Monday, May 27, 2013
I am continually amazed at the absorbing properties of polymers - whether it's sodium polyacrylate absorbing water or the product shown here absorbing oil and gasoline.
This demonstration of Norsorex (it took a few tries to get the spelling right) is stunning.
Here are a few more, admittedly less stunning and non-narrated videos of - apparently - the same product.
Water is a pretty awful material for building. Yes, it's abundant and cheap. Yes, it can be made opaque or translucent or even pretty transparent. Yes, you can use it to make buildings (like in that totally awesome James Bond movie), but there are a few drawbacks.
It's slightly unstable in the warmer climates. It's vulnerable to destruction from dogs marking the walls. Ice chairs make your hiney all cold.
So this video isn't really about materials, but it is a great background video on the chemistry of water, something that most of our materials run into from time to time.
The chemistry explanations are fairly in-depth (electrolytes, polarity, moles, molarity, anions, and such), so this may not be for all of your students, but it's a great bit if chemistry.
The cement hockey puck lab allows our students to see how changes in the composition of the cement and additives to the puck construction can make large changes in the strength of the final product.
This video takes that idea further, visiting the lab of a German chemist who is exploring additives to make cement retain water, cure more slowly, flow more easily, and resist chemical degradation from carbon dioxide.
Plus we get to see some really high- and low-tech testing of the cement mixtures. I particularly enjoyed the cone test at 3:20. That's science.
I'm kind of amazed that the forging (1:30) is done by hand. The movement of the preheated, prulubed slugs into the press would seem to be very easily done by machine. I'm also a little surprised that the final sanding/smoothing at 4:15 is done by hand as well.
High heat to strengthen the metal then lower heat to stabilize it? That sounds kind of like annealing and tempering.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
This video isn't the most professionally created, as obvious from the three times that our host welcomes us back and the background hiss.
None of that matters, though, because the claims made in the video are pretty extraordinary. Geo Blue Crete is - according to the video - cheaper (2:20 - 10-20% less than the price of Portland cement), more environmentally friendly (10:10), more steadily priced (2:40), non-toxic (7:10), heat resistant (7:20), chemically inert (8:40), tensile strong in 360 degrees squared (9:20). It's apparently a pretty phenomenal product, and it's endorsed by Reverend Daniel.
I will admit to some skepticism. Extraordinary claims, after all, require extraordinary evidence.
This video makes some pretty extraordinary claims. Can anybody find some evidence for any of them?
Other sources of information
Friday, May 24, 2013
Sci-ence.org strikes again!
Cornstarch and water - non-Newtonian...
Catsup...ketchup (you say potato, I say tomoato, let's call the whole thing a vegetable)...non-Newtonian fluid...
PVA slime...non-Newtonia fluid...
Silly Putty...non-Newtonian fluid...
Chilled caramel topping...non-Newtonian fluid...
Apparently pitch...non-Newtonian fluid...
I've tried the whole "let's put the Silly Putty in a funnel and see what it does," but I've not yet spent eighty-six years watching it drip...drip...c'mon, just frickin' drip!
Feel free to tune in all year long as a ninth drop in those eighty-six years is expected to fall, and the process is viewable streaming online.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
We're going old-school with today's video, a polymer industry video from B.F. Goodrich's 1954 campaign to convince the world the future is in plastics (or at least in polymers). I know it's a bit of nostalgia (for an era that I've never really known), but I do dig these old, industrial films.
The animation that kicks in (at about 2:30), and things really get kicking.
Was World War II (at least on the eastern front) really all about securing rubber sources? This is the first time I've ever heard that.
Some of the best materials science comes in at around 4:40 when we see the (animated) production process for vinyl chloride then the addition of the top sergeant catalyst. The polymerization reaction really is very well illustrated - and the plasticizer...well, let's just say va-va-vavoom.
Wait, the mix monomer with polymer? I'm not sure that's correctly said.
The highlight here comes about 3:00 in when they carve the acrylic cube into a sphere by making shaping cuts on the huge lathe. Just watching the acrylic fly off of the lathe before the award is etched.
How does the laser beam carve inside the alrylic (4:20)?
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
On some level this is nothing more than a commercial for IBM.
On some other level, though, this commercial is pretty freaking cool. These scientists, admittedly paid by IBM, used an electron microscope to move individual atoms to then make frames in a stop-motion animated 'movie.'
In terms of materials science, the ability to build materials atom by atom, on a nanotechnology scale, may well be the ultimate destination of materials building, not waiting to see what how the atoms will combine on their own under temperature and pressure.
If only we could work atom by atom to perfect a material.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
The above TED talk isn't bad, though it does sort of make Mark Shaw, the co-president of UltraTech (according to this page on their site), look a little nervous throughout. He should relax, though, because he's got a heck of a product: Ultra Ever Dry. The coating creates a superhydrophobic surface (check 1:15 in the above video for a scientific explanation of what superhydrophobic means) that's apparently also oleophobic, meaning that the coating will repel water and oil, a pretty spectacular combination.
The first video below shows the coating in action with the best payoff (for me, anyway) being the green square of liquid on the glass (shown above at 2:50 but in much higher resolution below). Seriously, many of the demonstrations go so far against what I expect water to do that they look almost like bad computer animation, actions that my brain openly repels against.
I have to get some of the coating for myself to test. If only the coating wasn't about $200 for their smallest size can (plus spray bottles to apply).
I do wonder whether the final demonstration - the one with the TED sign - was tested first. It's a a great demo, but the timing is disappointing.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Source - sci-ence.org (
The age-old 'is glass a liquid or a solid?' question shows maybe a little sign of coming to an answer this week with an article in Nature Communications about research on a 20-million-year old sample of amber. I'll readily admit that I have pretty much no idea what the article - at least the summary posted on sciencedaily's website - says or on which side of the line the article falls, but such is life.
The whole solid/liquid debate is a fun one when you get two experts, two materials scientists, two history docents, two whatevers arguing from positions of absolute certainty and knowledge going at each other with no doubts in their mind. Give it a try someday.
And check in on sci-ence.org from time to time for their typically funny, and often informative
Update: Part 2 has been posted along with Maki's commentary on the debate and new article.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Flexible concrete - an obvious oxymoron, right?
The video opens with an historical background to the improvements on concrete as well as a base recipe for making concrete - 3 parts aggregate, 2 parts sand, 1 part cement. That's a wonderful mixture for a great material - in (repeat after me) compression.
That's not a mixture for a great support structure for a North Sea oil rig that needs to have enough give to flex with the waves.
Add a few reinforcing bars, though, and the concrete becomes a radically different product.
Steel - great under tension...concrete - great under compression...reinforced steel - the dog's nuts.
British accents - also brilliant all around. Only they can give you that kind of...science.
(Warning, the linked videos there - the Brainiac video - show bad science, faked demonstrations, they should be watched only to show what doesn't really happen unless you lie to your audience. Here's my evidence.)
Gimme a great, old, heavy car if you're going to whomp me with another car.
Obviously that heavier car will have worse gas mileage, but the mass of the old car will mean that I'll be that much safer.
I swear that my dad said something like this when I was getting my first car. He wanted his boy to be safe, gas mileage be damned.
Turns out that maybe Dad was wrong. Yes, the old cars had more mass, but they also had old engineering. New cars are much, much safer because of great new materials and because of great safety engineering...and Ralph Nader.
There's not much in materials science that looks cooler than blazingly, glowingly hot metal being worked. The spray of sparks, the glow just beneath the cooled surface, the molten metal pouring away just draws the eyes and heart. There's a reason why I picked the background image for the blog that I did.
And this video has it all - plus great, huge fires that flare up when the aluminum is first added (check 2:01, 2:10, even 2:30...wow!). I can't imagine sticking my hands that close over the furnace like he does at 3:10.
And what the heck is that crucible made of?
Thanks for the disclaimer at the end. I was tempted to ramp my oven up to 2000F and give this a whirl.
That's a little different from the rolling mills that we use in camp.
I'm impressed with the various, specific temperatures and rates of cooling/heating mentioned in this video - poured, cooled, then reheated for 5-7 hours to 1250C...cooled to 500C...held for 10 hours to cool to 90C. Whoever came up with that exact order and rate was brilliant.
1:00 - down a ceramic tube...'cause ceramics have higher melting points doncha know?
2:30 - those inspectors look to have a rough job, eh?
Man, ballet dancers have messed up feet. The act of putting all of our weight on the bent over toes time and time and time again is clearly not good for those toes. I've known a couple of ballet dancers in my time, and their feet looked like a car after a traffic crash-up.
Anything that provides even a little more cushioning than does a block of wood for their toes would be embraced instantly. I'm curious as to whether d3o shoes (they show up around 4:05 in the vid) like these have been widely adopted yet.
One of the aspects that I like best about this video is the design process, make, test, remake, make a video and advertise.
Monday, May 6, 2013
The above, silent video shows a monocrystal of silicon being drawn from a molten silicon bath by one, pencil-thin silicon crystal. There is no narration or explanation given. For that, might I suggest...
The show How Do Thy Do It seems to be a British take on the more American How It's Made series. Here they visit Texas to see how silicon microchips are made. The above process shows up at 2:00 and shows the four-fold symmetry of the silicon crystal, a 200kg, 200mm across (that's like 440 pounds and not quite 8 inches across, for us Americans.)
From there it's to the silicon sausage slicing machine, buffing, and creating the teeny, weeny, tiny microchips from the 2/3 mm thick sheet.
From worthless pile of sand to a product that sells for $1000 per gram? Outstanding return on investment...
Now I want to know the crystal difference between grey iron and ductile iron....oh, magnesium. I wonder how much.
At 1:05, that certainly doesn't look like 'precise amounts' of steel and iron.
The pipe is cast while spinning? That's frickin' cool.
Man, the line at 0:10 is cheesy.
Sorry, just had to pass that along.
In our summer camps, we make nylon from a two-part recipe in a condensation polymerization reaction. The nylon that we make, though, is far from a final, processed, wearable product.
I do wish that there was more of a glimpse at how the nylon is made before it ever becomes a thread, but that's for another video.
The music's a little cheesy, and the audio narration is non-existent, but the video is interesting in that it shows metal stamping, a relatively straight-forward process. The interesting thing to me, though, is which jobs are being done by people and which are being done by robot, how much of the plant's production is almost entirely automated.
I've watched quite a few TED talks, but I can't remember the last one (before this one, of course) that started with a silent demonstration and liquid nitrogen.
Wait, did he just microwave a piece of asphalt?
Did that asphalt just heal itself?
"Energy is life...life is responsibility...responsibility for the future..."
That does seem a little dramatic, but how else are we going to know that Salzgitter Mannesmann's stainless tube manufacturing is the best?
This video is a great show of how boiler tubes are produced. I'm not entirely sure what a boiler tube is (other than the obvious 'a metal tube', smart alleck), but the mixture of animations and live footage to show the process makes things far easier to understand.
The alloying and coating that shows up around 5:00 into the video is some serious steel chemistry.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Nikos Bel-Jon's seven-panel mural of the History of Iron was commissioned by the American Society of Metals (now ASM) in 1953. The panels were moved from ASM's headquarters in downtown Cleveland to their headquarters at Materials Park under the geodesic dome. There they...well, they were wrapped up in paper and stacked on shelves for five or so decades. During the early 2000's renovation, the panels were restored and now hang throughout the ASM headquarters.
The panels are gorgeous, having been 'drawn' with steel wool and metal brushes. When photographed under the right lighting, the panels show a beautiful depth of imagery, a 3d look with no physical depth. More photos can be found on Bel-Jon Studio's website.
More photos from Bel-Jon Studio's website...
Friday, May 3, 2013
The lost wax process has been around for thousands of years and can be used to make anything from tiny rings and jewelry to huge statues.
The process involves a number of steps: making a clay form...creating a rubber or plaster mold...filling the mold with wax...chasing (cleaning and correcting) the wax form...spruing the wax form...dipping the wax into ceramic slurry/sand layers...heating out the wax...heating the ceramic forms...pouring the molten bronze...breaking off the ceramic...polishing and finishing the bronze.
I'm not entirely sure what we're seeing at 4:50 when the patina is being applied. The flat sheet of bronze there certainly doesn't seem to have been made through the lost wax casting process. The bottles in the foreground don't give much of a clue there.
But we do get some bouncy piano music at open and close the video.
This trade show video does have a decent bit of background noise, but it's a great display of d3o in its native form, a big, orange blob.
My understanding is that most cell phone glass - check the article - shatters much more commonly when hit on the edge of the glass than on the front. Coating the edge, then, is a great idea for screen protection.
Can anybody out there see the big orange line that he mentions at 1:05?
This video shows how PET bottles are made, and I'm happy to see that it starts with at least some post-consumer plastic ingredients. I'm disheartened to hear that no more than 10% of the bottle can be recycled content.
The note at 2:40 saying that the machine is being shown in slow motion is disappointing but not shocking. I wish we could get to see the machine at full speed, though, even if only to see that it's too fast for us to see.
The How It's Made series is brilliant and is an absolute must-see series for materials science teachers.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Coat in latex...fill with wax...add a sprue...coat wax with ceramic...coat ceramic with silica...steam out the wax...fire the ceramic mold...melt bronze & fill mold...destroy mold...clean statue...coat statue...
And, of course, step 3: Make Money!
Anybody want to venture a guess as to why the statue is missing a heart?
The wire rod spends 30 hours in the furnace to become more pliable? Seriously?
And I have to mention that the chemistry teacher in me dies just a little when the narrator says phosphate is a chemical compound. It's a part of a chemical compound, sure, but it's not the full compound any more than the stuff you pour on a cut is really just peroxide rather than hydrogen peroxide.
The cold forging of the head of the bolt is amazing, and I wish we could see the forging as it happens. It's amazing to think of the head being forged that drastically in only three stamps.
So, nuts get hot forged while bolts get cold forged? I wonder why the difference.
Concrete is great under compression but not nearly as good under tension.
A concrete beam would make a lousy support for hanging structures.
Here the president of the Concrete Countertop Institute (really? is there an industry group for every possible subindustry?) uses a Simpsons still to help us understand the issues that exist with a concrete 'beam' like a countertop.
He then brings out a great illustration (at 2:30) of the tension/compression forces that occur on a beam when the beam bends and goes on to explain where the different tension issues occur when a beam is supported on the ends or cantilevered away from the support.
The video is a little long (nearly 10:00 in total length) but does a very good job explaining how and why reinforcement measures have to be used in concrete countertops.
If only it came with a great medallion like this one.
By the way, is that guy to the right in the picture the same one speaking throughout the video?
I'm guessing percutaneous coronary intervention is a phrase that is just casually thrown around in some medical fields, but it seems a pretty daunting introduction to me. The animation shows how balloons and stents - assumedly made of memory metal - are used to open a clogged artery.
It's a great explanation and illustration of a fairly complex process that would be nigh impossible to actually film from this same perspective.
Now I just need to get my hands on a stent to show in class.
This one isn't for the faint of heart of the afeared of flying as the engineering team of Boeing pushes the wings of the 777 far past their design limit load.
The wing shatters at 154% of the strongest forces that the wing would ever be expected to encounter during a flight - and certainly well beyond anything it would encounter during a routine flight, and when it shatters, it shatters. This video then replays the shattering - with the echoing "154" - over and over again.