Materials Performance

MAY 2017

Materials Performance is the world's most widely circulated magazine dedicated to corrosion prevention and control. MP provides information about the latest corrosion control technologies and practical applications for every industry and environment.

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6 MAY 2017 MATERIALS PERFORMANCE NACE INTERNATIONAL: VOL. 56, NO. 5 UP FRONT Flexible Sensor Could Enable Foldable, Touch-Screen Tablets The sensor may enable foldable, touch- screen versions of tablets, used in the corrosion field to store testing results and monitor information. Image courtesy of UBC. A new, inexpensive sensor developed at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) (UBC) could potentially help produce advanced devices such as foldable touch-screen tablets. The sensor uses a conductive gel sandwiched between layers of silicone that can detect different types of touch—including swiping and tapping—even when it is stretched, folded, or bent. This feature makes it suit- able for the foldable devices of the future, the researchers explain. "There are sensors that can detect pres- sure and some that can detect a hovering finger," says researcher Mirza Saquib Sarwar, a UBC doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering. "There are also sensors that are foldable, transparent, and stretchable. Our contribution is a device that combines all those functions in one compact package." The prototype measures 50 by 50 mm. However, the researchers say it could be easily scaled up, since it uses inexpensive, widely available materials like the gel and silicone. "It's entirely possible to make a room- sized version of this sensor for just dollars per square meter, and then put sensors on the wall, on the floor, or over the surface of the body—almost anything that requires a transparent, stretchable touch screen," Sarwar says. "And because it's cheap to manufacture, it could be embedded cost- effectively in disposable wearables like health monitors." The sensor could also be integrated in robotic "skins" to make human-robot inter- actions safer, adds John Madden, Sarwar's supervisor and a UBC professor. The research was funded by the Natural Sci- ences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). For more information, visit news.ubc.ca. Scientists Simulate Electron Localization in Real Materials The insulator-to-metal transition in a monolayer hexagonal boron nitride. The transition requires both imperfections (δ) and electron-electron interactions (U). Image courtesy of NRL. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Labora- tory (NRL) (Washington, DC), in collabora- tion with Florida State University (Tallahas- see, Florida), have developed a method to simulate electron localization in real materi- als, including imperfections and electron- electron interactions. Electron localization is the tendency of electrons to become clus- tered in small regions of a material. "In metals, the electronic states are delocalized, allowing electrons to move from site to site across the material," says Daniel Gunlycke, head of NRL's theoretical chemistry section. "Imperfections and elec- tron-electron interactions, however, can localize the electronic states, turning a metal into an insulator. It provides us with a mechanism to control the electronic prop- erties and engineer improved functional- ities in existing as well as new materials for use in applications ranging from nanoscale optoelectronics to macroscale corrosion prevention." In their work, the authors present a new method by combining first-principles den- sity functional theory, the Anderson- Hubbard model, and the medium dynamical cluster approximation within dynamical mean-field theory. "There is a complex interplay between imperfections and elec- tron-electron interactions in real materials," says Chinedu Ekuma, a postdoctoral researcher in Gunlycke's group. The new method to simulate electron localization in real materials has been applied to monolayer hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), a large-gap insulator, and predicts that this is one material that requires both imperfections and electron- electron interactions to undergo an insulator-to-metal transition. To learn more, visit nrl.navy.mil. NSF Awards $6.1 Million for Advanced Wireless Research The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) (Arlington, Virginia) announced a $6.1 mil- lion, five-year award to accelerate research on wireless communication and networking technologies through the foundation's Plat- forms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program. Nonprofit group US Ignite, Inc. (Wash- ington, DC) and Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts) were selected as the award recipients. Through the award, they will collaborate with NSF and industry partners to establish and oversee multiple city-scale testing platforms. "The planned research platforms will provide an unprecedented opportunity to enable research in faster, smarter, more responsive, and more robust wireless com- munication, and move experimental research beyond the lab," says Jim Kurose, NSF's assistant director for computer and information science and engineering. Over the last decade, the U.S. use of wire- less, Internet-connected devices has nearly doubled. As the momentum continues, the need for increased capacity to accommo- date the corresponding traffic also grows, the NSF explains. This surge in devices, including smartphones, connected tablets, and wearable technology, places an unprec- edented burden on conventional 4G LTE and public Wi-Fi networks, which may not be able to keep pace with the growing demand. In response, NSF established the PAWR program to foster use-inspired, fundamen- tal research and development that will move beyond current capabilities and enable future advanced wireless networks. For more information, visit nsf.gov. —Ben DuBose

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