Technology Bulletin

Nearly diamond-hard substance synthesized

Scientists from Northwesten University report they have created an inexpensive substance second only to diamond in hardness. Possible uses include a wear-resistant coating for gears and driveshafts. The new material appears to contain layers of carbon nitride, a material that several teams around the country have been trying to produce in the lab. Moreover, the new coating can be applied at room temperature. Diamond coatings, on the other hand, require temperatures of up to 1,650F, a heat where ordinary steel becomes soft. Key to the technique, according to Northwestern researcher William Sproul, is the creation of a "sandwich" of layers, alternating the carbon-nitrogen mixture that could yield high strength, with layers of titanium nitride, known to produce a very orderly array of atoms on a surface. FAX Sproul at (708) 467-1022.

Last barrier leaped in recycling mixed plastics

At the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, researcher E. Bruce N. Nauman and his students have successfully demonstrated they can remove pigments from recycled plastics. This eliminates the last major technical roadblock to widespread commercialization of Nauman's recycling technology, known as Selective Dissolution. The processs washes the mixed plastics, places them in a solvent, and filters them. Then, each of the six most common plastics is recovered, one at a time. Recovery is possible because the solvent dissolves each polymer at a different temperature. The solution is sent into a vacuum chamber, where the sudden change to low pressure causes the solvent to vaporize, leaving the pure "virgin-like" polymer behind. FAX Nauman at (518) 276-4030.

Valve enhances natural-gas engine performance

Southwest Research Institute engineers, under contract to the Gas Research Institute, have developed a metering valve with a unique variable orifice to control flow rate and measure fuel metered to engines from low-pressure gas sources. It addresses concerns faced by industries using natural gas engines that generally depend on electronically controlled fuel metering systems. Because they rely on choked flow across a fixed orifice, these engines require gas pressures as high as 80 to 120 psi. However, the flow capacity of most fuel injectors is small compared to the demands of large truck and stationary power generation engines. In addition to the variable geometry metering orifice, the SwRI valve includes pressure transducers and temperature sensors that calculate mass fuel flow, and a microprocessor-controlled stepper motor that provides closed-loop control of flow rate. FAX Elizabeth Douglas at (210) 522-3547.

Transporter operates on hydrogen fuel cell

A three-partner venture has resulted in the development of a vehicle that addresses California's stringent vehicle emission regulations, while solving many shortcomings associated with battery-powered electric vehicles. The concept vehicle project, called the Genesis, uses a chassis supplied by Western Golf Car, a proton exchange membrane fuel cell from Energy Partners, and receives engineering support from Telesis Cogeneration. The all-electric, zero-emission car, powered by hydrogen fuel, can carry eight passengers for up to three hours. It requires only 15 minutes to refill its hydrogen fuel tank. The 7.5-kW power plant can propel up to 2,500 lbs at speeds in excess of 15 mph. FAX Rhett Ross

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