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Materials

In a development that could mean big things in the automotive and marine industries, researchers from Deep Springs Technology (DST) and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering have created a new metal matrix composite that is so light it can float on water. In addition to having potential marine applications, the material also boasts properties that would make it suitable for use in automobile components.

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Carbon fiber has established itself as a wonder material in vehicle construction, with its mix of low weight and high strength being prized for many of the world's most advanced vehicles of land, sea and air. Austrian company Fipofix believes that it's identified a material better-suited to the high seas, saying that its specially processed volcanic fiber-based composite, more commonly known as basalt fiber, offers a better performance-price ratio than carbon fiber or fiberglass and can be recycled after use. The company is in the process of testing the material in some of the world's most extreme marine conditions. Read More
A thin and flexible chameleon-like material developed by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley changes color when stretched or bent even tiny amounts. With potential applications in camouflage, structural fatigue sensors, display technologies, and more, the material's color changes reliably as it gets flexed thanks to rows of ridges that are precisely etched onto a silicon film one thousand times thinner than a human hair. Read More
Homes may one day benefit from improved acoustic insulation with an orange flavor after researchers in Spain managed to turn waste material from orange trees into high-performance acoustic insulation. The new material is more environmentally friendly to produce and an improvement in terms of acoustic insulation compared to conventional laminated gypsum boards. Read More
Computers have transformed architecture in remarkable ways. They've made it possible to visualize designs in fully-rendered 3D graphics and to automatically check designs against building codes and other standard specifications. And they've made designs possible that were unthinkable or unimaginable 50 years ago, as they can crunch the numbers on complex equations and even generate plans or models from high-level requirements. Architecture, like music, art, games, and written stories can be created algorithmically. Read More
Spider's silk has long been the strongest natural material known to man, prompting researchers to attempt to uncover its secrets so they can replicate its remarkable properties in man-made materials. But scientists now have a new source of inspiration in the form of limpet teeth, which are made of a material researchers say is potentially stronger than spider silk, is comparable in strength to the strongest commercial carbon fibers, and could one day be copied for use in cars, boats and planes. Read More
The robot revolution continues at NASA this month as its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia prepares to bring its Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites (ISAAC) robot online. One of only three robots like it in the world, it will be formally commissioned on January 26 before being put to work making lighter, stronger composite components for aerospace vehicles. Read More
The immutable laws that govern our universe – such as those that reign over the observable world in classical mechanics and those that rule the atomic physics world – are at the core of all of our scientific principles. They not only provide consistent, repeatable, and accurate rules that allow calculations and experiments to be tested or verified, they also help us make sense of the workings of the cosmos. MIT researchers claim to have discovered a new universal law for superconductors that, if proved accurate, would bring the physics of superconductors in line with other universal laws and advance the likes of superconducting circuits for quantum and super low-power computing. Read More
Built in East Germany, the Trabant 601 was notorious for its many faults – not the least of which was a body made out of Duroplast, a hard plastic made of cotton waste and phenol resins that led those in the West to describe the car as being made of cardboard. However, it now looks as if the Trabant is getting the last laugh as scientists look at ways of making cars out of cotton and other botanical fibers formed into a new class of hybrid composites. Read More
Liquids are softer than solids, so incorporating droplets of a liquid into a solid will always make it weaker ... right? Actually, no. Scientists at Yale University have discovered that if the drops are just the right size, they can actually make the solid stiffer. Their findings could pave the way for composite materials that use liquids for added optical or electrical functionality, yet that don't compromise strength. Read More
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