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 April 2007
Global Notebook

Top 10 Materials Moments in History Announced

As reported in this column in November 2006, the Material Society has prepared a Top 10 Greatest Materials Moments in History list. The results are in. The winners are:

1. The periodic table of elements, devised by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1864.
2. Iron smelting, first accomplished around 3500 B.C. by the Egyptians.
3. The transistor, invented in 1948 by John Bardeen,
Walter H. Brattain and William Shockley.
4. The invention of glass in approximately 2200 B.C. in northwestern Iran.
5. Optical microscopy, developed in 1668 by Anton van Leeuwenhoek.
6. Modern concrete, invented in 1755 by John Smeaton.
7. Crucible steel making, developed around 300 B.C. by metal workers in south India.
8. Copper extraction and casting, invented approximately 5000 B.C. in the region of modern Turkey.
9. X-ray diffraction, discovered in 1912 by Max von Laue.
10. The Bessemer process, patented in 1856 by Henry Bessemer to melt low-carbon iron.

More information about the Greatest Materials Moments can be found online.

US&R Robot Communication

Prototypes and commercial models of urban search and rescue robots will soon begin to work rubble piles across the country. Too many of these lifesaving robots, however, could be too much of a good thing, according to researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who report that the radio transmissions of multiple robots can interfere with each other and degrade search and rescue performance. A NIST analysis of wireless radio field trials for US&R robots, presented at a conference on Feb. 28, found that 10 out of the 14 robots tested experienced communication problems due to radio interference from other systems. The NIST paper lists a number of ways to improve urban search and rescue wireless communications. Options, some of which are currently being investigated by robot manufacturers, include changes in frequency coordination, transmission protocols, power output, access priority and using relay transformers to increase the range of wireless transmissions (a technique known as multi-hop communications). The paper also suggests establishing new access schemes or software-defined radios that allow interoperable communications. ASTM International’s Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications is working to develop standards that will help eliminate some of these problems.

FHWA Creates Grant Program to Improve Highways

In an effort to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and innovations that will improve the nation’s highways, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration will award multiple grants in support of the Highways for LIFE (HfL) Technology Partnership Program. The HfL program promotes the use of performance standards, state-of-the-art technologies, and new business practices that result in improved safety, quality and user satisfaction, faster construction, and reduced congestion from work zones. The FHWA will fund promising innovations that have been developed to the prototype stage and which require further development, testing and evaluation prior to real-world implementation. Applicable areas include specifications, methodologies, practices and procedures, as well as technologies, materials and equipment used in the financing, design or construction of highways or bridges. The innovation must make a significant contribution to improving project and/or work zone safety (including worker or user safety), reducing construction congestion, accelerating construction or improving quality. The FHWA will confer as many as 12 awards at the $200,000 funding level and three awards at the $500,000 level. The competition is open to all nonprofit and for-profit organizations, except state and local governments and institutions of higher education. Applications may be submitted through April 16. For more information on eligibility requirements, or to submit a grant application, click here.

NFPA Launches Education and Technology Foundation

The National Fluid Power Association has launched its NFPA Education and Technology Foundation to continue and extend its support of fluid power education and research activities. Building on programs successfully developed through NFPA’s Education Fund, the new foundation will pursue initiatives that 1) actively engage students at all grade levels in learning about fluid power, 2) encourage the development of new teaching resources — fluid power laboratories as well as online, print and hands-on instruction tools, 3) support research in motion control through fluid power at the two-year, four-year and graduate school levels, and 4) foster ongoing forums between educators and industry so that ideas and priorities of mutual interest can be shared and set. Donations for the foundation are being accepted here.

ISO Central Secretariat Relocates to New Address

As of Feb. 19, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Central Secretariat has moved to a new address in Geneva, Switzerland. The move groups all operations into a single location. The ISO main phone and fax lines remain unchanged, as do all individual e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers. The new address is ISO Central Secretariat, 1, ch. de la Voie-Creuse, Case postale 56, CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland (phone: +41 22 749 01 11).