Materials

Low-Pt-Content Anode Catalyst for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

The costs of fuel-cell anodes could be reduced substantially. Combinatorial experiments have led to the discovery that a nanophase alloy of Pt, Ru, Ni, and Zr is effective as an anode catalyst material for direct methanol fuel cells. This discovery has practical significance in that the electronic current densities achievable by use of this alloy are comparable or larger than those obtained by use of prior Pt/Ru catalyst alloys containing greater amounts of Pt. Heretofore, the high cost of Pt has impeded the commercialization of direct methanol fuel cells. By making it possible to obtain a given level of performance at reduced Pt content (and, hence, lower cost), the discovery may lead to reduction of the economic impediment to commercialization.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs, TSP

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Bonding by Hydroxide-Catalyzed Hydration and Dehydration

Room-temperature process can be varied to suit optical and non-optical applications. A simple, inexpensive method for bonding solid objects exploits hydroxidecatalyzed hydration and dehydration to form silicatelike networks in thin surface and interfacial layers between the objects. (Silicatelike networks are chemical-bond networks similar to, but looser than, those of bulk silica). The method can be practiced at room temperature or over a wide range of temperatures.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Making High-Tensile-Strength Amalgam Components

Instead of spheroids or flakes, wires are used as the solid constituents. Structural components made of amalgams can be made to have tensile strengths much greater than previously known to be possible. Amalgams, perhaps best known for their use in dental fillings, have several useful attributes, including room- temperature fabrication, corrosion resistance, dimensional stability, and high compressive strength. However, the range of applications of amalgams has been limited by their very small tensile strengths. Now, it has been discovered that the tensile strength of an amalgam depends critically on the sizes and shapes of the particles from which it is made and, consequently, the tensile strength can be greatly increased through suitable choice of the particles.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Hybrid Wound Filaments for Greater Resistance to Impacts

PBO fibers are used in addition to high-strength carbon fibers. The immediately preceding article includes an example in which a composite overwrap on a pressure vessel contains wound filaments made of a hybrid of high-strength carbon fibers and poly(phenylene benzobisoxazole) [PBO] fibers. This hybrid material is chosen in an effort to increase the ability of the pressure vessel to resist damage by lowspeed impacts (e.g., dropping of tools on the vessel or bumping of the vessel against hard objects during installation and use) without significantly increasing the weight of the vessel. Heretofore, enhancement of the impact resistances of filament-wound pressure vessels has entailed increases in vessel weight associated, variously, with increases in wall thickness or addition of protective materials.

Posted in: Materials, Briefs

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Lightweight Tanks for Storing Liquefied Natural Gas

These tanks are also relatively inexpensive. Single-walled, jacketed aluminum tanks have been conceived for storing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in LNG-fueled motor vehicles. Heretofore, double- wall steel tanks with vacuum between the inner and outer walls have been used for storing LNG. In comparison with the vacuum-insulated steel tanks, the jacketed aluminum tanks weigh less and can be manufactured at lower cost. Costs of using the jacketed aluminum tanks are further reduced in that there is no need for the vacuum pumps heretofore needed to maintain vacuum in the vacuum-insulated tanks.

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SiO2/TiO2 Composite for Removing Hg From Combustion Exhaust

This material could remove mercury from exhaust streams of coal-burning power plants. Pellets made of a high-surface-area composite of silica and titania have shown promise as means of removing elemental mercury from flue gases. With further technical development and commercialization, this material could become economically attractive as a more-effective, less-expensive alternative to activated carbons for removing mercury from exhaust streams of coal-burning power plants, which are the sources of more than 90 percent of all anthropogenic airborne mercury.

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Foam Core Shielding for Spacecraft

A foam core shield (FCS) system is now being developed to supplant multilayer insulation (MLI) systems heretofore installed on spacecraft for thermal management and protection against meteoroid impacts. A typical FCS system consists of a core sandwiched between a face sheet and a back sheet. The core can consist of any of a variety of low-to- medium-density polymeric or inorganic foams chosen to satisfy application-specific requirements regarding heat transfer and temperature.

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