Friday, January 17, 2014

Faraday Tech, home to CESE alumni, nets award from EPA

Presented by the American Chemical Society and the EPA as part of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge, the Small Business Award  for 2013 went to Faraday Technology.   Two former members of the Center of Electrochemical Science and Engineering are due congratulations for their contributions toward the EPA award.

img: Faraday Technology
The research leadership at Faraday includes Jennings Taylor who graduated in 1981 and was advised by Glenn Stoner as well as Maria Inman who was a post-doctoral researcher with Rob Kelly's group.   Taylor serves as the Chief Technical Officer for  Faraday Technology while Inman is the Research Director at Faraday and leads Faraday’s research and development function.  Faraday Technology's innovations remain focused on the development and commercialization of novel electrochemical technology and processes.

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award recognizes the advances yielded by FARADAYIC® TriChrome Plating process; the process eliminates the need to use  hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) by replacing it the far less toxic trivalent chromium Cr(III).  While Trivalent chromium is  currently used to create light chrome coating processes, it hasn't been suitable for the creation of heavier coatings needed for more demanding industrial uses.  Via the novel electrodeposition process developed at Faraday Technology,  trivalent chromium is now yielding greatly improved coating results that are suitable for industrial processes that were only previously realized when Cr(VI) was used. 

Via Faraday Technology:

    The conventional Cr(VI) electrodeposition process uses a constant direct current during the entire process. Faraday designed a new electrodeposition process that alternates between a forward (cathodic) pulse followed by a reverse (anodic) pulse and an off period (relaxation). Not only does this process allow for thicker coatings from Cr(III), but it can also be adjusted to affect the structure and properties of the coating. This new process results in a product that exhibits equivalent or improved wear and fatigue performance compared to chrome coatings plated from a Cr(VI) bath. In addition, this new Cr(III) plating process is more efficient that the Cr(VI) plating process and does not produce any Cr(VI) as a byproduct. Yet another advantage to this technology over non-chrome alternatives is that it is a true drop-in replacement technology for Cr(VI) coatings. Only new plating bath electrodes are required. Unlike many non-chrome technologies, Faraday’s process can plate both the inner and outer surfaces of a tube.

Tochukwu George Receives Ph.D.

Congratulations to Tochukwu George who was has received his Ph.D. in Materials Science. Tochukwu's thesis titled "Carbon Fiber Composite Cellular Structures" has sought to develop novel hybrid carbon fiber composite lattice structures that are well suited to impact energy absorption.

Tochukwu begins his position at Intel Corporation in San Jose, California in February 2014.

Monday, January 6, 2014

E-NEWS: High Temperature, High Performance

By Charlie Feigenoff

Pass Elizabeth Opila’s laboratory in the evening, and you can see her equipment glow. That’s because Opila, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, is interested in the response of materials to hot and reactive conditions. And when Opila says hot, she means it. She and her students are heating materials to as high as 2,000˚C.

“Regardless of the material, our approach is similar,” she says. “We try to understand what happens to a material as it gets hot, predict how long it will survive and determine how we can make it better.”

Quite naturally, this area of research interests jet engine manufacturers. They would like to replace many of the metal components of engines with the latest ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), which can withstand higher temperatures. “There could be a huge payoff for adopting CMCs,” Opila says. “Engines with CMCs would be much lighter, run hotter and be significantly more efficient.”

But there are a number of obstacles that must be overcome first — and Opila is addressing a series of them. CMCs must be able to withstand the corrosive effect of water vapor produced during combustion at the high temperatures and air speeds found in jet engines. With funding from Rolls-Royce, Opila has built a device that simulates this environment and is testing the effect of steam at high temperatures and velocities on different CMC materials. She hopes to discover those underlying characteristics that enable some CMCs to outperform others.

The corrosive effect of sodium sulfate, a byproduct of jet engine combustion in marine environments, is another issue. Opila is investigating its effect on CMCs with a grant from the Office of Naval Research. In addition, she is conducting research sponsored by the Air Force Academy on the glass that can form inside CMCs at high temperatures. “The glass could attack the weight-bearing fibers used to reinforce CMCs,” Opila says. “We are trying to understand the factors that lead to its formation.”

Opila’s expertise in testing and analyzing materials in extremely hot environments has applications for the thermal protection of aircraft — particularly hypersonic aircraft — as well as propulsion. Hypersonic vehicles rush through the atmosphere at speeds in excess of Mach 5. As they do so, they generate a shock wave that subjects their leading edges to extreme temperatures. Opila is trying to understand how a class of ultra-high temperature ceramics will respond in these circumstances. “Their oxidation behavior is not really well defined,” she says. “We are trying to understand these materials at a basic level.” This project has received funding from NASA and the Air Force Office of Strategic Research.

But not all of Opila’s research involves ultra-high temperatures, aircraft or ceramics. She is studying how ferritic steels might perform as interconnects in solid oxide fuel cells. “These interconnects are very thin, and they are exposed to water vapor in a reactive environment,” she says. “We need to know if they can withstand oxidation and last the required 60,000 hours.”

Although Opila is a dedicated materials scientist, her work is not motivated solely by a desire to understand new materials. Rather, she is also inspired by the things these new materials might enable engineers to accomplish. “If we can find materials that work at high temperatures and in extremely reactive environments, we will enable huge performance improvements for power and propulsion technologies,” she says.