Sunday, April 19, 2015

Staying dry in a world covered in water

The opening gif of the water droplets bouncing cleanly off of the surface of the laser-etched metal is mesmerizing. (check the linked article to see what I'm talking about, Blogger doesn't allow for easy embedding of animated gifs, sadly).

We talk in chemistry class about materials being hydrophobic or hydrophillic because of the molecule's polarity. Polar things, see, will dissolve (or at least attract to) equally polar things. Non-polar things the same, as well.

But then you get to the weirdness that is nano-texturing, and all that polar or nonpolar stuff goes right out the window. It's such an odd thought to understand that macroscopic properties have little to no effect on the nano- scale.

But it's really cool to read about.

The ingeneous design of the aluminum beverage can

Holy crap is the aluminum can complicated.

Maybe I should stop throwing them into the back of m'pick up truck and just letting them blow away into the coutryside.

Seriously, though, the aluminum can is - as are so many of our modern technologies - an absolute marvel of engineering. The number of steps involved in turning a 0.3"-thick aluminum disk into the finished can is stunning. Also stunning, by the way, are the examples that The Engineering Guy has along every step of the process. I'm desperately curious - and more than a little envious - as to how he got his hands on all of those.

After the jump I'll include all the videos he references at the end of the above video.

Metal Fabricating in a New Millenium

'The Bean' - officially Cloud Gate - in Chicago is a brilliant piece of sculpture. 

If you haven't had a chance to visit and walk under Cloud Gate, you have to make sure you do so when next you're in the Windy City. There are few enough opportunities to share a public experience like Cloud Gate with a hundred of your closest friends, and seeing Cloud Gate is one of the best examples of that experience.

But how the heck was it made? It can't have been cast that large, right? And if it's sheets shaped and welded, we'd see the seams, right?

Check out all the details of the production of Cloud Gate in a great article about Cloud Gate over at It turns out it's a fascinating process involving way more hand-skilled work than I would ever have guessed. (In case the article disappears, I've uploaded it to Scribd.)

A less-detailed article about The Bean can be found on Outo Kumpu's website (They made the steel for the sculpture.) Again, I've uploaded this article, too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Scary! Massive waves on huge road bridge send Volgograd drivers ashpalt surfing

It's not the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or anything.

Actually, it's the Volgograd Bridge in a video taken in May 2010. Seems that it has - so far at least - had a much more successful fate than did good ol' Galloping Gertie. Seems that they've installed 'semi-active tuned mass dampers' to take care of the oscillations.

That must make for far less entertaining driving across the bridge.

Golf Ball 70,000 fps 150mph

Look, a golf ball squished against a steel plate.

Admittedly, it's a practice golf ball - something like this - which explains the full-out squish and deformation of the above golf ball.

Then there's what a real golf ball looks hitting steel. The info on YouTube (posted by the USGA, itself) says that it's hitting at 150mph and was filmed at 40,000 frames per second.

That's a little more believable.

The Moment of Impact: An Inside Look at Titelist Gof Ball R&D

I wonder if the machine hooks its drive when it lifts its head?

Honestly, I'm a miniature golfer myself, having only ever played 27 holes of f''real golf. I'm thinking that during those twenty-seven holes, I didn't have a whole lot of shots that looked anything like these super slo-mo shots that we get to see in this video.

Seeing highlights of the R&D testing that Titleist does in perfecting their golf balls is pretty cool, though.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Field Trip: Hoover Dam

For the first time in a while, my wife and I had the same spring break at our two different school districts. We took advantage and headed west to the warmer climes of Las Vegas. Yes, we headed through a number of casinos (sight-seeing, no gambling for either of us) and the Neon Museum (which is spectacular but could use more money for rebuilding the old signs), but the highlight of the trip - from a material science perspective, anyway - was our visit to and tour of Hoover Dam.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Molybdomancy and carromancy explained

This isn't anything that I think we'll ever cover in the material science course at Princeton High School. We tend to steer clear of psuedoscience and of pouring molten metal into water.

I do understand, though, that with the mass of metal (tiny) and of water (relatively huge) there isn't going to be a significant change in water temperature, minimizing the temperature change and risk of any water vaporizing and then spitting the molten metal outward at the melter.

I do dig that the melting of metal (or wax - called carromancy - and also highlighted on the page where I found this video) is a New Years tradition in the teutonic world, but I'm a little saddened that it is used as some way to look into the future.

Bulletproof graphene makes ultra-strong body armor

That title, from a New Scientist article, might be over-selling things at this stage of development.
Lee and colleagues ... used a laser pulse to superheat gold filaments until they vaporised, acting like gunpowder to fire a micrometre-size glass bullet into 10 to 100 sheets of graphene at 3 kilometres per second – about three times the speed of a bullet fired from an M16 rifle.
That's pretty far from actually having a product in development.

It's sort of like saying that I can take a few steps in my back yard and announcing that I've walked on the moon.

Well, maybe that's a little exaggeration because graphene is amazing stuff.

Molasses in January is no longer slow with LiquiGlide

That is a really slick demonstration.

Get it? Slick?

Admittedly, the molasses is dark and might have shown up better against a light-colored coat.

I tagged this post with superhydrophobic, but the article from iflscience (I wish they would change their name to something most school-appropriate) says very specifically...
While the coating appears to be similar to superhydrophobic surfaces that are already in use today, the technology is different. Superhydrophobic surfaces repel water by creating a layer of air between the water and the rough surface. The technique is used for a variety of products, but there are some drawbacks with durability.

However, where superhydrophobic technology uses air, LiquiGlide uses liquid. The founder calls it a “liquid-impregnated surface” because the liquid fills in the gaps between the textured item. The coating can also be adjusted depending on the material, making the range of possibilities immense. Just this week, the company teamed up with Elmer’s Product Inc. to use the technology for their glue bottles.
Wild, man, wild.

And LiquiGlide has a BUNCH of videos showing their coating in bottles with different liquids.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spotlight on Corrosion

This video from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) plays with the music so manipulatively. It opens with PBS-style music, like we're about to watch an episode of Masterpiece Theater and then shifts to ominous music before closing with hopeful, soaring music at 4:30.

Admittedly, the video is becoming fairly dated at this point, having been produced in 2005 but clearly relying on statistics and video from before that. And, let's be honest, the difference in video quality in the past ten years is fairly drastic. Still, the video is a great introduction to corrosion, showing some of the significant costs of corrosion as well as some pretty spectacular examples (Hawaii airline accident, Charlotte Motor Speedway bridge collapse) of what can go wrong because of corrosion.

Thanks, as always to NACE for being a major sponsor of our summer teacher camps with their donations of a huge number of cKits, one for each of our summer camper.

Plus they produced the video in Spanish!