinese, in  violation of WTO rules, have manipulated the export of these minerals in order to weaken the techno logy sectors of other countries, and punish countries over political disputes

  • New material for sustainable road building: "poticrete"

    An organization dedicated to promoting sustainable roadway construction, awarded its first official certification to a Bellingham, Washington, project that incorporates porcelain from recycled toilets; a newly widened sidewalk in Bellingham incorporates more than 400 recycled toilets, crushed into what the project engineers have dubbed “poticrete”

  • Shift to green energy could mean crunch in rare Earth metals supply

    A large-scale shift from coal-fired electric power plants and gasoline-fueled cars to wind turbines and electric vehicles could increase demand for two already-scarce metals — available almost exclusively in China — by 600-2,600 percent over the next twenty-five years

  • Recycled glass in cement makes concrete stronger

    Researchers have found that by mixing ground waste glass into the cement that is used to make concrete, the concrete is stronger, more durable, and more resistant to water; in addition, the use of glass helps reduce the amount of glass that ends up in landfills

  • New methodology evaluates risk of scarce metals

    China produces more than 95 of the world’s rare Earth metals, making governments and businesses around the world uneasy; researchers develop a methodology ti answer two important questions: how do we know what is scarce? If we know a metal is scarce, how do we know whether we should worry about it?

  • The strength of a spider web depends on design, not only on silk

    New study shows that spider web’s durability depends not only on silk strength, but on how the overall web design compensates for damage and the response of individual strands to continuously varying stresses

  • Digital images used to prevent bridge failures

    A new/old method has been developed to assure the safety of hundreds of truss bridges across the United States; researchers have been testing the use of a thoroughly modern version of an old technique — photographic measurement or “photogrammetry” — to watch the failure of a key bridge component in exquisite detail

  • Military seeking high-pressure materials without high-pressure processes

    Military missions place tremendous stress on the materials used for defense weapons, vehicles, and other applications; applications range from stronger armor, to lighter weights which allow for faster propulsion, to greater resiliency in aerospace, ground, and naval platforms

  • New material for building thermonuclear fusion reactors

    Two European projects – ITER and DEMO — propose development of fusion reactors that are economically viable; this work depends on the development of new structural materials capable of withstanding damage by irradiation and elevated temperatures resulting from the fusion reaction

  • Laws of traditional physics would foil Santa's effort to carry out mission

    Santa has 31 hours to visit 378 million Christian children; at the rate of 3.5 children per household, and assuming at least one good child per home, this comes to 108 million homes; if each child receives no more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh would be carrying more than 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself; Santa would thus need at least 360,000 Reindeer to pull the sleigh; since Santa must visit 108 million homes in 31 hours, he will have to travel at 650 miles per second — 3,000 times the speed of sound; at that speed, the lead pair of Reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each and vaporize — indeed, the entire Reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second; Santa himself would be subjected to forces of 17,500 Gs; a 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, and be crushed

  • String theory explains Santa Claus

    Calculations maintain that the laws of physics should prevent Santa Claus from delivering all his gifts and that Santa would burn up in the atmosphere if he tried; the Norwegian Internet magazine, forskning.no, has put together a team of four top researchers to look into the case; the panel’s conclusion is clear: Santa can do the job and Christmas is saved!

  • Measuring the effect of fire on materials

    Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) are developing an infrared measuring method to analyze the thermal properties and resistance to fire of composite materials; this advance would have applications in areas where fire safety requires that the composite materials withstand high temperatures

  • Improving pothole repairs

    The alarming increase in the number of road potholes in the United Kingdom — an outcome of reduced road maintenance, increasing traffic volumes, heavier loads, and repeated adverse weather — is creating potentially hazardous driving conditions, causing serious concerns to the authorities as well as to the public; engineers are looking foe ways to improve pothole repairs