A great scientist recently said that most of the new innovations in coming years would be in the materials science world. (Sorry I can’t remember the reference, or I would gladly give credit…) Seems like he may prove to be right.
Organic LED materials and processes show the potential to replace the mainstream display technologies. Which is pretty impressive given the multi-billion dollar size of market for displays these days.
There is a whole NANO revolution going on “under our noses” in terms of nano-machinery and nano-materials. The Russians have created a Nanotechnology consortium that is raising money and partnering with industry giants around the world with the goal of creating a critical mass for this emerging technology in Russia. In true capitalist fashion it promises to be a huge stimulus to the Russian economy and create new products and technology all over the world.
New nano-scale processes are producing materials with unique behavior. Silver processed at the nano-particle level can be added to fibers and other materials to create powerful anti-bacterial versions of the products they are mixed with. Nano-scale technologies are transforming the power density and processes required to manufacture batteries and other power-related technologies.
Experimentation has been done in magnetic materials for disk drives so that 3D magnetic domains can be created to increase the density of memory on hard disk drive platters. Just in case they aren’t dense enough already. But with video content and high definition driving product development, you can never have too much storage.
But an interesting niche emerged over the last couple of years that, on the one hand would seem irrelevant, and yet, may have very significant impact. Iron and steel. There is a new material from the nano-particle realm that dramatically improves steel. The first major products have been steel for re-bar. Reinforcing iron and steel rods for increasing the strength and stability in poured concrete structures.
How does this tie in to Mechatronics? Easy. The next big frontier will be improved stator core materials. The iron and steel that is used to concentrate and direct the magnetic field of the motor hasn’t changed in quite some time. Yes, there are Silicon steels and some other high performance laminate materials. I’ve even done projects with Vanadium Permendur laminations (what a pain that is). But the cost of the material and difficult in processing has prevented really widespread use.
But what happens when we apply the basic materials science to the problem of magnetic materials? We got Neodymium magnets from exactly that approach, for one thing. So what the industry needs, and the world needs, given the interest in energy efficiency, is the next generation of magnetic core materials for motors.
Anybody out there working on it yet? Let me know.