Tag: aluminium

Graphene spins like nothing else on earth

illustration courtesy Chalmers University of TechnologyScientists at Chalmers University of Technology said that large area graphene preserves electronic spin over a long period.

And that means the window is now open for the long-touted spintronics, promising faster CPUs and memory for computers.

The aptly named Saroj Dash, head of the research group at Chalmers, said: “These results will attract a lot of attention in the research community and put graphene on the map for applications in spintronic components.”

Spintronics, already used in state of the art hard drives but Dash believes there’s more exciting times ahead. “The thin carbon film is not only an excellent electrical conductor, but also theoretically has the rare ability to maintain the electronics with the spin intact,” said Dash.

That means that in spin components of the future, electrons will be able to travel several tens of micrometers with spins staying aligned, something you can’t do with aluminium or copper, Dash said.

The researchers have managed to create graphene through chemical vapour deposition. Dash said: “The CVD graphene can also be easily removed from the copper foil on which it grows and is lifted onto a silicon wafer. There are good prospects for the production of large area graphene on an industrial scale.”

So when, and if, will we see spintronic computers? On that subject Dash is a little more pessimistic. He said: “Whether spintronics can eventually fully replace semiconductor technology is an open question.”

Plastic to save Intel's Ultrabook bacon

In its desperate attempt to price the Ultrabook form factor at $999 or lower, Intel is having to look at the material they ship in.

The rumour is Intel is planning a hybrid fiberglass and plastic chassis. Although magnesium-aluminium alloys are ideal, the price tag means manufacturers are having to push out products for more than $1,000.

At Computex in Taiwan earlier this year, Intel was very keen to emphasise that the Ultrabook is the next natural stage in the personal computer’s evolution. Of course, it’s also a response to Apple cornering the tablet market where Intel has been very late to the table. The problem is, such a fancy device has manufacturers worried that they won’t be able to offer the alternative form factor for a reasonable price.

Intel itself has told us that, as with all things, prices tend to drop some time after launching. But this sends out a strong message to potential earlier adopters: just wait. So, then, it’s crucial Intel works out pricing if it is not to be hoist by its own petard. HP was, until it discontinued the TouchPad and flogged them for a low price, when suddenly they turned into hotcakes.

Another problem is design. Plastic is more versatile in offering different colours or designs, but Apple knows exactly how to draw up a sleek product that looks and feels classy. 

Intel is all too aware of this, say Digitimes’ sources in the PC supply chain, which is why it is in talks with fiberglass supplier Mitac Technology to figure out a cheaper chassis material. Mitac has allegedly won contracts with Ultrabook partners Acer, Asustek and Lenovo

Kobe Steel invents malleable metal 80 percent lighter than steel

Japanese Kobe Steel has developed a lightweight kind of aluminium which is as hard as regular steel but can be easily moulded into unconventional shapes.

The idea is to use porous aluminium in automobiles. Because it is so comparably light the researchers believe it could drastically reduce the carbon footprint of new cars. It costs less than aluminium sheeting or composite carbon fiber and could begin production as soon as April, reports Nikkei (subscription). 

Despite all the fancy green tech gizmos a vehicle packs, when it comes down to it weight is a serious sticking point for how well a car can curb its emissions. Foam resin is placed between two 0.15mm aluminium sheets and then heated at over 200 Celsius – the result is a material as hard as steel but only 3mm thick. It is highly malleable and can be rolled and curved but its material strength means it’s tough to bend out of shape.

Kobe Steel says porous aluminium is up to 80 percent lighter than steel and 60 percent lighter than regular aluminium. The problem is the material can’t be welded together, it has to be riveted – Kobe hopes to flog it to manufacturers to roll out on vehicle interiors.

At least for this purpose Kobe may cut competition out of the market: In Japan, the average selling price for regular aluminium per square metre is over 2,000 yen or roughly $25. Kobe will sell its porous aluminium at 1,500 yen or $18 per square metre – vastly cheaper than the useful but expensive composite carbon fiber. 

Scientists find interstellar dust

Boffins think they have found two particles of interstellar dust, according to the BBC.

The dust was found in material collected by the US space agency’s Stardust spacecraft and not down the back of the sofa as we first thought.

For ages boffins had wondered about the nature of such dust which flows through space and ends up as the building blocks that go into making stars and planets.

NASA sent up spacecraft was primarily sent to catch dust streaming from Comet Wild 2 and return it to Earth for analysis.

But scientists also wanted to catch particles of interstellar dust which apparently is different from the stuff that comets are made from.

The material was gathered by the Stardust probe in a seven-year, 4.8-billion-km interplanetary voyage.

Dr Andrew Westphal, University of California, Berkeley thinks he has managed to isolate two interstellar dust grains.

Well, actually the discovery was made by a member of the public, using the Stardust@Home internet application, which invited participants to search the aerogel collection medium for tiny particles of the dust.

Under the agreement made between the science team and participants in Stardust@Home, the finder Bruce Hudson was allowed to choose a name for the particle he called it Orion.

After preliminary analyses, the scientists found another grain upstream, which Bruce Hudson named Sirius.

The dust appears to be made up of magnesium, aluminium, iron, chromium, manganese, nickel, copper and gallium and some new stuff they have not worked out yet.