March 23rd, 2017
Erin Gill and Felix Lu 
ctors' message: 

We hope you are doing well and want to update you on what is happening at the University and with our industry partners. P art of the purpose of these newsletters is to demonstrate the utility and power gained from synergistic innovation efforts from industry and academia. We see this reflected in the literature discussing topics on how diversity makes us stronger, and how to optimize conditions for innovation, as seen in some of the articles below. We try to do our part by increasing awareness and catalyzing relationships, for example,  at our meetings and other regional meetings such as the Manufacturing Matters! meeting in Milwaukee in late February. Coming up there is also :  
  • The Wisconsin Tech Summit, March 27th, 2017, at GE Healthcare Institute 
  • the Wisconsin Science and Technology Symposium (WSTS), at UW Platteville, July 24-25,
  • the fall AMIC annual meeting,  September 7th, 2017 at Union South
  • the Fall symposium of the RM2N at Manufacturing Advantage meeting at UW Stout, Sept, 19-20, 2017. We are working closely with our colleagues within the RM2N to better market and facilitate side projects you may want to offload onto talented students at many of the UW system universities. Let us know if you want more details.
  • At UW Madison, there is also the annual Undergraduate Symposium where undergraduates showcase their work, which may be a good opportunity to explore potential hires in a broad spectrum of fields.
  • And... Dr. Kyle McElhinny, who recently graduated with his Doctorate in Materials Science, with an emphasis on organic and inorganic nanomaterials and interfaces, is looking for an industry position in the Phoenix, AZ area. He's not only a talented scientist but also a great guy!
An example of one company's innovation efforts is that of the newest sponsor of a senior capstone project, Greenheck Fan (Schofield, WI), who won the 2017 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the year award! They have a member spotlight (they are also an AMIC member) below. In case you are interested in mechanical engineering senior projects, more information can be found about other partners and other details at their URL:

Closely tied to our efforts are the activities of the Grainger Institute for Engineering, which will focus on close industry-academic collaborations with the goal of bringing in large scale federal center grants with foci on Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Infrastructure, Sustainability, Resiliency and Healthcare. If you are interested in learning more about how you can interact with the Grainger Institute for Engineering, please let us know and we can make introductions.

For our collage of interesting scientific and technological articles, we have a wide spectrum of topics this quarter from the History of industrial heating, to meta-materials to Felix's new academic interest, textiles and fibers. As I read through these articles, a plethora of questions popped up, such as
  • Spider thread apparently becomes stronger and more robust when produced in flat ribbons rather than a round cross section. How does this get produced in a 3D printer?
  • How would you make a scalable nano-loom for weaving fibers into textiles?
  • Can woven fibers be processed or integrated with powder metallurgy to create stronger materials?
  • What about woven fibers with carbon nanotubes for conductive polymers within an electrically insulating matrix?
  • Can capacitive effects between conductive polymer fibers tighten up a weave for better active armor?               

Most of these questions are just for fun, but it is also fun to think about how these articles might seed a new idea that would take an academic inquiry and transform it (albeit with hard work) into a viable product. We encourage you to make that leap and get your foot in the door with innovation!  


Finally, the AMIC is the industry outreach arm of the NSF funded Wisconsin MRSEC, which funds many of the AMIC activities. The Wisconsin MRSEC is in the renewal process with NSF and the faculty leaders will be presenting the structure of the new MRSEC to program managers in Washington, D.C. - which is good news! Erin Gill and Jen Weber have been working hard behind the scenes to support Prof. Nick Abbott in the renewal process.

Best regards,

Felix Lu, and Erin Gill
AMIC, Co-Directors

As always, if you have questions, suggestions or comments, please let us know!
Recent event recap

2017 Facilities Days Open House
Participants at the 2017 Facilities Day Open House at Union South at UW Madison 
     We held the 2017 Facilities Day Open House at Union South, Feb 21, 2017     With 109 registrants, multiple vendor talks about incoming or existing instrumentation, a poster session, and display booths, we hope it was an informative event and hope to see you at future events. If you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let us know .     We would like to give a special thanks to our sponsors:  

and especially David Class from Midwest Vacuum , who sponsored poster prizes for the students! Students - take note : future AMIC events will try to include substantial cash prizes for best posters!     You can find more information on usage rates, locations and contacts at the respective sites:   

Upcoming Events

Celebrate undergraduate research on Thursday, April 13 in Union South You are cordially invited to attend the 2017 Undergraduate Symposium, where students will showcase their creativity, achievement, research, service-learning and community-based research. In what is our largest showing ever, nearly 700 students will be on hand to present, display or perform their work, and we encourage you to take part in this inspiring event.

RM2N Fall Symposium at Manufacturing Matters (UW Stout) 
  Why should you go?
  • Kill two birds with one stone : attend two events at the same time&location
  • Network with other companies
  • See how student projects complement innovation efforts at your company
  • Learn about trending business strategy and hiring practices, etc.

Save the date!  
AMIC Annual meeting

Thursday, Sept 7th, 2017  
@Union South, Varsity Hall 
AMIC Member Spotlight - Greenheck Corp.

Greenheck partners with the Advanced Materials Industrial Consortium to collaborate with students and faculty across the UW-Madison campus in advanced technology

The corporate headquarters for Greenheck, the largest designer and null manufacturer of air movement, control and conditioning equipment in the world, is located at the gateway to Wisconsin's northwoods recre ation and in the shadows of one of the Midwest's favorite downhill ski destinations,  Granite Peak, Wausau. In 2017, Greenheck will celebrate its 70th year in business. Although Greenheck began as a small sheet metal shop manufacturing commercial fans and ventilators in Schofield, Wisconsin, the company has grown to be the leading manufacturer of air movement, control and conditioning equipment with multiple plants in the U.S., China, India and Mexico and customers throughout Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
Today, Greenheck's 3,200 employees around the world design, manufacture and deliver a wide range of Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) products. The company's talented engineering teams work continuously to provide equipment that improves indoor air comfort, enhances air quality, supports sustainability through reduced energy consumption, and creates safe indoor environments in all types of non-residential buildings.

Greenheck continues to manufacture the world's largest selection of top-selling fans and ventilators, but the company's comprehensive product line also includes packaged ventilation systems, indoor air handlers, make-up air units, energy recovery ventilators, dampers, louvers, kitchen ventilation systems, fume exhaust units and laboratory exhaust systems. By providing this broader range of products, Greenheck has become a single source of non-residential HVAC system components for many specifying engineers and design build contractors working on building projects all over the world.

Greenheck invests heavily in product development and educational resources to help guide the future of HVAC equipment design. The company's  online design software, CAPS and eCAPS
Innovation Center
Greenheck Innovation center 
, quickly and accurately helps mechanical engineers select the "best value" product for a specific application.
Greenheck's new Robert C. Greenheck Innovation Center encourages innovative thinking and the discovery of new HVAC solutions with collaborative office spaces and state-of-the-art test labs for sound, airflow measurement and psychrometrics - plus development areas for product prototyping and manufacturing processes.
The newly renovated Bernard A. Greenheck Education Center showcases the
Education Center
Greenheck education center 
company's comprehensive line of air movement, conditioning and control  products and is home to Greenheck's HVAC University where visiting engineers can earn Professional Development Hour (PDH) credits for courses about the latest HVAC trends, applications and codes.

Education center - interior
inside the Green education center showcase 

Greenheck has been named Wisconsin's Manufacturer of the Year several times and received the prestigious "Bubbler Award" recognizing it as one of Wisconsin's best places for young professionals to work. The recreational and arts activities that abound in the Wausau area, in combination with the exciting engineering challenges that lie ahead in new product development, are helping the company attract the next generation of engineers who want to make a difference in the world.

Greenheck's founders, Bob and Bernie Greenheck, embraced two important values-continuous improvement and being the easiest company to do business with. These core business values continue to drive our success. Find out more at and career opportunities at

UW Engineering in the news
Striking the right balance: UW-Madison engineers prove new hammer doesn't strain
A staple in every well-stocked toolbox, the hammer has retained the same basic head-and-handle design for hundreds of years. But for craftspeople such as carpenters or roofers, years of hammering can take their toll, resulting in the painful injury known as tennis elbow.

It's a condition Fiskars, most well-known for its orange-handled scissors, hopes to alleviate in its customers. And University of Wisconsin-Madison industrial engineers recently helped the company test how effective its new shock-absorbing hammer is at helping users avoid overuse injuries.

"We provided physiological evidence that there is a benefit to using the shock-absorbing hammer and we've also looked into some of the mechanisms that cause overuse injuries, which could help us prevent people from getting hurt," says Rob Radwin, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at UW-Madison.

Radwin's research, published in the October, 2016 issue of the journal Clinical Biomechanics, demonstrated that Fiskars' new hammers deliver more energy with every swing and cause people less muscle strain. The results helped Fiskars decide whether to move forward with its new product and bring it to market.

Read more:
Capital infusion prepares UW-Madison startup to stir up industrial adhesive market
Brian Pekron, left, and Eric Ronning, CEO of Re Mixers Inc., are both 2015 engineering graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They turned their idea for a better epoxy nozzle into a business plan while participating in a Discover to Product (D2P) program at UW-Madison. Photo: Jeff Miller

An idea hatched during an engineering class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison promises to reduce waste in a common industrial mixing process. Epoxy and hardener, which must be mixed just before application, are used in a broad range of industries, including construction, manufacturing - even dentistry.
These epoxies are blended in a "static mixing" nozzle - so named because it has no moving parts, says Eric Ronning, CEO of Re Mixers Inc., which was incorporated Dec. 27, 2016.
Upwards of 70 million static mixing nozzles are sold in the United States every year because epoxy quickly sets inside the nozzle and plugs it. The nozzle technology has changed little since the 1970s, Ronning says.
Ronning had his "eureka" moment while listening to Professor Tim Osswald discuss the shortcomings of static mixers in a class on plastics at UW-Madison.
- See more at:

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UW-Madison team wins Innovation Award in Hyperloop competition
SpaceX and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, who is the driving force behind the Hyperloop competition_ took the opportunity to sit in the Badgerloop pod while touring the various team_s booths. The team purposefully built its pod to fit Musk, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall. 
A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison students won an innovation award in a worldwide SpaceX Hyperloop pod competition.
The UW-Madison Badgerloop team competed against 30 teams from colleges and universities from around the world in the second phase of SpaceX's Hyperloop pod competition, which was held Jan. 27-29, 2017, outside SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Teams spent the week leading up to the competition on site at SpaceX, where they put their pods through a litany of tests in hopes of getting the chance to run their pods on SpaceX's one-mile Hyperloop test track.

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UW-Madison program conveys progress to Oconto manufacturer
Workers at Nercon watch the movement of canisters on a conveyor system. The company learned manufacturing productivity techniques from UW_Madison_s Engineering Professional Development unit. Photos_ David Tenenbaum
If you bought it in a supermarket, chances are good that your product spent a few seconds on a conveyor built at Nercon, Inc., an Oconto, Wisconsin manufacturer of state-of-the-art systems that move bottles, cans, cases and just about everything else in the food industry - and beyond.
"Conveyor" hardly describes the complexity of devices that manufacturers need to move products in the factory. In addition to various belts that move objects laterally, Nercon makes accumulators, case elevators, product upenders, grip elevators, diverters, rinsers and lift gates.

Until two years ago, "we would build you anything you want," says Daniel Bickel, production and operations manager. That had been a winning strategy for a company started in Oshkosh in 1974 by James Nerenhausen Sr., but it raised costs - in raw material, floor space, design time, and labor. "We probably stocked 40 types of sheet metal alone," Bickel says.

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Biological supplier prospers with aid of UW manufacturing expertise
Melissa Suzuki at Aldevron explains a membrane-based flow filtration system that quickly reduces the volume of a solution using low-pressure osmosis. Aldevron works with UW-Madison's QRM center to bring products to market more quickly and increase profits. Photo: David Tenenbaum
A Madison lab that produces custom-made proteins and antibodies has taken advantage of University of Wisconsin-Madison expertise in quick response manufacturing to bring products to market more quickly and improve profits.
In May, the collaboration between Aldevron and the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) was awarded the top prize in the 2016 Applied Research Challenge for the development of methods to make faster, better decisions in biomanufacturing. The award was made by the Production and Operations Management Society.

From the microorganisms it grows, Aldevron extracts a wide variety of biological substances, including DNA, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins - all made to order.
The company employs 18 in Madison, and is headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota.

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Electrical engineers create transferrable 4H silicon-carbide nanomembrane
A new type of nanomembrane could enable flexible ultraviolet (UV) photodetectors for a wide range of applications such as water and air purification, UV missile guidance systems, and security systems.
Developed by Jack Ma, the Lynn H. Matthias Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison, and research assistant Munho Kim, the 4H-silicon carbide nanomembrane can be released from its source wafer and transferred on any arbitrary substrates. It also has very high light absorption capability at the UV range despite thinness on the order of 200 nanometers. "4H" refers to the most common and widely used lattice structure of silicon carbide.

The researchers published details of their advance in the January 2017 edition of the Journal of Material Chemistry C. Their work was featured as an inside front cover of the journal.
Unlike silicon and germanium, the 4H silicon carbide has a large bandgap energy, which enables its application for UV light absorption. Although silicon and germanium nanomembranes have proven their potential in various devices such as flexible transistors and photodetectors, the devices have limited applications in situations that require wide bandgap semiconductors.

While other researchers have fabricated various nanomembranes, Ma and Kim have are the first to create the transferrable 4H silicon-carbide nanomembrane. "We actually can transfer it on anywhere we want to," says Ma.

One important aspect of the 4H silicon-carbide nanomembrane is that the material has a high thermal conductivity. "This property makes the photodetectors working at a high temperature where an efficient heat dissipation is very important," says Ma. "Other wide bandgap materials have their own issues in stability at high temperatures."

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On the Softer side of things...
3M CTO Ashish Khandpur. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
R&D is investment, not cost, for 3M: Ashish Khandpur

New Delhi: A minor change in plans led to Ashish Khandpur being hired by 3M while he was a doctorate student at University of Minnesota. His adviser fell ill and asked Khandpur to step in and make the presentation to 3M that he was supposed to, and before he knew it, the young man from Meerut,a graduate from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, had been offered a job by one of the world's most innovative companies.

Twenty one years later, Khandpur is the global chief technology officer of the US conglomerate which is famous for such revolutionary products as Post-it notes, ScotchTape, and Scotch-Brite pads. In between, his journey which started at the company's corporate research labs also led to India where he was deputed to drive the company's mission of building products in India, for India.

On a recent trip to India, Khandpur shared the company's future plans and innovation efforts. "We openly talk about it because we are not afraid of our competition replicating it," Khandpur said in an interview.


How Diversity Makes Us Smarter
Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
It seems obvious that a group of people with diverse individual expertise would be better than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems. It is less obvious that social diversity should work in the same way-yet the science shows that it does.
This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.

The first thing to acknowledge about diversity is that it can be difficult. In the U.S., where the dialogue of inclusion is relatively advanced, even the mention of the word "diversity" can lead to anxiety and conflict. Supreme Court justices disagree on the virtues of diversity and the means for achieving it. Corporations spend billions of dollars to attract and manage diversity both internally and externally, yet they still face discrimination lawsuits, and the leadership ranks of the business world remain predominantly white and male.

It is reasonable to ask what good diversity does us. Diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious-you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers and quality-control experts-but what about social diversity? What good comes from diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation? Research has shown that social diversity in a group can cause discomfort, rougher interactions, a lack of trust, greater perceived interpersonal conflict, lower communication, less cohesion, more concern about disrespect, and other problems. So what is the upside?

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"T he development of new advanced materials and chemicals by themselves have relatively little value. These developments, however, are often enabling technologies that find strong applications in many other industries. New composites enable the development of advanced aircraft and fuel efficient automobiles. New polymers and thin films enable the packaging of longer lasting foodstuffs. New bio-materials enable the implantation of bio-structures into the human body that support the growth of replacement tissues for damaged or diseased body parts."

"Specific companies can create their own advantages within their industries by investing in the "right" technologies at the "right" time. There also are obvious leaders within each industry which have been created through tradition, innovation, administrative leadership, in-house- generated (and legally protected) intellectual property (IP) and aggressive marketing, risk-taking and confidence.
There are numerous new technologies in play for many industries. These include the ever-increasing information and communications technologies (ICT), nanotech- nologies, bio-technologies, artificial intelligence, mo bile computing, smart software, intelligent computing and more. Each of these technologies build on each other and the industries they are integrated into."

  Mathematical Model Reveals the Patterns of How Innovations Arise

Innovation is one of the driving forces in our world. The constant creation of new ideas and their transformation into technologies and products forms a powerful cornerstone for 21st century society. Indeed, many universities and institutes, along with regions such as Silicon Valley, cultivate this process.

And yet the process of innovation is something of a mystery. A wide range of researchers have studied it, ranging from economists and anthropologists to evolutionary biologists and engineers. Their goal is to understand how innovation happens and the factors that drive it so that they can optimize conditions for future innovation.

This approach has had limited success, however. The rate at which innovations appear and disappear has been carefully measured. It follows a set of well-characterized patterns that scientists observe in many different circumstances. And yet, nobody has been able to explain how this pattern arises or why it governs innovation.


Business Forum: The best motivations for photonics entrepreneurs - An interview with Eric Swanson
Eric Swanson


I figure we have much to learn from a very successful serial photonics entrepreneur, Eric Swanson. Eric is a co-founder or founding board member of five companies: Advanced Ophthalmic Devices, Lightlab Imaging, Sycamore Networks, Acacia Communications, and Curata. These companies have evolved over time and shipped over $1 billion in products worldwide. He is an OSA Fellow, IEEE Fellow, a co-recipient of the 2017 Russ Prize, and an active participant in a variety of volunteer activities.

Milton Chang: It is remarkable that OCT has been able to move in 25 years from proof-of-principle to an FDA-approved instrument used pervasively in hospitals and clinics. Any lessons to share?

Eric Swanson: The medical device market often takes much longer and is far harder than people-especially academics and inexperienced entrepreneurs-realize to go from laboratory prototype demonstration to a successful product. In contrast to nonmedical devices, when you get to the first customer shipment, there often can be many years of hard work and risk left to achieve clinical and economic success. But there can be a great sense of satisfaction from solving an important problem that some nonmedical products lack.

MC: What are the key ingredients for starting any successful company, in your view?

ES: It is not the patent position, the business plan, the competitive barrier, access to funding, etc. Those are all important, but people are the #1 factor in success and #2 is the culture you create by and for those people. Two quotes you often hear are "VCs would rather have an 'A' group of people and a 'B' idea than a 'B' group of people and an 'A' idea" and "Culture eats strategy for breakfast!"

Science Is America's Foundation--and Our Future

When Americans think about U.S. leadership in the world, they often think of military power, famous presidents, or economic achievement. But they might be less likely to name an area in which the United States has led the world for decades: science.

From lifesaving vaccines for devastating diseases like smallpox and polio, to novel materials like semiconductors and superconductors, to robotic rovers that can explore Mars, science has made possible discoveries that revolutionized the world, and much of it started right here in the United States.

Think of what innovative research and development (R&D) has enabled us to do. We've discovered elementary particles and gravitational waves. We've built high-performance computers that can model everything from weather to polymers to nuclear fusion simulations. We've developed catalysts and processes to make new chemicals and materials. We've discovered fluorescent proteins that can be used as biosensors and developed techniques for high-throughput DNA sequencing and genome editing. We've developed GIS mapping techniques for precision agriculture and monitoring sensitive ecosystems. (And we've even built a computer that can win at Jeopardy.) Americans are unquestionably safer, healthier, and more prosperous because of our leading role in scientific innovation.

How did we do it? We built an unparalleled system of cooperation between universities, government labs, nonprofit research centers, and for-profit companies. We made sustained investments in R&D through federal institutions like the National Institutes of Health and our national laboratories. We developed strong intellectual property laws to make sure anyone with a revolutionary idea, from a garage inventor to a major corporation, can protect and market it. We attracted the best and brightest researchers and innovators through immigration laws that welcomed anyone willing to work hard and share their ideas with the world. We continue to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to seek scientific careers.

Materials, Advanced Manufacturing and Related topics
Adding nanoscale particles of aluminum oxide increases the depth of the melting zone _MZ_ in nickel and decreases the size of the heat-affected zone (HAZ). The bottom right image shows how even at higher temperatures the heat affected zone doesn't grow very large. Credit: UCLA Engineering Read more at:

In an advance that could lead to improved manufacturing, a new study by UCLA researchers shows that adding nanoparticles to metals during the melting process allows for better control during melting.
The melting and solidification of metals are important processes in manufacturing, used in welding and also 3-D printing. For example, laser welding has been used to build cars and ships for decades. However, the researchers suggest that improvements in melting/solidification processes could have financial benefits resulting from increased efficiency and reliability.

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Discovery paves the way for new types of heat shields. Credit: NASA

In an advance that could lead to improved manufacturing, a new study by UCLA researchers shows that adding nanoparticles to metals during the melting process allows for better control during melting.
The melting and solidification of metals are important processes in manufacturing, used in welding and also 3-D printing. For example, laser welding has been used to build cars and ships for decades. However, the researchers suggest that improvements in melting/solidification processes could have financial benefits resulting from increased efficiency and reliability.

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Welding can reduce the toughness of the material by up to 50 per cent if it is not done correctly thereby making the metal very brittle. Credit: Cathy

Scientists have found applying a soft metal layer before welding hard metals can act as a sufficient buffer to address fatigue behaviour in welded metal.

The research investigated the effects of tensile over-load (OL) on high-strength low-alloy steels which are widely used in the mining industry for equipment like storage tanks and excavator buckets.
The scientists used flux cored arc welding and different widths of soft metals as the buffer layer to determine the fatigue life of the alloy and whether introducing a buffer layer would offset weakening of welded material.

They found that under the OL test conditions, the fatigue life of the weld-repaired alloy with a 10mm buffer layer was approximately six times greater than that of the weld-repaired steel without a buffer layer.

UWA School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering's Xiaozhi Hu says often wear damage is localised so weld-repair, or filling up the damaged area, is more economical.

"It can create huge residual stresses along the welded interface and weld defects when hard weld metals are used directly onto the hard metal base," Winthrop Professor Hu says.

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In structural design there is a crucial need for damage tolerant materials, providing a good strength-toughness balance. However, in many engineering materials these two properties are mutually exclusive. In the quest for damage-tolerant materials, which combine toughness and strength, drawing inspiration from nature can be a promising strategy. In nature, indeed, the strength-toughness conflict has been solved through a combination of mechanisms, resulting from a long evolution and a continuous adaptation.

Mimicking the features of natural materials to deliver advanced solutions is non-trivial and few scientists have successfully done it. The recent technological advances in nanotechnology and the rapid growth of additive manufacturing has boosted the research in biomimetics, providing new routes to implement natural features in de novo bioinspired materials.

In this Review, Markus J. Buehler and Flavia Libonati from MIT provide an outline of some representative biological composites, such as bone, teeth, and nacre, along with a description of their structure, chemistry and mechanics, and a detailed analysis of the fundamental design motifs of natural materials, that can be translated into the design of de novo bioinspired composites. Finally, the authors present recent advancement in the fabrication of biomimetic composites, mainly inspired by biomineralized tissues, followed by a critical discussion of topical and successful case studies.

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Periosteum is a tissue fabric layer on the outside of bone_ as seen in the upper diagonal segment of the tissue image volume. The natural weave of elastin (green) and collagen (yellow) are evident when viewed under the microscope. Elastin gives periosteum its stretchy properties and collagen imparts toughness. Muscle is organized into fiber bundles_ observed as round structures in the lower diagonal segment of the tissue image volume. The volume is approximately 200 x 200 microns,width x height, x 25 microns deep. Credit: Professor Melissa Knothe Tate

For the first time, UNSW biomedical engineers have woven a 'smart' fabric that mimics the sophisticated and complex properties of one nature's ingenious materials, the bone tissue periosteum.
Having achieved proof of concept, the researchers are now ready to produce fabric prototypes for a range of advanced functional materials that could transform the medical, safety and transport sectors. Patents for the innovation are pending in Australia, the United States and Europe.

Potential future applications range from protective suits that stiffen under high impact for skiers, racing-car drivers and astronauts, through to 'intelligent' compression bandages for deep-vein thrombosis that respond to the wearer's movement and safer steel-belt radial tyres.
The research is published today in Nature's Scientific Reports.

Many animal and plant tissues exhibit 'smart' and adaptive properties. One such material is the periosteum, a soft tissue sleeve that envelops most bony surfaces in the body. The complex arrangement of collagen, elastin and other structural proteins gives periosteum amazing resilience and provides bones with added strength under high impact loads.

Until now, a lack of scalable 'bottom-up' approaches by researchers has stymied their ability to use smart tissues to create advanced functional materials.

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Members of the Department of Chemistry of Lomonosov Moscow State University have created unique polymer matrices for polymer composites based on novel phthalonitrile monomers. The developed materials possess higher strength than metals, which helps to sufficiently decrease the mass of aircraft parts that operate at high temperatures. Scientists have published the project results in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.

A team of scientists from the Chair of Chemical Technology and New Materials at Lomonosov Moscow State University lead by Alexey V. Kepman, a Leading Researcher, is working on developing structural polymer composite materials. They are used for production of various constructions, vehicle components, and structural elements exploited under loading. Aerospace industry, where material requirements are much higher, requires high performance polymer composites. Polymer composites are made of a polymer matrix and a reinforcement material (filling agent) that remain separate and distinct within the finished structure. For example, in carbon fiber reinforces composites (CFRP) carbon fabrics are used as a reinforcing agent while polyester or epoxy resins, bismaleimides, polyimides, and many other polymers -- as a matrix.

A modern airplane -- e.g. Boeing 787 Dreamliner -- consists of polymer composites for 50%, and a fighter aircraft -- Eurofighter -- of FRP for 70%. Development of high-temperature polymer composites will allow replacing the existing metal engine parts (for instance, low-pressure jet compressor blades) or supersonic aircraft body elements with polymer composite parts.

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Who has a more personal connection to high-temperature metals processing than the blacksmith? Do you think blacksmiths no longer exist? Think again. This field is experiencing a bit of a resurgence as people look for a craft with an artistic component that can provide a usable product for those who are looking for something out of the ordinary.

Many of today's blacksmiths work with the tools and techniques utilized for many centuries. The first evidence of smithing by hammering iron into shape is a dagger found in Egypt dating to 1350 B.C. Although in Egypt, it was likely the product of a Hittite tradesman. The Hittites likely invented forging and tempering, and they kept their ironworking techniques secret. When the Hittites were scattered, their ironworking skills were spread to Greece and the Balkans. This early Iron Age occurred about 800-500 B.C. The smith can also be found in the classical mythology of the Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians and Aztecs.

Early smiths likely heated iron in wood fires. They found that wood converted to charcoal produced a better fire - the intensity of which could be increased with an air blast. The smith began to specialize in the Middle Ages, especially with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. The whitesmith was someone who worked with lead, and the blacksmith was the ironworker. The farrier was a specialist in the making and fitting of horseshoes, while the chainsmiths and nailsmiths had their specialties. The number of folks with the last name of "Smith" demonstrates the prevalence of the vocation. Other surnames such as Miller and Cooper have similar origins.

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New work from a team including Carnegie's Guoyin Shen and Yoshio Kono used high pressure and temperature to reveal a kind of "structural memory" in samples of the metal bismuth, a discovery with great electrical engineering potential.
Bismuth is a historically interesting element for scientists, as a number of important discoveries in the metal physics world were made while studying it, including important observations about the effect of magnetic fields on electrical conductivity.

Bismuth has a number of phases. A chemical phase is a distinctive configuration of the molecules that make up a substance. Water freezing into ice or boiling into steam are examples of how changes in external conditions can induce a transition from one phase to another. But for physicists and materials scientists, application of extreme pressures and temperatures can bring about a large variety of other phases. For example, under increasing pressure and temperature conditions bismuth undergoes an array of phase transitions, including eight different types of solid phases observed so far.

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Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have become the first to 3D print aerospace-grade carbon fiber composites, opening the door to greater control and optimization of the lightweight, yet stronger than steel material.
The research, published by the journal Scientific Reports (link is external) online on March 6, represents a "significant advance" in the development of micro-extrusion 3D printing techniques for carbon fiber, the authors reported.

"The mantra is 'if you could make everything out of carbon fiber, you would' -- it's potentially the ultimate material," explained Jim Lewicki, principal investigator and the paper's lead author. "It's been waiting in the wings for years because it's so difficult to make in complex shapes. But with 3D printing, you could potentially make anything out of carbon fiber."

A carbon fiber composite ink extrudes from a customized direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printer, eventually building part of a rocket nozzle.

Carbon fiber is a lightweight, yet stiff and strong material with a high resistance to temperature, making the composite material popular in the aerospace, defense and automotive industries, and sports such as surfing and motorcycle racing.
Carbon fiber composites are typically fabricated one of two ways -- by physically winding the filaments around a mandrel, or weaving the fibers together like a wicker basket, resulting in finished products that are limited to either flat or cylindrical shapes, Lewicki said. Fabricators also tend to overcompensate with material due to performance concerns, making the parts heavier, costlier and more wasteful than necessary.

However, LLNL researchers reported printing several complex 3D structures through a modified Direct Ink Writing (DIW) 3D printing process. Lewicki and his team also developed and patented a new chemistry that can cure the material in seconds instead of hours, and used the Lab's high performance computing capabilities to develop accurate models of the flow of carbon fiber filaments.

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A super-material that bends, shapes and focuses sound waves that pass through it has been invented by scientists.

The creation pushes the boundaries of metamaterials - a new class of finely-engineered surfaces that perform nature-defying tasks.

These materials have already shown remarkable results with light manipulation, allowing scientists to create a real-life version of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, for example.

But a research team from the Universities of Sussex and Bristol have now shown that they also work with sound waves, which could transform medical imaging and personal audio.

Finely shaped sound fields are used in medical imaging and therapy as well as in a wide range of consumer products such as audio spotlights and ultrasonic haptics. The research published today (date) in Nature Communications shows a simple and cheap way of creating these shaped sound waves using acoustic metamaterials.

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In 2015 UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineer and materials scientist Jonathan Berger developed an idea that could change the way people think about high-performance structural materials. Two years later, his concept is paying research dividends.

In a letter published in the journal Nature, Berger, with UCSB materials and mechanical engineering professor Robert McMeeking and materials scientist Haydn N. G. Wadley from the University of Virginia, prove that the three-dimensional pyramid-and-cross cell geometry Berger conceived is the first of its kind to achieve the performance predicted by theoretical bounds. Its lightness, strength and versatility, according to Berger, lends itself well to a variety of applications, from buildings to vehicles to packaging and transport.

Called Isomax, the beauty of this solid foam-in this case loosely defined as a combination of a stiff substance and air pockets-lay in the geometry within. Instead of the typical assemblage of bubbles or a honeycomb arrangement, the ordered cells were set apart by walls forming the shapes of pyramids with three sides and a base, and octahedra, reinforced inside with a "cross" of intersecting diagonal walls.

The combination of the pyramid and cross-shaped cells, said Berger, resulted in a structure that had low density-mostly air, in fact-yet was uncommonly strong for its mass.

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Engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and the AMOLF institute in the Netherlands have invented the first mechanical metamaterials that easily transfer motion effortlessly in one direction while blocking it in the other, as described in a paper published on Feb. 13 in Nature. The material can be thought of as a mechanical one-way shield that blocks energy from coming in but easily transmits it going out the other side.

The researchers developed the first nonreciprocal mechanical materials using metamaterials, which are synthetic materials with properties that cannot be found in nature.

Breaking the symmetry of motion may enable greater control on mechanical systems and improved efficiency. These nonreciprocal metamaterials can potentially be used to realize new types of mechanical devices: for example, actuators (components of a machine that are responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism) and other devices that could improve energy absorption, conversion and harvesting, soft robotics and prosthetics.

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Textiles and fibers
Researchers have coated normal fabric with an electroactive material, and in this way given it the ability to actuate in the same way as muscle fibres. The technology opens new opportunities to design "textile muscles" that could, for example, be incorporated into clothes, making it easier for people with disabilities to move. The study, which has been carried out by researchers at Linköping University and the University of Borås in Sweden, has been published in Science Advances.

Developments in robot technology and prostheses have been rapid, due to technological breakthroughs. For example, devices known as "exoskeletons" that act as an external skeleton and muscles have been developed to reinforce a person's own mobility.
"Enormous and impressive advances have been made in the development of exoskeletons, which now enable people with disabilities to walk again. But the existing technology looks like rigid robotic suits. It is our dream to create exoskeletons that are similar to items of clothing, such as "running tights" that you can wear under your normal clothes. Such device could make it easier for older persons and those with impaired mobility to walk," says Edwin Jager, associate professor at Division of Sensor and Actuator Systems, Linköping University.

Current exoskeletons are driven by motors or pressurised air and develop power in this way. In the new study, the researchers have instead used the advantages provided by lightweight and flexible fabrics, and developed what can be described as "textile muscles". The researchers have used mass-producible fabric and coated it with an electroactive material. It is in this special coating that the force in the textile muscles arises. A low voltage applied to the fabric causes the electroactive material to change volume, causing the yarn or fibres to increase in length. The properties of the textile are controlled by its woven or knitted structure. Researchers can exploit this principle, depending on how the textile is to be used.

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The X-ray crystal structure of a 192-atom-loop molecular 819 knot featuring iron ions (shown in purple), oxygen atoms (red), nitrogen atoms (dark blue), carbon atoms (shown in metallic grey, with one of the building blocks shown in light blue) and a single chloride ion (green) at the center of the structure. Credit: Robert W. McGregor (

Scientists at The University of Manchester have produced the most tightly knotted physical structure ever known - a scientific achievement which has the potential to create a new generation of advanced materials.

The University of Manchester researchers, led by Professor David Leigh in Manchester's School of Chemistry, have developed a way of braiding multiple molecular strands enabling tighter and more complex knots to be made than has previously been possible.
The breakthrough knot has eight crossings in a 192-atom closed loop - which is about 20 nanometres long (ie 20 millionths of a millimeter).

Being able to make different types of molecular knots means that scientists should be able to probe how knotting affects strength and elasticity of materials which will enable them to weave polymer strands to generate new types of materials.
Professor David Leigh said: "Tying knots is a similar process to weaving so the techniques being developed to tie knots in molecules should also be applicable to the weaving of molecular strands.

"For example, bullet-proof vests and body armour are made of kevlar, a plastic that consists of rigid molecular rods aligned in a parallel structure - however, interweaving polymer strands have the potential to create much tougher, lighter and more flexible materials in the same way that weaving threads does in our everyday world.

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Brown recluse spiders use a unique micro looping technique to make their threads stronger than that of any other spider, a newly published UK-US collaboration has discovered.

One of the most feared and venomous arachnids in the world, the American brown recluse spider has long been known for its signature necro-toxic venom, as well as its unusual silk. Now, new research offers an explanation for how the spider is able to make its silk uncommonly strong.

Researchers suggest that if applied to synthetic materials, the technique could inspire scientific developments and improve impact absorbing structures used in space travel.

The study, published today in the journal Material Horizons, was produced by scientists from Oxford University's Department of Zoology, together with a team from the Applied Science Department at Virginia's College of William & Mary. Their surveillance of the brown recluse spider's spinning behaviour shows how, and to what extent, the spider manages to strengthen the silk it makes.
From observing the arachnid, the team discovered that unlike other spiders, who produce round ribbons of thread, recluse silk is thin and flat. This structural difference is key to the thread's strength, providing the flexibility needed to prevent premature breakage and withstand the knots created during spinning which give each strand additional strength.

Professor Hannes Schniepp from William & Mary explains: "The theory of knots adding strength is well proven. But adding loops to synthetic filaments always seems to lead to premature fibre failure. Observation of the recluse spider provided the breakthrough solution; unlike all spiders its silk is not round, but a thin, nano-scale flat ribbon. The ribbon shape adds the flexibility needed to prevent premature failure, so that all the microloops can provide additional strength to the strand."

By using computer simulations to apply this technique to synthetic fibres, the team were able to test and prove that adding even a single loop significantly enhances the strength of the material.

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Supple, light and biodegradable but stronger than steel: researchers said Monday they have succeeded in producing synthetic spider silk, one of nature's strongest materials.

Refined through the long process of evolution, the silk threads spun by spiders are 30 times thinner than a human hair and stronger even than Kevlar, a synthetic fibre used in making bullet-proof vests.

Scientists have long strived to copy the unique properties of the threads-essentially long chains of linked protein molecules.

When spinning, the spider secretes a protein solution through a narrow duct, along which the acidity changes and pressure increases, causing the molecules to link up and form chains.

But spiders are notoriously difficult to farm-producing small quantities of silk, and with a propensity for eating each other.
Now a team from Sweden said they have managed to copy the spider's feat using proteins in E.coli bacteria and a "spinning apparatus" which mimics the pH changes that spiders use to make silk.

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A new lightweight, portable nanofiber fabrication device may revolutionize several different fields.

The material-developed by Harvard University researchers- could be used for everything from dressing wounds on a battlefield or creating engineered tissue to improving bullet proof vests or creating fashion-forward customizable fabrics.

The Disease Biophysics Group at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) recently announced the development of a hand-held device that can quickly produce nanofibers with precise control over fiber orientation.

By regulating fiber alignment and deposition, scientists can build nanofiber scaffolds that mimic highly aligned tissue in the body or design point-of-use garments that fit a specific shape.

"Our main goal for this research was to make a portable machine that you could use to achieve controllable deposition of nanofibers," Nina Sinatra, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and co-first author of the paper, said in a statement. "In order to develop this kind of point-and-shoot device, we needed a technique that could produce highly aligned fibers with a reasonably high throughput."

The nanofibers have been made using centrifugal force, capillary force, electric field, stretching, blowing, melting and evaporation.

Rotary Jet-Spinning (RJS) and Immersion Rotary Jet-Spinning (iRJS) both dissolve polymers and proteins in a liquid solution and use centrifugal force or precipitation to elongate and solidify polymer jets into nanoscale fibers, making these methods ideal for producing large amounts of materials including DNA, nylon and even Kevlar.

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Materials for Energy and Sustainability Applications
The days of relying on an expensive metal to produce the electrode needed to generate an electrical current for microbial fuel cells may soon be coming to an end.
Researchers from the University of Rochester have made a cheaper and more efficient microbial fuel cell (MFC) that relies on bacteria found in wastewater by developing an electrode using chemically enhanced paper.

Most electrodes used in wastewater have consisted of a rapidly corroding metal or carbon felt, which while being less expensive, is porous and prone to clogging.
The researchers replaced the carbon felt with paper coated with carbon paste, which is a mixture of graphite and mineral oil. The carbon paste is necessary because it attracts electrons emitted by the bacteria.
The researchers created a layered sandwich of paper, carbon paste, a conducting polymer (polyaniline) and a film of the bacteria to create the electrode.

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When Geoffrey Coates, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, gives a talk about plastics and recycling, he usually opens with this question: What percentage of the 78 million tons of plastic used for packaging - for example, a 2-liter bottle or a take-out food container - actually gets recycled and re-used in a similar way?

The answer, just 2 percent. Sadly, nearly a third is leaked into the environment, around 14 percent is used in incineration and/or energy recovery, and a whopping 40 percent winds up in landfills.

One of the problems: Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which account for two-thirds of the world's plastics, have different chemical structures and thus cannot be repurposed together. Or, at least, an efficient technology to meld these two materials into one hasn't been available in the 60 years they've both been on the market.

That could change with a discovery out of Coates' lab. He and his group have collaborated with a group from the University of Minnesota to develop a multiblock polymer that, when added in small measure to a mix of the two otherwise incompatible materials, create a new and mechanically tough polymer.

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Characterization of Advanced Materials
A new microscope has shrunk both in size and in cost.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created an atomic force microscope on a chip using a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) approach.
The microscope is about one square centimeter in size and is attached to a small printed circuit board, about half the size of a credit card, which contains circuitry, sensors and other miniaturized components that control the movement and other aspects of the device.

"A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers," Reza Moheimani, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas, said in a statement. "We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip."

Anthony Fowler, Ph.D., a research scientist in Moheimani's Laboratory for Dynamics and Control of Nanosystems and one of the article's co-authors, explained the new approach to creating the microscope.

"A classic example of MEMS technology are the accelerometers and gyroscopes found in smartphones," Fowler said in a statement. "These used to be big, expensive, mechanical devices but using MEMS technology, accelerometers have shrunk down onto a single chip, which can be manufactured for just a few dollars apiece."

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Next-generation displays will feature increased resolution and performance, but getting there will require a shift to smaller individual pixel sizes and a tightening of the tolerance for glass relaxation. Display manufacturers can account for a certain level of relaxation in the glass, referring to the intermolecular rearrangement, if it's known and reproducible. But fluctuations in this relaxation behavior tend to introduce uncertainty into the manufacturing process, possibly leading to misalignment of pixels within displays.

These fluctuations are caused by slight variations in the thermal history of the glass, and unfortunately no one has ever performed a systematic study of what governs fluctuations in the relaxation behavior of glass.

But now, this week in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing, a research duo from Corning Inc., a glass manufacturer, and Qilu University of Technology in China, reports on a new modeling technique to quantify and predict glass relaxation fluctuations. Significantly, their study provides a better understanding of the physical origins of these fluctuations.

"Glass is a thermodynamically unstable material that continually relaxes toward the supercooled liquid state," said John Mauro, senior research manager of glass research at Corning Inc. "This relaxation is a spontaneous process that's accelerated during heat treatment."

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Electronic & Photonic Materials

Gold just Went Black!
Researchers from the Australian National Fabrication Facility, Monash University, and the University of Melbourne describe the straightforward preparation of black gold, a material of promising optical properties.

Thanks to alloys gold comes in many kinds, like white gold, red gold, green gold, or yellow gold - to the joy of jewelers. Material scientists instead appreciate elementally pure gold for its inertness, its excellent conductivity, and for its ability to induce surface plasmons. Now we do have a new gold variety at hand that is of equal interest to jewelers and material scientist: black gold.

In their recent publication in Advanced Functional Materials Charlene Ng, Daniel E. Gómez, and co-workers from the Commonwealth Scientific and  Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO),  the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Monash University, and the University of Melbourne describe the straightforward preparation of black gold, a material of promising optical properties.

The scientists apply a standard method in gold substrate preparation: physical vapor deposition (sputtering). Sputtering a specifically designed porous aluminum oxide template yields black gold - other templates, like glass, however, do yield the usual bulk gold film. After sputtering the substrate is glued to a desired, alkaline-resistant support and the aluminum template is removed by alkaline treatment.

For this metal, electricity flows, but not the heat
Vanadium dioxide (VO2) nanobeams synthesized by Berkeley researchers show exotic electrical and thermal properties. In this false-color scanning electron microscopy image, thermal conductivity was measured by transporting heat from the suspended heat source pad (red) to the sensing pad (blue). The pads are bridged by a VO2 nanobeam. Credit: Junqiao Wu/Berkeley Lab

There's a known rule-breaker among materials, and a new discovery by an international team of scientists adds more evidence to back up the metal's nonconformist reputation. According to a new study led by scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and at the University of California, Berkeley, electrons in vanadium dioxide can conduct electricity without conducting heat.
The findings, to be published in the Jan. 27 issue of the journal Science, could lead to a wide range of applications, such as thermoelectric systems that convert waste heat from engines and appliances into electricity.

For most metals, the relationship between electrical and thermal conductivity is governed by the Wiedemann-Franz Law. Simply put, the law states that good conductors of electricity are also good conductors of heat. That is not the case for metallic vanadium dioxide, a material already noted for its unusual ability to switch from an insulator to a metal when it reaches a balmy 67 degrees Celsius, or 152 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chemical Engineering

 Treated Carbon Pulls Radioactive Elements from Water
C-seal F, a carbon source, magnified 200 times reveals its high surface area of 12.5 square meters per grams. Processing it into oxidatively modified carbon raises its surface area to 16.9 square meters per gram while enhancing its ability to remove radioactive cesium and strontium from water, according to researchers at Rice University and Kazan Federal University. Source: Kazan Federal University

Researchers at Rice University and Kazan Federal University in Russia have found a way to extract radioactivity from water and said their discovery could help purify the hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water stored after the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

They reported that their oxidatively modified carbon (OMC) material is inexpensive and highly efficient at absorbing radioactive metal cations, including cesium and strontium, toxic elements released into the environment when the Fukushima plant melted down after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

OMC can easily trap common radioactive elements found in water floods from oil extraction, such as uranium, thorium and radium, said Rice chemist James Tour, who led the project with Ayrat Dimiev, a former postdoctoral researcher in his lab and now a research professor at Kazan Federal University.
The material makes good use of the porous nature of two specific sources of carbon, Tour said. One is an inexpensive, coke-derived powder known as C-seal F, used by the oil industry as an additive to drilling fluids. The other is a naturally occurring, carbon-heavy mineral called shungite found mainly in Russia.
The results appear this month in Carbon.

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Water purification devices commonly exploit nanomaterials for their large surface areas, relative ease of synthesis, and abundant natural ingredients. However, in their native form they are often difficult to regenerate and can leach contaminants back into purified water supplies. Now, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a method to replicate iron oxide/hydroxide/oxyhydroxide composites that are identified as effective adsorbers of As(III) and As(V) species commonly found throughout the water supplies in India. Namely, their research focuses on a confined metastable 2-line ferrihydrite (CM2LF) composite.

Studies were conducted in large scale field trials in Karnataka states of India, along with experiments on samples from other arsenic polluted areas. In addition, the researchers report a domestic water filtration unit that purifies up to 6000 L of water contaminated with As(III), As(V), and As(mix), and either of Fe(II) and Fe(III). This accounts to approximately 15 L of water per day for one year and is estimated to provide a family of five with access to arsenic-free drinking water for just US $2 per year.

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( hydrophobic effect is a fundamental aspect of biochemical processes. Hydrophilic, or water-loving, solutes tend to be miscible in water, while hydrophobic, or water-fearing, solutes tend to aggregate in such a way as to minimize the number of water-solute interactions.

It is this effect that dictates important processes such as protein folding or intercellular transport. While hydrophobic effects play a key role in life's most fundamental processes, the actual cause of the effect is a topic of debate.
Researchers from the National Institute of Chemistry in Slovenia have, for the first time, experimentally and computationally confirmed the classical view of hydrophobic hydration, which says that hydrogen bonds near a hydrophobic solute become stronger, simulating bonding behavior seen in ice or in clathrates. Their work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Understanding the fundamental properties of hydrophobicity may bring crucial advances in several important biochemical processes: protein folding, aggregation of protein subunits into complex quaternary structures, molecular recognition (ligand-receptor, enzyme-substrate), and aggregation of amphiphilic lipids into bilayers, micelles, cell membranes, and organelles," Dr. Franc Avbelj, co-author of the paper, told

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  Blood-repellent materials: A new approach to medical implants
Blood, plasma and water droplets beading on a superomniphobic surface. Colorado State University researchers have created a superhemophobic titanium surface, repellent to blood, that has potential applications for biocompatible medical devices. Credit: Kota lab/Colorado State University

Medical implants like stents, catheters and tubing introduce risk for blood clotting and infection - a perpetual problem for many patients.
Colorado State University engineers offer a potential solution: A specially grown, "superhemophobic" titanium surface that's extremely repellent to blood. The material could form the basis for surgical implants with lower risk of rejection by the body.
It's an outside-the-box innovation achieved at the intersection of two disciplines: biomedical engineering and materials science. The work, recently published in Advanced Healthcare Materials, is a collaboration between the labs of Arun Kota, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering; and Ketul Popat, associate professor in the same departments.
Kota, an expert in novel, "superomniphobic" materials that repel virtually any liquid, joined forces with Popat, an innovator in tissue engineering and bio-compatible materials. Starting with sheets of titanium, commonly used for medical devices, their labs grew chemically altered surfaces that act as perfect barriers between the titanium and blood. Their teams conducted experiments showing very low levels of platelet adhesion, a biological process that leads to blood clotting and eventual rejection of a foreign material.

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Superamphiphobic surfaces, being both superhydrophobic and superoleophobic, are much more desirable than those being super-repellent only to either water or oil. Superamphiphobic surfaces show a number of applications in self-cleaning, antifouling, non-staining surfaces, spill-resistant, personal protection, drag reduction, corrosion prevention, and liquid separation. Several techniques to fabricate superamphiphobic surfaces have been developed in the last years, whereby single-step, wet-chemical processes, such as dipcoating and spraying, are of particular interest owing to the great convenience for large scale manufacturing.

Most of the existing wet-chemical coating systems for superamphiphobic treatment, however, use organic solvents. The use of organic solvents is prone to cause safety issues and increases environmental pollution. Due to higher safety levels when working with organics solvent, the production cost increase as well. Therefore, water-borne coating systems for superamphiphobic treatment are highly desirable, but from a chemical point of view remain rather difficult to make.

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Some insect bodies have evolved the abilities to repel water and oil, adhere to different surfaces, and eliminate light reflections. Scientists have been studying the physical mechanisms underlying these remarkable properties found in nature and mimicking them to design materials for use in everyday life.

Several years ago, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory developed a nanoscale surface-texturing method for imparting complete water repellency to materials--a property inspired by insect exoskeletons that have tiny hairs designed to repel water by trapping air. Their method leverages the ability of materials called block copolymers (chains of two distinct molecules linked together) to self-assemble into ordered patterns with dimensions measuring only tens of nanometers in size. The scientists used these self-assembled patterns to create nanoscale textures in a variety of inorganic materials, including silicon, glass, and some plastics. Initially, they studied how changing the shape of the textures from cylindrical to conical impacted materials' ability to repel water. Cone-shaped nanotextures proved much better at forcing water droplets to roll off, carrying dirt particles away and leaving surfaces completely dry.

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The separation of emulsified water and oil mixtures is a key challenge for the environment. The extraction of oil often requires the injection of superheated steam into the ground, and while this approach is immensely successful in recovering oil, the emulsions thus created can be difficult to separate. The cleanup of oil spills further requires the development of technologies that can readily separate water from oil.

Sarbajit Banerjee et al. from Texas A&M University developed a robust inorganic system capable of handling the extreme heat and wear typical of oil extraction  that engineers complete separation of water and oil. Utilizing a stainless steel mesh substrate embedded with ceramic ZnO tetrapods that constitute "spike strips", a highly textured surface is obtained that strongly repels water but allows for permeation of oil.

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A new development could enable businesses to transport objects remotely using adhesive material controlled by light.

Scientists from Kiel University are researching how to artificially create an adhesive mechanism after succeeding in developing a bioinspired adhesive material that can be controlled remotely by using a UV light.

The science group developed an elastic porous material-liquid crystal elastomer-that bends when illuminated with UV light because of its special molecular structure. This advancement could be utilized in robotics and medical technology. The research also could be used when building sensitive sensors or micro computer chips.

Emre Kizilkan, of the Functional Morphology and Biomechanics research group at the Zoological Institute, explained how the adhesive material was developed.

"Due to their structures, porous materials can be very easily incorporated to other materials," Kizilkan said in a statement. "So we tested what happens when we combined the elastic material, which reacts well to light, with a bioinspired material that has good adhesive properties."

The surface of the material consists of mushroom-shaped adhesive microstructures, similar to those on a type of beetle.

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Iron, by mass, is the second most abundant element after aluminum and the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Also, it's one of the most important elements that sustain life. Since the dawn of life 3,500 Ma, it has partaken in various roles:
  • Plants use it to produce chlorophyll for photosynthesis.
  • Invertebrates and vertebrates use hemeproteins such as hemeerythrin, hemoglobin, and myoglobin to transport and store oxygen in their cells and tissues.
  • Nearly all cell-based organisms use hemeproteins called cytochromes to generate energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and in metabolic pathways that produce valuable chemicals like alkanes, olefins, and alcohols.
And this is only a short list of the biological processes and functions iron is involved in.
In this  IUBMB Life reviewJose M. Dominguez-Vera and co-workers at the  University of Granada Department of Inorganic Chemistry discuss the iron biochemistry from the point of view of inorganic and physical chemistry.
The coordination and electrochemical properties of iron and its abundance in the environment make it relevant to biology. Iron primarily exists in two oxidation states - insoluble Fe3+ and soluble Fe2+, and intermediate high-valent Fe(VI) and Fe(V) generated during different stages of biocatalysis. Before the "Great Oxygen Event" 2,500 Ma, the Earth's atmosphere was reductive and most iron was soluble, facilitating its integration into the living systems. After this groundbreaking event, the water now only contains Fe3+ , which is detrimental to a cellular health in more than one way. Most cell-based organisms had to adapt to a new world and the authors describe how it was achieved in this detailed and concise review.

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Scientist cracks mystery of the frog's powerful tongue. It's called spit.

Yet how, exactly, frogs could maintain their grip on insects during such speedy attacks was not fully understood. Scientists knew the tongues were super-adhesive; one 2014 study revealed a that frog tongue could heft objects 1.4 times the animal's own body weight, relying on a mechanism that the Los Angeles Times likened to the glue on the back of a Post-it note. Others have compared the tongues to rolls of sticky transparent tape.
But it would not be until Alexis C. Noel, a biomechanics PhD student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, watched a video of an African bullfrog crushing digital bugs with its tongue (the pet frog was playing the mobile game "Ant Smasher," the stuff multi-million-view YouTube clips are made of) that she began to wonder if researchers had missed a trick.

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How Photosynthetic Pigments Harvest Light

Plants and other photosynthetic organisms use a wide variety of pigments to absorb different wavelengths of light. MIT researchers have now developed a theoretical model to predict the spectrum of light absorbed by aggregates of these pigments, based on their structure.
The new model could help guide scientists in designing new types of solar cells made of organic materials that efficiently capture light and funnel the light-induced excitation, according to the researchers.

"Understanding the sensitive interplay between the self-assembled pigment superstructure and its electronic, optical, and transport properties is highly desirable for the synthesis of new materials and the design and operation of organic-based devices," says Aurelia Chenu, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the study, which appeared in Physical Review Letters on Jan. 3.

Photosynthesis, performed by all plants and algae, as well as some types of bacteria, allows organisms to harness energy from sunlight to build sugars and starches. Key to this process is the capture of single photons of light by photosynthetic pigments, and the subsequent transfer of the excitation to the reaction centers, the starting point of chemical conversion. Chlorophyll, which absorbs blue and red light, is the best-known example, but there are many more, such as carotenoids, which absorb blue and green light, as well as others specialized to capture the scarce light available deep in the ocean.

These pigments serve as building blocks that can be arranged in different ways to create structures known as light-harvesting complexes, or antennae, which absorb different wavelengths of light depending on the composition of the pigments and how they are assembled.

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If you have a moment and either like, don't like, or would like to see changes in this newsletter, please feel free to contact Felix Lu and let him have it!

Phone: 608-262-6099


If you used any instruments in the Materials Science Center, Soft Materials Laboratory, or the Wisconsin Center for Applied Microelectronics, please remember to acknowledge MRSEC funded instruments and facilities in any publications (DMR-1121288). This will serve as a metric for how often MRSEC funded instruments are used and will help continue MRSEC support in future years. Thanks! If you have any questions, please contact Felix Lu .

In This Issue
Core facilities

The Soft Materials Lab

The Soft Materials Lab, housed in the basement of Engineering Hall, has a wide spectrum of instruments for characterizing soft materials.  The lab  is managed by Anna Kiyanova who is available to answer all of your characterization questions.  

Anna Kiyanova
(608) 263-1735

The Materials Science Center has a wide spectrum of electron, optical and physical characterization instruments and is fully staffed to help you with training and sample characterization.

Dr. Jerry Hunter
(608) 263-1073


The WCAM is a full spectrum micro/nano fabrication facility for processing and integrating devices in Silicon, III-V, group four, glass, plastic, materials. On site, fully-qualified and highly experienced staff are available to help you with your process development and answer questions.

Dan Christensen
(608) 262-6877

The materials characterization facility in the Geology dept has some complementary instrumentation along with materials experts to help you with your characterization and sample prep challenges!  

Dr. John Fournelle
Dept of Geology & Geophysics
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1215 W. Dayton St
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 262-7964 (office) 265-4798 (lab) 262-0693 (fax)  

The Biochemistry Optical Core (BOC) provides state-of-the-art instrumentation for super-resolution light microscopic imaging. Expertise and advice is available for the design of experiments involving these techniques; and for the development of grants and manuscripts involving super-resolution and standard light microscopic technologies. 

Dr. Elle Grevstad
Dept of Biochemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison
440 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706

The Paul Bender Instrument Center houses the Chemistry Department's major shared analytical instrumentation (magnetic resonance, and mass spectrometry, and X-ray diffraction). These instruments are maintained and updated by an expert staff that provides user training and data interpretation in support of Departmental research. The Center is located on the second floor of the Chemistry building.

Dr. Charles Fry
Dept of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(608)262-3182, Room: 2201A  

And if you have questions regarding cross campus research cores, please contact Dr. Isabelle Girard, Director of Campus research cores
Isabelle Girard, PhD
Director, Office of Campus Research Cores
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education
University of Wisconsin-Madison

350 Bascom Hall 
500 Lincoln Drive 
Madison  WI  53706

office: (608) 890-4268
Student tour groups of your facility
Are you interested in showing off your facility to interested student groups? Do you want to increase exposure of what your company does to encourage higher application rates and get student interns? Hosting a tour might be a good start! Please contact Felix Lu or Erin Gill to initiate this!

Using our campus facilities

Slippery Anti-fouling Surfaces with Health, Environmental and Consumer Applications

David Lynn, Uttam Manna, Matthew Carter

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a new method for fabricating physically and chemically durable SLIPS on complex surfaces.
OVERVIEWSlippery liquid-infused porous surfaces (SLIPS) are an emerging class of materials with unique properties. They possess useful antifouling characteristics, meaning they prevent other matter or organisms from accumulating on any surface containing the material. Unlike conventional non-stick surfaces, SLIPS are structured in a way that can host or immobilize oils, so the surface behaves as if it is already lubricated.

While research in this area is ongoing, fabricating SLIPS on complex surfaces such as curves and developing a better means to control their properties remain a challenge.

UW-Madison researchers have developed a new approach for fabricating and functionalizing SLIPS on objects of arbitrary shape, size and topology (e.g., inside a hollow tube, etc.). The new SLIPS have greater control over how fluids behave when they come in contact. For example, they can be designed with oil-free regions to immobilize fluid droplets and/or control how they slide across the surface.

The new SLIPS are antifouling to bacteria, fungi and mammalian cells, and may be used for the controlled release of antibiotics and to prevent thick liquids or dirt from building up on a surface. They are fabricated via the infusion of oils into reactive polymer multilayers.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITYThis technology covers a wide range of applications, from biofilm-resistant coatings on biomedical devices to condiment packaging and even self-cleaning solar panels that could greatly increase the efficiency of solar energy.

Products and services generated by this type of invention can be absorbed by large markets. For example, the food sauce market is $17 billion, while that for medical device coatings should grow to $8 billion this year. Several startups have begun to enter this field, with SLIPS Technologies recently closing a $3 million funding round.

  • New antifouling surfaces for marine or aviation use
  • Antibacterial/fungal coatings
  • Packaging, e.g., ketchup, mustard or mayo bottles that allow their contents to glide out while leaving no residue behind
  • Better means of manipulating the behavior of fluids that come in contact with the surface
  • Chemically and physically durable, able to be tuned to a specific application
  • Overcomes the challenges of fabricating/functionalizing SLIPS on complex surfaces
  • Amenable to objects of almost any size, shape and topology

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New Biodegradable Integrated Circuits Signal the Future of E-Waste Management

Zhenqiang Ma, Yei Hwan Jung, Shaoqin Gong, Tzu-Hsuan Chang
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing biodegradable microwave electronics that can be used in consumer devices like smart phones and tablets, as well as methods for their production.
OVERVIEWElectronic waste management remains an ongoing challenge both domestically and abroad. Scrap components of electronics such as computers, cellphones and refrigerators contain high amounts of heavy metals and hazardous materials like lead, cadmium, tin, gallium arsenide (GaAs) and brominated flame retardants.

While programs exist for recycling components and separating precious metals, 50-80 percent of waste products are exported to developing countries and openly burned or, in the case of the United States, left in landfills at a rate of 2 million tons per year.

UW-Madison researchers have developed substantially biodegradable microwave integrated circuits and methods for their manufacture.

The circuits utilize cellulose nanofibril (CNF) thin-film paper rather than GaAs (a toxic semiconductor) as their principle substrate, minimizing amounts of potentially toxic inorganic materials. The CNF, which is derived from wood, is coated with a hydrophobic polymer to resist water and solvents while remaining readily degradable by common forest fungi.

Key electrical components, including a group III-V semiconductor, are formed on a standard substrate, which can be reused, and then transferred to the flexible, transparent and biodegradable CNF paper. The resulting circuits substantially reduce the levels of toxic materials introduced into the environment when they are discarded.
  • Biodegradable electronics
  • Flexible/wearable electronics
  • Smartphones and tablets
  • CNF is biodegradable, flexible, transparent and has desirable electrical properties.
  • Exhibits excellent high frequency performance
  • Comparable to existing state-of-the-art electronics
  • Reduces electronic waste
  • Minimizes costs associated with e-waste management
  • Reduces the use of costly and hazardous materials like GaAs

Importance of Materials Science in Understanding Failures
January 10, 2017

Over the years, I've had many opportunities to increase my knowledge of my technical field. I have also had the chance to teach at multiple colleges and universities, as well as customize materials-engineering course material.
Experience has helped me to appreciate the value of the concepts that were "beat into me" by my college professors. It has also resulted in the creation of my "crash materials degree," which I shared with my Industrial Heating blog readers. Here are the key concepts condensed from my original blogs.

 1  The essence of materials science and engineering is that every material must be made into a part by a process, which creates a multilevel structure. This results in a constellation of properties, characteristics or behaviors in a given environment. Traditionally, we show a triangle with "process" on the bottom left, "structure" on the bottom right and "properties" on top (Fig. 1).

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Understanding Component Failures

When a component part fails, it is only natural to ask why and then strive to determine the root cause. Gathering all possible information about the damage event and performing a thorough failure analysis is a critical first step in the process. This type of information helps the heat treater create a set of do's and don'ts that are invaluable in avoiding a repetition of the problem. Let's learn more.
In simplest terms, a failure is the inability of a component part to perform its intended function (Fig. 1). In service, components experience different types of conditions/environments, damage mechanisms and applied loading, including tension, compression, bending, torsion and mixed modes (combinations). The failures that result may be categorized in a broad sense as those related to fracture, wear, corrosion and dimensional change/distortion. As heat treaters, we must also consider that residual stresses can often play an important role.


The Doctor was called in because the patient was feeling poorly and was unable to go to work. On closer examination a milky, gassy, dark brown substance was found to be the culprit. Why, do you ask, is your vacuum furnace not producing acceptable parts? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that your vacuum-pump oil is in need of gas ballasting. Let's learn more. 
Gas ballasting is essential for oil-sealed pumps such as rotary-vane (i.e., mechanical) pumps, but it is often poorly understood or neglected as part of the daily maintenance routine on a vacuum furnace. As a matter of good practice, it should be done for about 20-30 minutes each day and is normally performed before processing parts (not once the furnace is running a load!).
Today, some vacuum pumps are provided with an automatic gas ballast feature, but even these features should never be taken for granted. Put simply, gas ballast is a means of allowing a vacuum pump to handle gases containing condensable vapors or moisture without contaminating the pump oil.
In order to properly discuss the use of gas ballast, it is helpful to review the purpose of the pump oil.

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  Gas Ballasting of Vacuum Pumps (Part 2)
Before the holidays we talked about how vacuum-pump oil becomes contaminated. It is now time to talk about how to overcome this problem using gas ballasting - how it is performed, its advantages and limitations. Let's learn more.
What is gas ballast?
Gas ballast is the introduction of a non-condensable gas (e.g., air or nitrogen) into a rotary-vane pump, during the compression stage to intentionally impact the efficiency of the pump thereby heating the oil inside and helping to drive out water and other condensed liquids present in the pump oil. In addition to rotary-vane pumps, it is also used in scroll pumps and piston pumps, to name a few. Wolfgang Gaede developed the gas ballast principle in 1935, which was first applied to rotary-vane pumps.
The ballast gas is drawn into the pump chamber through a one-way valve (aka gas ballast valve) located on the pump. It is often said that the ballast gas is injected, but in actuality gas is being pulled into the pump by the rotating pump rotor, which produces reduced pressure inside the pump.


VIDEO: Meet Watson, the Hand-Held Material Inspection Device

   "The Watson is a positive material identification device," said Mark Valentine, COO of Tribogenics. "Watson is an affordable insurance for anyone manufacturing metal in the United States. In today's market, with its influx of low quality material from other countries such as China, you don't know unless you test in advance. That's Watson's job."
Historically, lot traceability and certification systems have demanded a certain level of faith in one's suppliers to deliver high-quality materials. Valentine explains that traditional certificate documentation is no longer enough.

"For years we've trusted certificates, but they're just a photocopied piece of paper - we just can't afford to do that anymore," Valentine explained. "It's not that more suppliers are trying to manufacture bad material, but that they are trying to cut down on the expensive elements in the material, like nickel and chrome. If they can shave those elements down, to the minimum the spec allows, they can maximize their profits. Sometimes they miss that minimum by a mile, pushing the material outside the hairy edge of the spec."




 for the
2017 AMIC annual meeting

Varsity Hall in Union South

If you are interested in sponsoring the event to increase market exposure and student/faculty awareness,
Please let us know!

Items available to sponsorships -  

  • Lunch sponsor
  • Student poster prizes
  • Literature
  • Coffee/Snacks

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