While everyone was watching the Mars Curiosity Rover as it landed delicately on the surface of the red planet and explored its surroundings, other NASA projects have focused on analyzing the atmosphere and obtaining other data. Without aluminum soldering as part of creating composite structures, none of that would be possible.
MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) will not reach its expected orbit around Mars until September, but it is already an example of the efforts to create long-lasting chassis to handle rough landings and other extreme conditions. The frame is made of aluminum sheeting with composite materials in between the metal materials and is based on advancements of joining these materials pioneered by the supercar industry to improve safety of drivers and their passengers. (more…)
Raw materials costs can quickly make it difficult for companies to maintain their profit margins on a given product. At a time when copper prices have been steadily increasing, it may make sense for firms to look at other materials. Yet to do so, they may also need to consider alternatives to achieve dissimilar materials joining.
Companies in China are moving from using copper in cabling to using aluminum, a Metal Bulletin report indicates, where just 10 percent of total production uses the metal compared to roughly 50 percent in the U.S. and even more in other developed countries. The rationale is that the cables can be priced 20 to 30 percent cheaper due to the decrease in material costs. Similar moves are occurring throughout the electronics industry. Yet without the use of specific metal solders to join materials, adapting designs can be extremely difficult.
At a time when the U.S. Energy Information Administration has announced significant growth in total natural gas and oil production, it may seem like there are fewer opportunities for alternative energy projects in the United States. However, if companies that produce batteries can improve storage capacity and lifetime for their products, the incentives for companies to develop wind, solar and other energy generation alternatives will be much greater.
Over the past five years, petroleum energy source production has increased by about 25 percent. However, concerns about the chemicals used to force out oil and gas in previously unproductive areas have also grown. Companies do not have to release the contents of their proprietary solutions. There is one major issue that companies that take advantage of solar panels and other alternative energy generation options must solve: better batteries.
In Texas and the Central Valley of California, it is easy to see massive wind farms, with turbines dotting hillsides. However, just as with wave and solar power, the energy delivery is not consistent. Turbines won’t turn on calm days, and PV panels will not develop power on cloudy days. Currently, homeowners with solar panels can “sell” excess electricity back to their utility company, but on a large scale that is not feasible.
Companies that use metal solders as part of programs to improve battery life will help make the largest leap in technology for perhaps a decade or more. Currently, advances in power management and reduced consumption electronics materials have masked the fact that battery technology has failed to keep up. Whether it is the use of new alloys, manufacturing processes or other ways to improve both capacity and lifetime, research is now placing new emphasis on materials.
To do so will make renewable energy applications like solar panels and wind turbines more feasible on a larger scale. Currently, small-scale projects include a two megawatt battery in the Orkney Islands of Britain and Duke Energy’s 36 megawatt battery for a remote wind farm in Texas, the New York Times report notes.