Monday, August 20, 2018

Summer camp map 2018

Have you ever had déjà vu?

Or maybe déjà map?

This year's map of the ASM material science summer camps is now available (just in time for the first camp to start in a week and a few days (not Memorial Day week but the week after that).

We progress, as we have the past few years, from red during the early summer through to purple in mid-August. There is one black pin because the dates of the Knoxville camp hadn't been finalized when the list I was working from was published.

If you have any questions about the camps - and I think the vast majority of folks who frequent this blog do so because they've attended a camp - ask 'em in the comments or to me via email (phschemguy at

If you happen to go through the maps from the past five years (linked above), you can also see how Google maps has changed the appearance of its pins. For a more detailed look at the changes, check out Justin O'Beirne's fascinating series of posts.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sand shortage - update

I've mentioned the world's growing sand shortage before and thought I'd take a moment or two to update you with a few more articles.
Some folks are working on solutions, however, but I'll save that link for next week...

(Ooh, a teaser...)

Monday, July 9, 2018

CarbonCure Technologies - Simply better concrete.

When the claim is that spectacular...
CarbonCure works with existing concrete factories to simply add CO2 without changing the concrete recipe or machines. CO2 is collected from smokestacks of large polluters like coal power or cement plants and brought to the concrete factory for recycling. Our proprietary technology injects the CO2 gas into the concrete where it is converted into more stone within the concrete...

The best part is that it costs about the same and it keeps the same good looks and durability that you're used to with regular concrete.

It's green concrete without the trade-offs.
...I find myself skeptical as to just how we get benefits without any downsides at all.

And just how is the CO2 delivered to the concrete plants? The idea of trucks filled with - according to the animation and apparently in the video below - blocks of CO2 just seems a little odd to me.

How does the CO2 get trapped?

According to a CNN article,
CarbonCure's system takes captured CO2 and injects it into concrete as it's being mixed. Once the concrete hardens, that carbon is sequestered forever. Even if the building is torn down, the carbon stays put. That's because it reacts with the concrete and becomes a mineral.


"The best thing about it is the mineral itself improves the compressive strength of the concrete," Christie Gamble, the director of sustainability at CarbonCure, told CNNMoney."
Again with the extraordinary claims. I'm going to need a little more detail.

From the CarbonCure website...
The technology may be used to increase the compressive strength performance of a concrete mix. The strength improvement can then be leveraged in the optimization of the mix design for a specific end goal[.] (source)


Once injected into the wet concrete mix, the CO2 reacts with calcium ions from cement to form a nano-sized calcium carbonate mineral that becomes permanently embedded in the concrete. (source)
I hope that this technology is as perfect as is suggested, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic

I am wildly unhappy with the results of the survey quoted at 6:25: "making a single-use plastic bag requires so little energy and produces far lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to a reusable cotton bag, that you need to use your cotton bag 7100 times before it would have a lower impact on the environment than the plastic bag."


That's kind of depressing.

The video actually does a great job presenting a very balanced view of plastics, presenting facts that show that just not using plastics isn't as easy as it looks at first blush.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Expanding Foam For Filling Post Holes

"Another smart solution from Sika" I the only one who's never heard of Sika as some sort of trusted brand before?

And I absolutely love the goofy, 'pole dance' move that the demonstrator does at 1:52 to show the strength of the Sika Post Fix.

So, the reason I'm posting these is that there's apparently a new-to-me use for the expanding polymer foam that we use in our polymers labs: filling post holes.

I've always heard of using cement - or quickcrete - for setting fence (or mailbox or basketball goal) posts, but I guess expandable foam could be strong enough to work.

There are multiple options, however, not just Sika's product.

The above video - made by Secure Set - demonstrates that their product is far superior to Sika's and that Sika's product container while convenient can be explosively dangerous (2:54).

Admittedly, the Secure Set videos just might be a little biased toward their product.

Then again, so is the Rainbow Foam video. Though I like their clinical narration and reasonably consistent tests.

I do with they would name what product P and product B are. I have to assume those initials were chosen because they fit the product names that I just don't know.

Oh, and there is a bit of blood in this video as the mute demonstrator cuts himself in the video cut between 9:10 and 9:14. It's not spurting blood or anything, but I thought I'd warn you.

And I am kinda glad we get to finally see the demonstrator's face at 16:35.

Admittedly, that last video is way too long, but I appreciate that they show that the tests have to be performed on each of the products with reasonably repeatable precision.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Updated cKit manual!!!!!

We've been giving out cKits from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (actually, they're just NACE now) at our ASM summer teachers camps for quite a few years now. The Kit is outstanding, and contains a lab manual, a comic book of Inspector Protector, a set of electrodes, a multimeter, a booklet about NACE, and a CD of the lab manual.

All of which is great...

...except the lab manual.

Which was great once but has been recently showing its age. The labs were developed by some of our ASM master teachers for NACE, and you can see their students in the lab photos. Since the labs were developed nearly twenty years ago now, however, our procedures have been refined and adjusted to be more successful, more portable, and often less wasteful. During the summer camps, then, we've been sharing the adjusted procedures and telling our campers to make those adjustments in spite of what the lab manual says.

But now we won't have to do that anymore because the lab manual has been updated.

I'll admit that I'm going to miss the iPhone-commercial-like graphics, but I'm thrilled that the manual now includes our procedure for brassing a penny.

In case you've taken our camp already and have the old version, a pdf version of the new manual has been posted by NACE on their website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Material Science Girl's website

Material Science Girl is one of our ASM, summer camp, master teachers. She's at Tolles High School on the far west side of Columbus, a vocational high school that teaches two years of material science.

Her curriculum - created and taught along with another master teacher at Tolles - started out being pretty similar to our summer camps but has grown and evolved from there.

As a way to share documents and videos with her students - and with you and us - she made a website (

On the site, she has absolutely no personal information about herself, but she's pretty awesome. She does have individual sections about...

  • ASM summer camps
  • Solids
  • Metals
  • Ceramics & glass
  • Polymers
  • Composites
Sadly she doesn't have photos of the outstanding projects that her students made, but she does have a whole bunch of articles, worksheets, and lab instructions that she uses in class.

Plus she's used only her own in-class photos to mark the website sections.