Scientists say new magnesium alloy could revolutionise manufacturing

 

Magnesium Alloy Sheets via www.chnmetal.com

Magnesium Alloy Sheets via www.chnmetal.com

Australian and Chinese researchers have discovered an alloy that they say is the world’s strongest and lightest.

Crucially, they say it doesn’t corrode.

If it proves possible to use it in vehicle manufacturing, the researchers say cars could weigh hundreds of kilograms less, saving motorists up to 40 per cent on fuel.

Tom Nightingale reports.

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Scots Researchers Make Producing Graphene Almost 100 percent Cheaper

Graphene

Dr Dahiya with his prototype prosthetic hand from the University of Glasgow

Graphene, a carbon allotrope which is one million times thinner than paper may now be able to be produced cheaply thanks to scientists in Glasgow.

Graphene was first isolated from graphite in 2004 being just a single atom thick but it is flexible, stronger than steel, and capable of efficiently conducting heat and electricity.

However, widespread industrial adoption of graphene has so far been limited by the expense of producing it, which could be reduced by almost 100 per cent of its current cost.

Affordable graphene production could lead to a wide range of new technologies reaching the market, including synthetic skin capable of providing sensory feedback to people with limb prostheses.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a way to produce large sheets of graphene, using the same cheap type of copper used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries found in many household devices.

Graphene is often produced by a process known as chemical vapour deposition, or CVD, which turns gaseous reactants into a film of graphene on a special surface known as a substrate.

The research team used a similar process to create high-quality graphene across the surface of commercially-available copper foils of the type often used as the negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. The ultra-smooth surface of the copper provided an excellent bed for the graphene to form upon.

They found that the graphene they produced offered a stark improvement in the electrical and optical performance of transistors which they made compared to similar materials produced from the older process.

Dr Dahiya, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, said: ““The commercially-available copper we used in our process retails for around one dollar per square metre, compared to around $115 for a similar amount of the copper currently used in graphene production. This more expensive form of copper often required preparation before it can be used, adding further to the cost of the process.

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Three-Dimensional Nanostructure Manufacturing Discovery Provides New Opportunities for Chips

via University of Twente

via University of Twente

Scientists at the University of Twente’s MESA+ research institute have developed a new manufacturing method to create three-dimensional nanostructures. This revolutionary method enables large-scale production of photonic crystals that can capture light. The discovery also makes it possible to produce chips with additional functions for mobile devices, computers and other applications. The researchers’ findings was published today in Nanotechnology, the leading journal of the British Institute of Physics.

The conventional method for manufacturing 3D nanostructures consists of stacking layers on a silicon chip. The first step is to write (or define) a pattern in the photoresist, using a mask and UV light. The etching or deposition of material in the layer then provides the desired shape. Dozens of layers are stacked to produce the chips themselves. This is a laborious process with limitations. There are restrictions on the number of layers that can be stacked, since layers that are relatively far apart can become randomly displaced with respect to one another, interfering with the chip’s functionality.

SINGLE PROCESS

The new method makes it possible to define a 3D nanostructure on a chip in a single process. Researchers from the University of Twente’s MESA+ institute have developed a special 3D mask that can define the structure on two sides of the wafer simultaneously. This ensures that both sides of the chip are neatly aligned, thereby guaranteeing the vertical alignment of the final three-dimensional nanostructure.

MASS PRODUCTION

The method opens the way for the mass production of chips in which various functionalities are positioned close together. In collaboration with ASML and TNO, the researchers are investigating ways of implementing this new technology in practice.

There are possible applications in the medical world, for example by combining an optical sensor for proteins with a data processing chip and a magnetic memory. “Our method makes it possible to combine an endless variety of features on a chip, such as electronics, optics, magnets and microfluidics,” explains Professor Willem Vos of the Complex Photonic Systems group (COPS) at MESA+.

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Bright prospects: Repairing neurons with light

Repairing neurons with light

These are zebrafish neurons projecting to the brain (green). One neuron expresses a light-activatable enzyme (red). Scientist were able to stimulate the regeneration of injured neurons using optogenetics.
Credit: Helmholtz Zentrum München

Scientists have succeeded in stimulating the regeneration of injured neurons in living fish by the use of light. To this end, they employed so-called Optogenetics, i.e. light inducible protein activation.

The nervous system is built to last a lifetime, but diverse diseases or environmental insults can overpower the capacity of neurons to maintain function or to repair after trauma. A team led by Dr. Hernán López-Schier, head of the Research Unit Sensory Biology and Organogenesis at Helmholtz Zentrum München, now succeeded in promoting the repair of an injured neural circuit in zebrafish.

Key for the researchers’ success was the messenger molecule cAMP, which is produced by an enzyme called adenylyl cyclase. For their experiment, the scientist used a special form of this enzyme which is inducible by blue light. Therefore, the scientists are able to specifically modulate the production of cAMP in cells expressing this enzyme by the use of blue light.*

The researchers used this system in zebrafish larvae** which had interrupted sensory lateralis nerves***. “However, when blue light was shone on severed nerves that expressed a photoactivatable adenylyl cyclase, their repair was dramatically increased,” remembers PhD student Yan Xiao who is the first author of the study. “While untreated nerve terminals only made synapses again in five percent of the cases, about 30% did after photostimulation.” In simple terms: the scientists were able to stimulate the repair of a neuronal circuit by elevating cAMP with blue light.

“Optogenetics have revolutionized neurobiology, since the method has already been used to modify for instance the electrical activity of neurons. However, our results show for the first time how the repair of a complex neural circuit in a whole animal can be promoted remotely by the use of light,” explains López-Schier.

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Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets

Trade networks of platinum, lithium, and copper. CREDIT P. Klimek, M. Obersteiner, S. Thurner, Systemic trade risk of critical resources. Sci. Adv. e1500522 (2015).

Trade networks of platinum, lithium, and copper.
CREDIT
P. Klimek, M. Obersteiner, S. Thurner, Systemic trade risk of critical resources. Sci. Adv. e1500522 (2015).

A shortage of a rare mineral could spur global market instabilities, according to a new analysis of international commodity trade networks.

Shortages of natural resources–minerals such as copper, aluminum, and mercury–could lead to cascading shocks and lead to instabilities in the global trade system, according to a study published today in the journal Science Advances.

Mineral resources are increasingly important in the production of modern devices such as mobile phones and medical technologies. These resources are mined and shipped around the world through increasingly interlinked global trade networks.

“Regional shortages of minerals necessary for the manufacture of modern technologies could ripple throughout the trade system, leading to a sharp increase in the price volatility of such minerals in the global markets,” says Peter Klimek, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna, who led the study in collaboration with IIASA researchers.

The study examined trade flows of 71 mineral commodities between 107 countries, using a new method to assess the systemic risk in commodity trade networks.

It shows that minerals that are produced as a byproducts of other processes–for example rare earth metals produced as a byproduct of phosphorus mining for fertilizer–are the most susceptible to price volatility leading to systemic instabilities,

“The beauty of this methodology is that it allows the data to tell its own story,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner. The new study grew out of a conversation with IIASA Advanced Systems Analysis researcher Stefan Thurner, who has previously applied similar methods to the study of systemic risk in financial markets.

“Commodity markets, like financial markets, are highly international and interconnected,” explains Thurner. “Understanding these networks gives us a handle to explain and possibly predict a large portion of the instabilities in terms of price volatility in the markets.”

In particular the study finds shortcomings in the management of non-fuel mineral resources that increase the systemic risk, and provides a method for countries to assess their resilience with respect to such rippling network effects. It proposes policy measures, for example a tax based on commodity risk that could create more stable markets.

The researchers plan to continue their collaboration, extending the methodology to explore other networked systems, for example the agriculture system, food trade, and food security.

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