Woo, yeah, doing this actually weekly!!! This will certainly last.
Hello from the past, when I wrote this to make sure that it would actually go out today. I assume the pound is now worth like 5¢ and maybe Priti Patel is the prime minister in the grimly near future but things were pretty bad when I wrote this, too. It's hard to feel any optimism in a situation where the Nordstream is treating the Baltic Sea like a giant Soda Stream for hydrocarbon cola at the same time as Florida's holding the ultimate wet t-shirt contest where the t-shirt is a paper towel in the face of a massive hurricane. And we're looking at a cold, hard winter of financial, ecological and political disasters on that all-too-familiar scale: unprecedented.
Things are, to put it very mildly, absolutely terrible. It's weird, when I first learned about global warming at school there were these visions of the end times that came with stuff - floods, fires, collapse of systems and I was like oh damn I mean, that is going to suck I sure hope no one has to live through that and surprise! It's here. With some extra flavours of randomly bad things that would be much easier solved if people just stopped doing them, like transphobia.
But there are still things we are discovering. There are maybe still ways we can get ourselves out of this. These are just silly little things about cars, ultimately but well - that's part of what got us into this mess, isn't it and anything positive we can do will help in some small way. Or just talk about some fuckin' lasers and try not to think too hard for a few minutes.
Fun with lasers
3D printing has a lot of very good aspects to it, in terms of the complexity of things you can make and also not wasting stuff. It's expensive and when it comes to metals, takes some high powered laser action that hasn't always resulted in the strongest possible products. Which is fine if what you're making is something super delicate but when it comes to cars, that's rarely the case and so printing bits of ultra-complex F1 aero gear is all well and good but they are not going to be baking it into the next Transit van.
Exciting news, however, as researchers have found a way to phase lasers (let us call this 'disco printing') in a way that lets them form layers of 3D printed 17-4PH stainless steel. If I'm honest, this always had more use in aerospace than automotive but if you can make this stuff, which is ultra-strong and fairly resistance to corrosion, then you can probably basically make anything with the science-y light show. That's cool news for doing bits.
Is this going to be used in the mainstream automotive industry any time soon? No. But it might be used for making specialist parts and it especially could have potential in, say, motorsport or for ultra-bespoke parts. Or maybe for fancy watches, the industry inexplicably and irrevocably linked to cars for some reason.
Write up (totally click through on this there's a great video if you scroll down) : Researchers discover how to 3D print one of the strongest types of stainless steel
Original paper: Phase transformation dynamics guided alloy development for additive manufacturing
Rearranging hydrocarbons again
Maybe this newsletter should in fact be called hydrocarbon chess or something but yeah you've guessed it it's time to talk about plastics!!! Which are, of course, just rearranged hydrocarbons. Problem with plastics is that the particular arrangement they get set into tends to stick in a way that makes it virtually impossible to turn back into anything else and they don't break down they just break apart which, while relatable, is a serious pollution problem. Especially because plastic recycling basically doesn't exist.
If we could recycle plastics though, we might be able to stop turning the Pacific into a disgusting toilet bowl of garbage and poisoning soil. Good news, then, as researchers make a breakthrough that could see plastics recycled 250 times. Breaking down the plastics into something that can become a new plastic has always been the issue, especially in a way that doesn't make anything worse, so it honestly rocks that scientists have introduced a method to break down existing plastic polymers into their monomers (molecules) and then do what we do with all hydrocarbons which is jiggle 'em a bit and make some new stuff.
Actually to be fair, it's the nitrogen and oxygen that's key to breaking the bonds and then turning stuff into other stuff. But the actual mechanism is less important, except that it's chemical and replicable (turns out plastics, like me, break down under enough alcohol) and actually works, on existing plastics that we need to recycle.
What's this got to do with cars? Well, there's a whole lot of plastic in making a vehicle and we're not likely to be able to replace it with mahogany or something any time soon. And it's good, which the news often isn't, so it's going in.
Recyclable and malleable thermosets enabled by activating dynamic linkages
Witness the thickness
How do you make electric vehicles charge faster and more reliably? You make the electrodes in the batteries thicker. Well, it's not that simple, inevitably but this is a breakthrough because it goes against conventional wisdom about how to speed up charging.
There's been a lot of work going into using 2D materials for battery electrodes to improve charging but this basically goes the other way and says you can reduce resistance by making them fatter. Which feels like it shouldn't make sense - a thicker electrode should be harder for charge to pass through. Instead, using a magnetic field around the electrode, they were able to manipulate the charging process so that it was twice as quick as conventional electrodes.
This is good because fast charging is good and also because fast charging that isn't reliant on nanomaterial lattices is going to be a lot more realistically usable. But it's in the super early phases so far so who knows what will actually come of it.
Charge on company time
Great news for fellow shirkers and anti-capitalists. Research shows that charging your EV at home, at night, does nothing for you and you should plug that sucker in at work during the day to save energy on the grid and yourself cash.
Making good use of the things that we find III
Just some junk y'know. One of the things that we are getting increasingly overwhelmed with, literally in the case of, say, massive storm surges, is seawater. Not to be a complete bummer but we're absolutely and literally drowning in the stuff due to some pretty grim climate effects, from water previously held in inland glaciers and the ice caps melting into the sea to the way that the land is heating up so much rain don't wanna fall on it.
So the one thing we've got a whole tonne of is salty water. Might as well find some stuff to do with it, then, like using a flow method (which is good because it's relatively low power requirement) to extract magnesium salt, which can go into making magnesium metal. Magnesium is expensive but it's really lightweight and so has a lot of potential as an alloy in cars and the more weight we can strip out of cars, the more efficient they will be. It's also got some chops as a future battery ingredient over lithium, so basically anything that's a good way of getting hold of it is pretty cool.
Right that's probably enough of that for the week. Next week's edition is likely to be a photovoltaic special