Monday, October 28, 2013

Turn your smartphone into a digital microscope!

We're always looking for better and better ways to show microstructures of crystals, metals, anything. Heck, I'm always looking for better ways to show the structure of my fingerprints for that matter.

For years we've used goose-neck cameras and digital microscopes - often from the Ken-a-Vision folks.

Apparently now that we have smart phones, though, we can be just about finished with that old school nonsense.

For under $10 (plus the smartphone), you can build yourself a digital microscope.

I currently have one of my students working on one for extra credit. I'll report back one I get it and see how it works.

Full, step-by-step instructions are on Instructables.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Young Scientist Winner - sodium polyacrylate filled 'sandbags'

The greatest inventions seem so obvious after somebody else comes up with them.

Peyton Robertson's sodium-polyacrylate-and-salt-filled 'sandbags' are no different. Of course filling sandbags with sodium polyacrylate is a brilliant idea.

Of course you'd need to add something to increase the density so the bags don't float away.

Of course salt would be the easiest thing to add because it's cheap and can adjust the density of the swollen sandbag easily.

Of course the sodium ions would decrease the swelling of the sodium polyacrylate, so you'd need more sodium polyacrylate.

Of course I never would've come up with this and am absolutely blown away by Peyton's idea.

Check out the rest of the finalists here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Die forging process (open and closed die)

Forging is dirty. There's no doubt about it, but forging is just so amazing to watch, especially when the scale peels off of the piece as pressure is increased.

This video goes through the advantages for forging (reduce crosssection, improve microstructure, provide directional grain flow, and eliminate porosity of castings), and two types of forging (open die, impression or closed die forging). We get to see multiple steps in the process as well as eventual removal of the flash.

Great intro video, folks. Thanks to Rebecca for passing it along.

Red Hot Nickel Ball Has Finally Met Its Match!

You might not have been know that Red Hot Nickel Ball has its own YouTube channel, but it does.

Well, almost. RHNB has its own playlist of thirty-two videos from among carsandwater's uploaded videos.

Things all got started with a mute, never-appearing user putting the eponymous red hot nickel ball into a cup of water (a demonstration that I love doing - with slight adjustments - in class when I'm introducing thermochemistry in chemistry class) and continues through honey, pop rocks (surprisingly cool to watch), a steak, and - most recently - aerogel.

Man, aerogel is cool.

I wish I had some.

Wait, I did have some.

Until another master teacher broke it.

Which makes me sad...

Mechanical Engineers Discovered How the Arapaima Becomes Piranha-Proof

A recent article in Advanced Engineering Materials that has been reported all over the place on the web looked at the scales of Arapaima gigas, a freshwater fish that lives in the Amazon River and is able to successfully defend itself from the bite of the piranha.

Researchers found that the scales of the arapaima are brilliantly constructed with an incredibly hard, outer and inner, mineralized layers sandwiched around much more flexible, collagen fibers stacked in opposite directions providing a marvelous flexibility.

The video above mentions (at about 0:38) the possibility of extending this concept to produce flexible ceramic materials.

Nature, man, she continues to reveal amazing secrets.

Here are four different reports on the research though the original article is thankfully not behind a subscription wall: