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In This Issue:
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) New Software Could Send Cost of Bridges Falling Down
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) NIST Develops Oxygen Liquefier Technology for Use on Mars
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) When the Dust Settles, New NIST Standard is Tops
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) Prolific NIST Researcher Crosses Scientific Boundaries
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) New Precision Manufacturing Technology Has Magnetic Personality
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) New Data Support Theory About Titanic Rivets
blueshdw.GIF (276 bytes) Tech Trivia

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New Software Could Send Cost of Bridges Falling Down

A new software program will help engineers estimate the costs of building and maintaining bridges made of new materials. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed BridgeLCC (LCC stands for life cycle costs), which enables engineers to evaluate cost implications of using new materials ranging from high-performance concrete to fiber-reinforced-polymer composites. Federal, state and local governments are forecast to spend an estimated $90 billion on repairing bridges. The shift to new materials may help lower the costs of rebuilding and maintaining this bridge infrastructure.

The software program allows engineers to compare life-cycle costs of using conventional materials, such as steel or concrete, and newer materials, such as high-performance steel and new applications of aluminum. For example, the program would help analyze costs of substituting fiber-reinforced-polymer composites for steel that is typically used in steel-reinforced concrete. The program also can analyze the costs of building bridge decks made exclusively of fiber-reinforced-polymer composites.

BridgeLCC currently is being beta-tested by bridge engineers in seven state departments of transportation and several private engineering firms. Researchers in the NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory expect to complete beta-testing and make the program available early this year.

Media Contact:
Philip Bulman, (301) 975-5661uparrow.gif (371 bytes)


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NIST Develops Oxygen Liquefier Technology for Use on Mars

The success of any future manned or robotic mission to Mars well may depend on technology developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Boulder, Colo., laboratories.

NASA has determined that any Mars lander that returns to Earth should make its own liftoff fuel on the surface of Mars rather than carry it onboard and cause weight problems. But how do you make liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen (or, perhaps, methane) some 249 million miles from earth?

NASA needs to establish a chemical plant on Mars to convert carbon dioxide, which comprises 95 percent of the Martian atmosphere, into oxygen, liquefy it, condense and store it, and then use it as a fuel oxidizer. Working with NASA, the NIST Cryogenic Technologies Group has developed a prototype system that utilizes a pulse-tube refrigerator to liquefy the oxygen. The NIST system is efficient, reliable, low weight and compact. Early this year at the NASA Johnson Spaceflight Center, the prototype system will undergo additional laboratory testing and integration with other systems. NIST scientists will continue to consult with NASA right up until the anticipated launch of the first round-trip robotic mission to Mars in 2007. A manned mission to Mars is not expected before 2015.

Media Contact:
Fred McGehan, (303) 497-3246
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When the Dust Settles, New NIST Standard is Tops

Whether they’re getting their kicks on Route 66 or takin’ it easy in Winslow, lyricists have long romanticized Arizona highways. Now scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are using mineral dust from Arizona roads in a much-needed Standard Reference Material that will help accurately assess wear and tear on hydraulic equipment. Arizona road dust has a long history as a standard for gauging filter efficiency, dating back to the 1940s when military vehicles at a test track in Arizona drove one behind another to evaluate how well their filters tolerated dust. Since then, the use of dust from Arizona has been specified in various standards for testing particle counters and filters.

Today, keeping high-tech products—from pharmaceuticals to electronics to space suits—free of contaminating particles is critical to their performance. NIST’s new Standard Reference Material 2806, Medium Test Dust in Hydraulic Fluid, was developed in collaboration with the National Fluid Power Association to calibrate automatic particle counters. Such counters help equipment operators determine when hydraulic fluid in trucks, airplanes, assembly lines, power plants and other heavy equipment needs to be changed. The improved accuracy of the new SRM over previous calibration methods could help extend the useful life of hydraulic equipment. The new standard “will lead to more effective contamination control programs resulting in lower operating costs, less downtime and increased reliability,” according to the National Fluid Power Association.

Media contact:
Linda Joy, (301) 975-4403
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National Medal of Sciencecamera

Prolific NIST Researcher Crosses Scientific Boundaries

John Cahn might be considered a scientist’s scientist.

“The mathematicians consider me a mathematician; the physicists consider me a physicist; the chemical engineers think I’m one of theirs,” said Cahn, who last month received the nation’s highest scientific honor, the 1998 National Medal of Science. Cahn’s first major achievement came in 1961, when he and researcher John Hilliard created an equation that was to keep mathematicians busy for decades. The Cahn-Hilliard equation, originally devised to solve a problem related to alloys, has since been applied to everything from cosmology and physics to biology and population dynamics.

“My influence has really been to open up fields and then let others take over,” said Cahn, a senior fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “I’ve been the catalyst.”

During his 40-year career, Cahn has had a profound influence on the progress of materials and mathematics research. He is perhaps most widely known for his co-discovery in 1984 of materials now classified as “quasicrystals,” which brought about a revolution in the field of crystallography.

“That was pure serendipity,” said Cahn, who estimates that 10,000 research papers have since been published about quasicrystals.

For background information on Cahn, go to http://www.ctcms.nist.gov/~cahn/ on the World Wide Web. On-line information about the National Medal of Science can be found at http://www.asee.org/nstmf/.

Media Contact:
Emil Venere, (301) 975-5745
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New Precision Manufacturing Technology Has Magnetic Personality

Forget about holding lists on the fridge, an engineering company in Ohio has a way to use magnetism to rapidly fashion high-performance gears and other auto-motive parts. Gears and other parts that have to be tough, durable and built to precise tolerances are conventionally made by forging a “blank” and then carefully cutting and grinding to get the finished product, a laborious and expensive process.

A lower-cost alternative is “powder compaction”—very fine metal or ceramic powders are simultaneously heated and compressed in a mold to produce parts that are close to final dimensions and need only a little finishing. But parts made this way have not been dense—and hence strong—enough for demanding applications like powertrain gears.

Until now. IAP Research, Inc., a small Dayton company, loads metal powder into an electrically conductive container, and places the container in an electromagnetic coil. A pulse of high electric current generates a magnetic pressure wave that collapses the container in on itself, squeezing powder into high-density parts in an instant. IAP developed the new process in a joint venture with General Motors’ Powertrain Division (Pontiac, Mich.), Zenith Sintered Products, Inc. (Germantown, Wis.), and Delphi Energy & Engine Management Systems (Anderson, Ind.) under an award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Advanced Technology Program.

Media Contact:
Michael Baum, (301) 975-2763
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New Data Support Theory About Titanic Rivets

Recent findings by National Institute of Standards and Technology metallurgist Timothy Foecke have supported his earlier research showing that weak rivets may have contributed to the Titanic’s sinking. The new findings also provide strong evidence to dispel an older theory, that the steel plates making up the hull became as brittle as glass from the cold ocean water and that they shattered upon collision with the iceberg.

His microscopic analyses of small wrought-iron rivets recovered from the Titanic’s hull have revealed that the metal contained three times the amount of slag (the glassy residue left behind after the smelting of ore) allowed at the time, making it more brittle than it should have been. Therefore, Titanic’s collision with the iceberg may have caused the rivet heads to break off, popping the fasteners from their holes, and allowed water to rush in between the separated hull plates, speeding the ship’s descent.

His theory, first proposed last February, was based on data from two rivets. Since then he has analyzed an additional 28 rivets—14 of which proved to have a slag content similar to the original two rivets—supporting the weak rivets theory, said Foecke, who reported his most recent findings during a meeting of the Materials Research Society in December. Foecke said he is planning to conduct further research, including mechanical tests on the recovered rivets, in attempts to tie behavior to the observed microstructures.

Media Contact:
Emil Venere, (301) 975-5745
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Tech Trivia

The National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) opened two years before it joined 11 other agencies in the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. Sister agencies were the Bureaus of Census, Corporations, Fisheries, Immigration, Labor, Manufacturers, Navigation, and Statistics; the Lighthouse Board, the Steamboat Inspection Service and the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

The first payroll statement (totaling $775 for a half-month of wages) for the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) on July 15, 1901, listed 10 men and one woman as employees. The highest annual salary was $5,000 for NBS Director Samuel W. Stratton; the lowest was $600 for laborer George Draper.

The first successful guided missile, nicknamed the Bat, was developed by the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) in 1944. The Bat illuminated its target with a beam of shortwave radiation and locked in by radar on the reflected signal. It was the only automatic homing weapon used in World War II by the United States.

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Editor: Linda Joy
HTML conversion: Crissy Wines
Last update: January 25, 1999
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