There is a lot interesting stuff this past week.

Wired ran a piece on the Scuderi Engine which promises to double fuel efficency and drop the cost and weight the internal combustion engine. The company that developed the engine was formed by the children of a retired — and now deceased Massachusetts engineer and inventor named Carmelo Scuderi. They have recently received 1.2 million from the DoD and 12 million from private investors. The company is in talks with all the big auto makers. The facinating thing to me …. is that for all the buzz they don’t have a prototype. That won’t come out until next year. What they have is a computer simulation developed by Southwestern Research Institute and the Scuderi Group.

The Scuderi Engine might someday make for a cheaper pump.

Everyone’s heard the aphorism that form follows function. Wouldn’t it be nice to specify function for a design and have the computer spit out form. Autodesk last week claimed it could do just that.

Unlike “dysfunctional design” (a phrase coined by Ten Links editor-in-chief Roopinder Tara), functional design, according to Autodesk, “enables customers to create designs based on the functional requirements of a product before they commit to complex model geometry, allowing designers to put function before form.”

In theory, a designer will simply draw a symbolic representation of an object in simple lines and blocks (as shown below), then use input parameters to specify the object’s function. Then the CAD software — in this case, Autodesk Inventor — automatically generates the geometry. With this approach, Anagnost pointed out, “Simulation can occur at any stage, engineers focus on product function, and they model geometry only if necessary.”

The functional design approach of Autodesk Inventor, promoted by Autodesk at its recent Manufacturing Solutions Media Summit, uses a product’s function to automatically generate the required geometry.

I think this tool might save some development time.

Get this. According to the Journal of Applied Physics, Nanoscience may provide a way to engineer materials that are virtually defect-free – perfect, that is.

A scientist at North Carolina State University has discovered that the tiny grains comprising many bulk materials can potentially contain nearly zero structural imperfections when the grains are smaller than a certain critical size, typically a few to several nanometers.

Therefore, materials created with grains of the right size could be structurally flawless.

Pretty nifty? Might make for a great space elevator or pipeline. But I’m thinking — with that level of specificity/purity/control — it might also be possible to introduce impurities with more control so as to affect the charge of a membrane.

So how would you introduce impurities? I dunno.
But curiously, a method for the desktop printing of carbon nanotubes was anounced this past week by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer, a team of scientists has developed a simple technique for printing patterns of carbon nanotubes on paper and plastic surfaces. The method … is described in the August 2006 issue of the journal Small.

Most current techniques to make nanotube-based devices require complex and expensive equipment. “Our results suggest new alternatives for fabricating nanotube patterns by simply printing the dissolved particles on paper or plastic surfaces,” said Robert Vajtai, a researcher with the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and corresponding author of the paper.

Vajtai and his colleagues at Rensselaer – along with a group of researchers led by Krisztiбn Kordбs and Gйza Tуth at the University of Oulu in Finland – have developed an approach that uses a commercial inkjet printer to deposit nanotubes onto various surfaces. They simply fill a conventional ink cartridge with a solution of carbon nanotubes dissolved in water, and then the printer produces a pattern just as if it was printing with normal ink. Because nanotubes are good conductors, the resulting images also are able to conduct electricity.

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  1. […] Notice that Popular Mechanics mentioned how they were impressed not just by the invention itself but the “creativity of design that enabled the breakthrough itself.” Maybe they used some version of that new autocad tool to that allows the the designer to specify the function while the software spits out the form. Or maybe they used some version of that MIT tool that aids cost estimates for complex projects. “The core issue with producing hydrogen from electrolyzers is that the economics are not there. They are too expensive to build, so we set out in our program to attack the capital costs,“ Fletcher added. Today, producing hydrogen by water electrolysis costs at least $8 per kg including capital, energy, and operating costs. GE participated in a program with the U.S. Department of Energy that has the goal of bringing the cost to under $3. By lowering costs on the capital side, GE researchers are confident this goal can be met. […]

    Pingback by GE Global Research’s Hydrogen Electrolyzer « Desalination Research And Development — October 20, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  2. […] has the tools for this. I would suggest two. I mentioned both here a couple years back. The first by Autodesk “enables customers to create designs based on the functional requirements of a product before […]

    Pingback by Adapting RO Plants for New Membranes « Desalination Research And Development — August 16, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

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