Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Engine


Decades of research has been focused on improving the high-temperature properties of nickel-based superalloys, an essential class of materials used in the hot section of jet turbine engines, allowing increased engine efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. Here we introduce a new ‘phase-transformation strengthening’ mechanism that resists high-temperature creep deformation in nickel-based superalloys, where specific alloying elements inhibit the deleterious deformation mode of nanotwinning at temperatures above 700 °C. Ultra-high-resolution structure and composition analysis via scanning transmission electron microscopy, combined with density functional theory calculations, reveals that a superalloy with higher concentrations of the elements titanium, tantalum and niobium encourage a shear-induced solid-state transformation from the γ' to η phase along stacking faults in γ' precipitates, which would normally be the precursors of deformation twins. This nanoscale η phase creates a low-energy structure that inhibits thickening of stacking faults into twins, leading to significant improvement in creep properties.

Concepts: Electron, Iron, Metallurgy, Titanium, Jet engine, Turbine, Engine, Gas turbine


As part of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Barnett Coordinated Campaign, researchers completed leak and loss audits for methane emissions at three natural gas compressor stations and two natural gas storage facilities. Researchers employed microdilution high-volume sampling systems in conjunction with in situ methane analyzers, bag samples, and Fourier transform infrared analyzers for emissions rate quantification. All sites had a combined total methane emissions rate of 94.2 kg/h, yet only 12% of the emissions total resulted from leaks. Methane slip from exhausts represented 44% of the total emissions. Remaining methane emissions were attributed to losses from pneumatic actuators and controls, engine crankcases, compressor packing vents, wet seal vents, and slop tanks. Measured values were compared with those reported in literature. Exhaust methane emissions were lower than emissions factor estimates for engine exhausts, but when combined with crankcase emissions, measured values were 11.4% lower than predicted by AP-42 as applicable to emissions factors for four-stroke, lean-burn engines. Average measured wet seal emissions were 3.5 times higher than GRI values but 14 times lower than those reported by Allen et al. Reciprocating compressor packing vent emissions were 39 times higher than values reported by GRI, but about half of values reported by Allen et al. Though the data set was small, researchers have suggested a method to estimate site-wide emissions factors for those powered by four-stroke, lean-burn engines based on fuel consumption and site throughput.

Concepts: Fourier transform, Natural gas, Methane, Internal combustion engine, Gas compressor, Engine, Natural gas storage, Natural gas prices


Aircraft engines emit particulate matter (PM) that affects the air quality in the vicinity of airports and contributes to climate change. Non-volatile PM (nvPM) emissions from aircraft turbine engines depend on fuel aromatic content, which varies globally by several percent. It is uncertain how this variability will affect future nvPM emission regulations and emission inventories. Here we present black carbon (BC) mass and nvPM number emission indices (EIs) as a function of fuel aromatic content and thrust for an in-production aircraft gas turbine engine. The aromatics content was varied from 17.8 % (v/v) in the neat fuel (Jet A-1) to up to 23.6 % (v/v) by injecting two aromatic solvents into the engine fuel supply line. Fuel normalized BC mass and nvPM number EIs increased by up to 60% with increasing fuel aromatics content and decreasing engine thrust. The EIs also increased when fuel naphthalenes were changed from 0.78 % (v/v) to 1.18 % (v/v) while keeping the total aromatics constant. The EIs correlated best with fuel hydrogen mass content, leading to a simple model that could be used for correcting fuel effects in emission inventories and in future aircraft engine nvPM emission standards.

Concepts: Air pollution, Gas compressor, Jet engine, Turbine, Engine, Gas turbine, Turboprop, Aircraft engine


The energy density of current lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) based on layered LiMO2 cathodes (M = Ni, Mn, Co: NMC; M = Ni, Co, Al: NCA) needs to be improved significantly in order to compete with internal combustion engines and allow for widespread implementation of electric vehicles (EVs). In this report, we show that atomic layer deposition (ALD) of titania (TiO2) and alumina (Al2O3) on Ni-rich FCG NMC and NCA active material particles could substantially improve LIB performance and allow for increased upper cutoff voltage (UCV) during charging, which delivers significantly increased specific energy utilization. Our results show that Al2O3 coating improved the NMC cycling performance by 40% and the NCA cycling performance by 34% at 1 C/-1 C with respectively 4.35 V and 4.4 V UCV in 2 Ah pouch cells. High resolution TEM/SAED structural characterization revealed that Al2O3 coatings prevented surface-initiated layered-to-spinel phase transitions in coated materials which were prevalent in uncoated materials. EIS confirmed that Al2O3-coated materials had significantly lower increase in the charge transfer component of impedance during cycling. The ability to mitigate degradation mechanisms for Ni-rich NMC and NCA illustrated in this report provides insight into a method to enable the performance of high-voltage LIBs.

Concepts: Gasoline, Petroleum, Combustion, Automobile, Internal combustion engine, Electric vehicle, Engine, Steam engine


Heat engines convert thermal energy into mechanical work and generally involve a large number of particles. We report the experimental realization of a single-atom heat engine. An ion is confined in a linear Paul trap with tapered geometry and driven thermally by coupling it alternately to hot and cold reservoirs. The output power of the engine is used to drive a harmonic oscillation. From direct measurements of the ion dynamics, we were able to determine the thermodynamic cycles for various temperature differences of the reservoirs. We then used these cycles to evaluate the power P and efficiency η of the engine, obtaining values up to P = 3.4 × 10(-22)joules per second and η = 0.28%, consistent with analytical estimations. Our results demonstrate that thermal machines can be reduced to the limit of single atoms.

Concepts: Energy, Fundamental physics concepts, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Internal energy, Heat engine, Engine


Self-crack-healing by oxidation of a pre-incorporated healing agent is an essential property of high-temperature structural ceramics for components with stringent safety requirements, such as turbine blades in aircraft engines. Here, we report a new approach for a self-healing design containing a 3D network of a healing activator, based on insight gained by clarifying the healing mechanism. We demonstrate that addition of a small amount of an activator, typically doped MnO localised on the fracture path, selected by appropriate thermodynamic calculation significantly accelerates healing by >6,000 times and significantly lowers the required reaction temperature. The activator on the fracture path exhibits rapid fracture-gap filling by generation of mobile supercooled melts, thus enabling efficient oxygen delivery to the healing agent. Furthermore, the activator promotes crystallisation of the melts and forms a mechanically strong healing oxide. We also clarified that the healing mechanism could be divided to the initial oxidation and additional two stages. Based on bone healing, we here named these stages as inflammation, repair, and remodelling stages, respectively. Our design strategy can be applied to develop new lightweight, self-healing ceramics suitable for use in high- or low-pressure turbine blades in aircraft engines.

Concepts: Oxide, Turbocharger, Gas compressor, Jet engine, Turbine, Engine, Aircraft engine, Water turbine


Human noise pollution has increased markedly since the start of industrialization and there is international concern about how this may impact wildlife. Here we determined whether real motorboat noise affected the behavior, space use and escape response of a juvenile damselfish (Pomacentrus wardi) in the wild, and explored whether fish respond effectively to chemical and visual threats in the presence of two common types of motorboat noise. Noise from 30 hp 2-stroke outboard motors reduced boldness and activity of fish on habitat patches compared to ambient reef-sound controls. Fish also no longer responded to alarm odours with an antipredator response, instead increasing activity and space use, and fewer fish responded appropriately to a looming threat. In contrast, while there was a minor influence of noise from a 30 hp 4-stroke outboard on space use, there was no influence on their ability to respond to alarm odours, and no impact on their escape response. Evidence suggests that anthropogenic noise impacts the way juvenile fish assess risk, which will reduce individual fitness and survival, however, not all engine types cause major effects. This finding may give managers options by which they can reduce the impact of motorboat noise on inshore fish communities.

Concepts: Evaluation, Coral reef, Pollution, Risk assessment, Noise pollution, Engine, Boat, Soundscape


Heat engines are based on the physical realization of a thermodynamic cycle, most famously the liquid-vapour Rankine cycle used for steam engines. Here we present a sublimation heat engine, which can convert temperature differences into mechanical work via the Leidenfrost effect. Through controlled experiments, quantified by a hydrodynamic model, we show that levitating dry-ice blocks rotate on hot turbine-like surfaces at a rate controlled by the turbine geometry, temperature difference and solid material properties. The rotational motion of the dry-ice loads is converted into electric power by coupling to a magnetic coil system. We extend our concept to liquid loads, generalizing the realization of the new engine to both sublimation and the instantaneous vapourization of liquids. Our results support the feasibility of low-friction in situ energy harvesting from both liquids and ices. Our concept is potentially relevant in challenging situations such as deep drilling, outer space exploration or micro-mechanical manipulation.

Concepts: Energy, Temperature, Thermodynamics, Heat, Liquid, Heat engine, Engine, Carnot cycle


While “vibrational noise” induced by rotating components of machinery is a common problem constantly faced by engineers, the controlled conversion of translational into rotational motion or vice-versa is a desirable goal in many scenarios ranging from internal combustion engines to ultrasonic motors. In this work, we describe the underlying physics after isolating a single degree of freedom, focusing on devices that convert a vibration along the vertical axis into a rotation around this axis. A typical Vibrot (as we label these devices) consists of a rigid body with three or more cantilevered elastic legs attached to its bottom at an angle. We show that these legs are capable of transforming vibration into rotation by a “ratchet effect”, which is caused by the anisotropic stick-slip-flight motion of the leg tips against the ground. Drawing an analogy with the Froude number used to classify the locomotion dynamics of legged animals, we discuss the walking regime of these robots. We are able to control the rotation frequency of the Vibrot by manipulating the shaking amplitude, frequency or waveform. Furthermore, we have been able to excite Vibrots with acoustic waves, which allows speculating about the possibility of reducing the size of the devices so they can perform tasks into the human body, excited by ultrasound waves from the outside.

Concepts: Ultrasound, Frequency, Classical mechanics, Rotation, Rigid body, Combustion, Internal combustion engine, Engine


Biological molecular motors translate their local directional motion into ordered movement of other parts of the system to empower controlled mechanical functions. The design of analogous geared systems that couple motion in a directional manner, which is pivotal for molecular machinery operating at the nanoscale, remains highly challenging. Here, we report a molecular rotary motor that translates light-driven unidirectional rotary motion to controlled movement of a connected biaryl rotor. Achieving coupled motion of the distinct parts of this multicomponent mechanical system required precise control of multiple kinetic barriers for isomerization and synchronous motion, resulting in sliding and rotation during a full rotary cycle, with the motor always facing the same face of the rotor.

Concepts: DNA, Energy, Molecular motor, Motor, Electric motor, Engine, Molecular machine, Molecular propeller