Advanced Materials & Processes

NOV-DEC 2013

Covers developments in engineering materials selection, processing, fabrication, testing/characterization, materials engineering trends, and emerging technologies, industrial and consumer applications, as well as business and management trends

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Production of tiny puzzle parts Puzzle composed of three plastic microparts produced by the LIGA2.X process. Courtesy of Jochen Heneka, KIT. To produce what is thought to be the smallest puzzle in the world (three pieces of less than 1 mm each), researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, used LIGA2.X—a new process to manufacture microstructured casting molds at ANKA synchrotron source. The process combines inexpensive series production with the highest precision on the microscale to produce components in watches, engines, or medical products, allowing a large series of the smallest parts to be injection-molded with the highest accuracy. The LIGA2.X process allows for inexpensive series production of plastic microparts of less than 0.5 mm3 in volume. So far, a substrate plate linking all molded parts was required for demolding. LIGA2.X does without this layer and allows for direct and separate injection molding of such microparts, eliminating the difficult time- and cost-consuming separation of the parts from the substrate plate. "LIGA2.X not only reduces costs, but also ensures higher degrees of freedom in arrangements of structured mold nests in multiple molds," explains Jochen Heneka, scientist at the institute. For more information: Jochen Heneka, +49 721 608-25457,, Could urine charge your cell phone? Researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory in southwest England created a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down urine to generate electricity. "The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy," says engineer Ioannis Ieropoulos. The team grew bacteria on carbon fiber anodes and placed them inside ceramic cylinders. The bacteria broke down chemicals in urine passed through the cylinders, building up a small amount of electrical charge, which was stored on a capacitor. "So far the microbial fuel power stack (MFC) that we developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing, and to make a brief phone call. The concept has been tested and it works—it's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery," says Ieropoulos. He hopes that the cell, which is currently the size of a car battery, could be developed for many applications. The science behind a good pour Hong Luo, chair of the University at Buffalo's physics department, N.Y., knows all about the secrets of pouring a smooth brew—because it's just basic physics. "You see so many things in everyday life that seem simple, but if you look at the physics more closely, it is really quite neat," he explains. "Science is everywhere." Cans with significantly wider mouths or two holes—which some brands are newly marketing— really do cut down on foam and awkward glugging, Luo says. It is not just an advertising gimmick. Atmospheric pressure helps explain why. In a nutshell, the Earth's atmosphere exerts a force that pushes on objects. To demonstrate how this works, Luo sometimes shows his classes a simple experiment: He fills a mug to the brim with water, caps it with a smooth glass plate, holds the pieces tight, flips the whole contraption upside down and lets go. The water stays in the mug because the pressure that the atmosphere exerts is enough to keep the plate pushed up against the water. As liquid exits a can, it leaves behind a vacuum—a totally empty space in which nothing else exists, not even air molecules. "Once you create this vacuum, the atmospheric pressure is going to push air in," Luo says. "It's a dramatic effect: Each time you drink, you create a small vacuum, and the atmosphere responds by pushing air in." A super-wide hole or a second hole placed some distance away from the first enables this pressure equalization to occur without obstructing the beer leaving the can, says Luo. For more information: Hong Luo, 716/645-2539,, We invite contributions for this page! Please send cartoons, trivia, jokes, photomicrographs, etc., to If we use your idea, we will send you a cool mini multi-tool. 88 ADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013

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