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Equipment, Consumables and Materials Industry News

Carbon nanotube 'webs' prevent ice build-up on planes

Queen's University Belfast researchers have developed a new system to prevent ice from building up on aircraft. The conventional anti-icing system on most passenger aircraft is based on hot air which is 'bled' from the engines and piped to the inner surface of the wing. The heat is then transferred to the outer surface by thermal conduction, which stops the ice from building. This system adds weight and maintenance requirements, and is not energy efficient, particularly on the new generation of composite aircraft. A team of experts at Queen's have developed a more efficient alternative - an ultra-light weight heater, based on 'webs' made from carbon nanotubes (CNT) - which can also be used for de-icing. Professor Brian Falzon, from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering led the Queen's team to the discovery and the research has been published in the journal Carbon. He explains: "This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and forms part of a larger research programme aimed at developing the aircraft structures of tomorrow. We started by creating a 'CNT web', where individual CNTs are aligned in the draw direction, and horizontally stacking 10-40 layers of the webs, at different orientations, to achieve the desired heating characteristics. Each layer of CNT web can be as thin as 1/2000 the thickness of a human hair and the weight of a web large enough to cover a football field would be less than 30 sheets of A4 photocopy paper. These CNT webs were cured within a thin glass fibre laminate to provide structural support, and connected to a power supply. When we carried out testing, we discovered that the newly developed CNT heaters achieved rapid heating which shows that the CNT heaters could quickly de-ice aircraft and provide effective ice protection in flight." The team is developing further research on the system and it is hoped that it will be in use within a few years.

DPA, 3rd December, 2018


Gears, Drives and Speed Changers 2016-2024

Details a new publication from Global Industry Analysts which says that the global market for gears, drives and speed changers is forecast to reach $213.5bn by 2024, driven by established opportunities in the manufacture of power transmission equipment for aircraft, automobiles, industrial machinery; and gears for wind turbines. In the automotive end-use sector some of the major factors influencing growth include: growing demand at the back of rising vehicle ownership rates and a parallel increase in production activities; evergreen market for manual transmission systems and the resulting opportunities for sliding mesh gearbox, constant mesh gearbox, synchromesh gearbox; and rise of Plug-in Hybrid EVs as the fastest growing segment for gearboxes amid growing stringency of regulations curbing vehicular emissions; and robust proliferation of steer-by-wire engineering concept and the resulting demand for power steering gears. In the aircraft manufacturing sector, demand will be supported by the development and manufacture of landing gear systems against the backdrop of healthy outlook for commercial aviation and the resulting expansion of aircraft fleet.


BMZ sets course for battery cell production in Germany

The BMZ Group (Karlstein, Germany), which claims to be Europe's largest manufacturer of lithium-ion battery systems, has acquired a majority stake in the TerraE consortium co-founded by BMZ. The aim of the measure is to establish the first cell production facility in Germany by 2020. Previously, the industry in Germany had limited itself to the production of battery systems (stacks) and left cell production to the dominating Asian companies. In addition to the €120M that BMZ is already investing in the expansion of production lines for battery systems, the company also plans to establish cell production in Germany. In this way, the company wants to serve the European manufacturers of electric vehicles, which will be launched on the market from 2019. In the course of the majority takeover of TerraE, BMZ is prepared to make an investment of €300M in the first expansion stage of the planned cell production. This expansion stage will have a capacity of 4GWh. In the medium term, the company plans to expand its production capacity to 8GWh. The Fab4Lib consortium, led by TerraE-Holding and comprising 19 European companies and institutes, will be continued with all partners. As planned, Fab4Lib will deliver competitive lithium-ion technology production results in 2019, which will directly feed into mass production of battery cells. The funding project is also maintaining talks with several German states regarding a location decision.


Graphene-based spine in seaweed gel offers industrial applications

Brown University researchers have created a hybrid material out of seaweed-derived alginate and the nanomaterial graphene oxide. They have developed a way of reinforcing alginate by incorporating the atomically-thick layered material graphene oxide into its structure. This produces a material that can be 3D printed into structures that are stiffer and more fracture resistant than alginate alone. Furthermore, changes in the chemical environment can make the composite even stiffer or softer, allowing the structures to respond their surroundings in real time. Despite this change in behaviour, the composite retains some of the useful properties of alginate. The team believes that reinforcing alginate with graphene strengthens the material because it changes the way that cracks propagate through its structure.


Conductive polymer set for leap from flexi-phones to medical sensors

New polymer film that could make smartphones more bendable may one day be used to create tailor-made sensors that could non-invasively monitor biomedical metrics. The glass-like polymer being developed at Purdue University – made from long chains that contain radical groups – conducts electricity for transparent and flexible electronics. It is claimed that with the look at feel of glass, the polymer film can be inexpensively and sustainably produced on a large scale as it originates from earth-abundant materials. According to Purdue, its cost effectiveness also has advantages over polymers already used for electronics that rely on expensive chemistry and chemical doping to achieve high conductivity. The Purdue researchers are working to use this new polymer film to create tailor-made sensors that could non-invasively monitor glucose levels, heart rate or other biomedical metrics. The film could be modified, using specific molecules or ions, to target and selectively interact with various biological components inside the body. It could be worn as a nearly invisible patch on the skin.


KAUST team create hydrogel combination to tap more water from air

The Earth's air is estimated to contain almost 13 trillion tons of water but previous attempts to exploit the renewable resource have either been too inefficient, expensive or complex for practical use. Now, a prototype device developed by researchers from the Water Desalination and Reuse Center at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science & Technology) in Saudi Arabia could change that. Central to the device is calcium chloride, a form of salt that is cheap, stable, and non-toxic. This deliquescent salt has such a high affinity for water that it will absorb so much vapour from the surrounding air that eventually a pool of liquid forms. Calcium chloride has water-harvesting potential, but the fact it turns from a solid to a salty liquid after absorbing water has been a major hurdle for its use as a water capture device. To overcome the problem, the researchers are said to have incorporated the salt into a hydrogel, which can hold a large volume of water and remain solid. They also added carbon nanotubes, 0.42% by weight, to ensure the captured water vapour could be released. Carbon nanotubes very efficiently absorb sunlight and convert the captured energy into heat. Next steps involve fine-tuning the absorbent hydrogel so that it releases harvested water continuously rather than in batches.


Sino-UK project developing sustainable alternative to plastic food packaging

Alternative food packaging is being developed at Nottingham University that is biodegradable and edible, an advance that could one day replace plastic packaging. The Sino-UK project is looking at the structure and functionality of sustainable natural materials, such as plant carbohydrates and proteins, to develop a packaging material that improves storage, safety and shelf life. The team is said to be working on plastic films derived from konjac flour and starch, cellulose or proteins that are fully edible and harmless if accidentally eaten by people or animals. According to the University, the researchers have found that plant carbohydrate and protein macromolecules bond together into a network structure during the film-forming process that provides the film with a required mechanical strength and transparent appearance for the film to be used in packaging. Fully-biodegradable bags could not only solve the safety and pollution issues of food packaging materials, but also lengthen the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and other fresh produce. The project, currently supported by the £220,000 Horizon 2020 Marie Curie fellowship, will last two years with the potential to extend for another three to five years with further funding.