Tech Roundup: Robot population forecast, super lubricant

1. BAM, a “ceramic alloy”, is created by combining a metal alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2). It is the hardest material after diamond and cubic boron nitride.

-BAM is much slipperier than Teflon, with a coefficient of friction of .02 compared to .05. Lubricated steel has a friction coefficient of 0.16. The material was discovered at Ames Labs.

Applying a coating to the blades that would reduce friction and increase wear resistance could have a significant effect in boosting the efficiency of pumps, which are used in all kinds of industrial and commercial applications. According to Cook, government calculations show that a modest increase in pump efficiency resulting from use of these nanocoatings could reduce U.S. industrial energy usage by 31 trillion BTUs annually by 2030, or a savings of $179 million a year.

A photograph of an AlMgB14 coating on a steel substrate. The substrate is the mottled structure on the left-hand side of the photo and the coating is the thin, darker strip running along the edge of the steel. (The blemishes on the steel are carbide inclusions) The coating has a thickness of approximately 2 to 3 microns (about 1 ten thousandths of an inch)

2. The World Robotics 2008 report is available and has statistics and projections on the number of robots.

According to World Robotics forecasts, 1.2 million industrial robots and more than 17 million service robots will populate the world by 2011.

Highlights from the report:

* In 2007, 114,365 new industrial robots were installed worldwide, a growth of 3 percent over the previous year.
* These new robots are worth some US $6 billion. If you factor in the cost of software, peripherals, and systems engineering, the total triples to $18 billion.
* Asian countries installed 59,300 new robots in 2007. That’s far more than any other region in the world, but a decline over the previous year.
* Sales of industrial robots in Europe grew by 15 percent to 34,900 units, the highest number of robots ever installed in one year.