Materials

  • New concrete could increase life of bridges by forty years

    Researchers have developed a new type of concrete that could increase the lifespan of bridges by more than forty years compared to normal strength concrete; the more durable type of concrete minimizes shrinkage, a problem typically found in high-strength concrete; the new concrete is also less likely to crack, which reduces the ability for corrosive materials like chlorides from de-icing salts to seep into the bridge’s internal structure; the new concrete uses a lightweight porous type of sand

  • Surprise: Thomas Edison also invented the concrete house

    Historians say Thomas Edison invented and patented in 1917 an innovative construction system to mass produce prefabricated and seamless concrete houses; most people associate this style of architectural design and type of building technology with the European avant-garde of the early twentieth century; originally motivated by the objective of providing a cost-effective prototype for the working-class home, Edison’s 1917 experiment in mass-production was one of Modernism’s first attempts to construct a building with a single material

  • Making high-speed rail tracks safer

    High-speed rail requires prestressed concrete railroad ties, as wooden cross ties are too flexible; for these ties to be effective, prestressing forces must be applied at a considerable distance before the rail load is applied; this is called the transfer length; to resist the heavy impacts the concrete ties utilize about twenty steel wires, each stressed to around 7,000 pounds; if the prestressed force is not properly transferred, failures can occur in the track

  • Forensic science to foiling fakers of Chinese art

    The field of Chinese art has become one of the hottest sectors of the global art market in recent years, and nowhere more so than in the demand for fine antique porcelain; prices for the finest Imperial porcelain have soared, but so have the ambitions of accomplished fakers, seeking to infiltrate exquisite new fakes into a market eager for top quality material; a joint effort by university researchers and an auction house will see the application of forensic science in the authentication of Chinese artifacts

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  • Recycled concrete saves money

    Purdue University civil engineers are working with the Indiana Department of Transportation to perfect the use of recycled concrete for highway construction, a strategy that could reduce material costs by as much as 20 percent; “If you are going to pave, you may have to remove the old concrete and break it into pieces anyway, so recycling makes sense,” one of the researchers says

  • Researchers develop paper that is stronger than steel

    Work by Australian researchers is a step forward in the development of a material that has the potential to revolutionize the automotive, aviation, electrical, and optical industries; the composite material based on graphite that is a thin as paper and ten times stronger than steel

  • Rare Earth scientific breakthrough may increase their use

    Rare Earth metals are a series of elements that represent one of the final frontiers of chemical exploration; the vigorous reactivity of these substances, however, has made it difficult for researchers to transform them into stable materials with well-defined structures; when researchers succeed, the payoff can be enormous — rare Earth compounds have important applications in areas ranging from catalysis to clean energy

  • New cloth captures noxious gasses, odors

    Cornell university students develop a new cloth that can capture noxious gasses and odors — and that can be fashioned into masks or hooded shirts to be used by soldiers and first responders; the garments use metal organic framework molecules (MOFs) and cellulose fibers

  • Waste ash from coal could save billions in repairing U.S. bridges and roads

    The more than 450 coal-burning electric power plants in the United States produce about 130 million tons of “flyash” each year; before air pollution laws, those fine particles of soot and dust flew up smokestacks and into the air; power plants now collect the ash; researchers say that coating concrete destined to rebuild America’s crumbling bridges and roadways with some of the millions of tons of that left-over ash could extend the life of those structures by decades, saving billions of dollars of taxpayer money

  • China raises rare Earth elements production

    China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits but accounts for 97 percent of global production; the Ministry of Land and Resources said Thursday that this year’s production quota of rare earths will be 93,800 tons, an increase of about 5 percent over 2010

  • Napolitano enlists MIT engineers and scientists

    At a recent speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged for greater private sector involvement to help develop technological solutions to secure critical infrastructure and the border; Napolitano said that technology will be the key to DHS’ future in screening passengers and cargo more effectively and efficiently; she also called for more people with cybersecurity, engineering, and science skills to assist the government; in particular, she pointed to the “data problem,” with the massive amounts of data that government agencies must sift through to detect terrorist threats, the sheer volume alone presents a logistical challenge to counter-terrorism efforts

  • Day of invisibility cloak nears

    In physics, the Doppler Effect describes the change in frequency of light or sound waves whenever there is a relative movement between an observer and a wave’s source; thus, when an object and an observer move closer together, light frequency increases from red wavelengths to blue ones; when they move further apart, light frequency decreases from blue to red; researchers have for the first time ever demonstrated a reversal of the optical Doppler Effect — a promising sign for the future development of science fiction-inspired technology such as invisibility cloaks; this technology, which has already been demonstrated on a micro-scale by U.S. researchers, may be closer to becoming a reality than most people think

  • Powerful magnets developed to end rare earths dependency

    Scientists at General Electric’s Global Research are currently developing powerful new magnets that are stronger, lighter, and use less rare Earth metals; researchers hope that the new magnets will help reduce U.S. dependence on China’s supplies of rare Earth metals, which have been subject to disruption; the new magnets are being created with nanocomposites which consist of combining tiny particles of various magnetic alloys to create more reactive coatings; GE has received $2.25 million from the Department of Energy to develop these magnets

  • Clothes as silent witnesses

    New research seeks to recover fingerprint ridge detail and impressions from fabrics — a technique that has up until now proved difficult; it is the first time in more than thirty years that fingerprints on fabrics have been a major focus for research and the team has already had a number of successes; the technique, known as vacuum metal deposition (VMD), uses gold and zinc to recover the fingerprint

  • Sensors to detect explosives, monitor food

    University of Houston (UH) chemist and his team have developed materials for use in creating sensors for detection devices — able to monitor everything from explosives to tainted milk; the materials are based on what the team calls “the artificial receptor concept”: this is akin to an enzyme functioning as a biochemical catalyst within a cell, like an antibody, binding with specific molecules to produce a specific effect in the cell