Paramagnetic nanodot smartstuff offers 1TB micro-SD cards
And super-hot, super-efficient pottery car engines
Boffins in America say they have developed a new material which will mean terabyte-capacity micro format data cards. Intriguingly, the same wonder-stuff could also be employed in building super-high-temperature, super-efficient ceramic car engines.
Smart-structures wiz Dr Jagdish Narayan, who is fortunate enough to be "John C C Fan Family Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering" at North Carolina State, leads the engineers working on the new memory-stuff.
Narayan and his team, as is normal in semiconductor research, achieved their results using doping - the crafty adding of selected impurities to a material so as to give it different properties. In this case, they added nickel impurities to ceramic magnesium oxide.
The resulting perfectly-paramagnetic ceramic matrix held nickel "nanodots" - each potentially containing a single data bit - sized at just 10 square nanometres, 90 per cent smaller than today's on-chip components.
"Instead of making a chip that stores 20 gigabytes, you have one that can handle one terabyte, or 50 times more data," Narayan says.
People are getting used to having a terabyte of storage in their home computers - at least, mostly in their combined home computers today and in single machines tomorrow. But we aren't yet at the stage of thumb drives and smartphone micro-cards holding a terabyte.
That said, there are many contenders out there to be the future of storage. Narayan & Co's paramagnetic nanodot memory-china may never see adoption in that field, but the prof reckons it has other uses.
For instance, materials boffins have long sought to combine the flexibility and workability of metals with the heat resistance and lightness of ceramics. Such materials would allow the manufacture of engines able to withstand much higher internal temperatures without melting themselves; this in turn would mean better fuel efficiency or more power, or a combination of both. Narayan believes that metallo-ceramics such as his could mean car engines able to do 80+ miles per gallon.
If that's not enough, he also thinks his new super-stuff could be useful in "spintronics", the art of wielding electrons without generating any pesky heat - potentially a useful art indeed as any IT-literate reader will be aware.
There's some more from NCSU here, including a reference for the scholarly paper. ®
80mpg is still a pretty impressive figure, so long as the guy's (a) talking about "proper" cars- your mondeo/3-series sized cars- rather than a tiny little mid-90s Fiesta/Corsa, and (b) factoring in the higher weight of a modern car.
If he's meaning "it'll do 80mpg in a one-man bullet-shaped vehicle" then... well, it's earth shattering for the Americans but we've got better over here...
@ christian graffeuille
This is the point that seems counter intuitive. Ceramic is a good insulator compared with say Al but it is piss poor compared to air. Several orders of magnitude worse in fact.
Air ~ 0.024 W/mK
Al2O3 ~ 5 - 25 W/mK (varies with temperature)
200 to1000x better thermal conductor.
Manufacturers already make ceramic coatings for aluminium pistons but these are more for preventing burn/pitting at hot spots (due to complex shapes e.g. pockets for valve clearance).
Ceramic coated exhausts are extensively used in motorsport already - thin layer though to reduce radiation I think more than anything. Air gaps between heat shields are the 'best' insulation. Rock wool etc. works because the air trapped not because the fibres are poor conductors.
"Narayan and his team...
"..., as is normal in semiconductor research, achieved their results using doping."
Finally an answer to the age-old question - 'how are semiconductor researchers and professional cyclists alike?'
hotter is better
>This insulating layer is disrupted/non existent in high temp/pressure ceramic engines causing greater heat loss through conduction and an associated loss in efficiency and increase in block cooling requirement.
Ceramic is a poor heat conductor. Ideallly (yes, I know) a ceramic engine would have no cooling, and would be wrapped in insulation.
No heat loss (except via the exhaust) means all the energy is used to move the car, rather than 70% used to heat the air at the moment.*
A thick coat of ceramic on cylinder/piston/exhaust would be a tremendous start toward that goal. The metal underneath would of course have to be kept at the usual temperatures, just like now.
*Well all the fuel is used to heat the air if you think about it: when you have moved from A to B, *all* the moving energy has been spent in friction (mainly against air, tyres and brakes) which ends up heating the air.
80+ mpg... so what
Engines these days are more than capable of achieving this sort of figure... but the consumer and political need to make cars safer and have more gadgets to make them safer and more fun... has added huge amounts of weight to your average vehicle.
Take a modern fuel efficient engine of say 1.6 or 1.8lts and stick it in a car from 20-30 yrs ago that had the same sized engine... and you'll see just what a difference it makes.
Like the guy who dropped a 2lt Honda engine into an old Ford and was getting 50 mpg and upwards... the car was 200kg's lighter.
I know some will harp on about crash cells and safety features... but cars can be built strong and safe with lighter materials at not much extra cost these days... Some are already using plastics on certain body panels... and still these cars are heavy lumbering beasts that can barely match the MPG's of cars from 20yrs ago.
Here's another example... I owned a 1990 Ford Sierra 1.8lx and on a run it would do 39mpg that's 70-80 mph for 400 miles.
I now drive an 07 Mazda 3 1.8 TS2 and get 40 mpg on a run at the same average speeds.
I know for a fact the Ford engine in my old sierra was not a very efficient one, wasn't even fuel injected... The difference is in the weights of the cars... and the Mazda 3 is supposed to be the smaller of the two.