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that can allow the passage of only specified wavelengths of light.
These films could help to control temperatures in a g reenhouse,
and stimulate plant growth at the same time.
One of the most significant contributions of these composite
materials could be to the automotive and aeronautical industries,
as engineers create materials that are significantly lighter, yet able
to absorb impacts. The carbon nanotubes in the polymers give
them the ability to spring back into shape after they are struck
and defor med.
But developments in materials science are not limited to carbon
nanotubes. CTM’s experience in manufacturing and machine-tool
development has allowed that center to lead in the creation of
new surfaces for the machine tools that must handle these new,
highly resistant components. The new parts for automobiles,
made out of lighter, highly resistant composite materials, can
cause rapid wear and tear, even to the breaking point, on the tools
used to make them. In response, CTM and partner companies
developed new steels, with molecular str uctures that allow them
to for m these parts without being ground down themselves.
The AIN center has traditionally assisted automotive compa-
nies in developing components with enhanced properties to resist
higher temperatures or bear higher loads. Today they’re applying
that materials expertise to development of a surface coating for
stents to increase blood flow. Since the g rowth of cells on stent
surfaces can interr upt the flow of blood, AIN engineers devel-
oped an immersion treatment to coat the complex surface of the
stent by bombarding it with ions. This bombardment creates an
oxide layer that prevents cells from attaching to the stent wall.
AIN engineers are also developing coatings to prevent surface
wear on metal prostheses.
The nanotechnology research team at Ascamm, a center out-
side Barcelona, has partnered with the local Nanotechnolog y and
Nanoscience Investigation Center to develop a polymer that can
adhere to any surface and give it superhydrophobic properties,
so that water (or any other liquid) will roll right off. “We as sci-
entists know how to work in the lab, but Ascamm knows how
to scale up and work with industry, providing a bridge” between
scientists and companies, according to Daniel Ruiz, a researcher
Ruiz and his colleagues have created a proprietary material
of fluorinated chains, which adheres to a surface with only a
single dip into the coating. This would be easy to integrate into
manufacturing and is both more environmentally friendly and
easier to apply than the products now on the market, says Ruiz,
and could be useful for many industries, including textile and
Researchers at Cetemmsa, outside Barcelona, are taking mate-
rials science to the textile sector. They’ve developed conduct-
ing threads that heat up or become illuminated in response to a
charge; these might be used in sports applications. They’re also
involved in an EU project to develop a textile for photovoltaic
energy, with the goal of someday creating a shade, perhaps even
an umbrella, that can also serve as a photovoltaic panel.
Cetemmsa has also applied this electronic textile concept to
the health sector, creating a skin patch that releases the active
material only when and where the user wants it, as opposed to
the slow, continuous release available in today’s patches. A slight
charge triggered by a battery will cause a barely discernable tem-
perature chang e in the fabric, and war m up the nanocapsules
(developed by project partners) that contain the active ingredi-
ents. Stopping the charge would halt the release. Cetemmsa is
now working with der matologists to design a patch like this for
use with skin treatment products.
A NOVEL ENGINEERING PERSPECTIVE
To aid in making more precise measurements for meteorology, transportation, and aviation, the research center Tekniker,
in partnership with the Spanish Center of Metrology, has developed the world’s most precise barometer. Over the ten
years of research it took to develop this tool, and building on its decades of creating tools for scientific research,Tekniker
decided to approach this challenge from a novel engineering perspective. Instead of, say, measuring through ultrasound as
the North American version does, the Tekniker barometer relies on a technique called laser interferometry.The barometer
consists of two connected columns of mercury topped by a float that supports a laser reflector.The exact position of the
mercury is measured by combining light from different receptors to create a high-resolution image.
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