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News about Science, Technology and Engineering at Iowa State University


Clean power from dirty coal
Ames Laboratory researchers have developed a thin metal filter material that could allow power plants to cleanly burn dirty, high-sulfur coal. The tough, new metal filter would replace fragile ceramic filters currently used on pressurized-fluidized bed combustion and other low-emission power plant concepts.

Created through a process called tap-densified loose powder sintering, the nickel-based alloy filter material experiences only a moderate drop in yield strength going from room temperature to operating temperature of 850 C. Moreover, the filter material is six times stronger at its operating temperature than an iron-aluminide filter material that's also being studied. For more information, contact Iver Anderson, Ames Laboratory, (515) 294-9791, or Kerry Gibson, Ames Laboratory Public Affairs, (515) 294-1405.


New device earns fourth R&D 100 Award for ISU chemist
A new chemical analysis method that could have a dramatic effect on several fields ranging from drug discovery to deciphering the genetic code of humans, has earned an R&D 100 Award for Ed Yeung, distinguished professor of chemistry at Iowa State University, and graduate student Xiaoyi Gong. This is the fourth R&D 100 Award for Yeung, who also is director of Ames Laboratory's Chemical and Biological Sciences Program.

The MCE 2000 is a commercial instrument based on Yeung's technique (called multiplexed capillary electrophoresis using absorption detection). The instrument can rapidly detect and quantify chemical compounds in low concentrations or in small amounts. The MCE 2000 simultaneously separates, detects, monitors and quantifies chemical or biochemical compounds in 96 independent mixtures. It does this through a novel combination of established chemical separation, detection and computer analysis techniques.

Where conventional instruments can only look at one sample at a time, the MCE 2000 can look at 96 simultaneous separations of compounds. Sample size and use of reagents by the MCE 2000 also is approximately 1/1000th what can be used with conventional high-performance liquid chromatography. The resulting gains in speed and accuracy means the MCE 2000 can be used to detect genetic defects in individuals faster, more accurately and less expensively than other methods, Yeung said. It also can be used as an analysis tool in the synthesis of new chemicals, where scientists literally sort through hundreds of thousands of compounds trying to identify the few that can be used as more effective drugs to treat diseases. Additional uses of the MCE 2000 can be in forensics, combinatorial chemistry, quality control and early disease detection.

"This new method allows for universal detection of a majority of compounds, eliminating the need for expensive, cumbersome and potentially hazardous use of fluorescent tags," said Yeung, who has filed for a world-wide patent on the technology. For more information, contact Yeung, (515) 294-8062, or Skip Derra, ISU News Service, (515) 294-4917.


Providing guidance to the shuttle's successor
Ping Lu, an ISU aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics associate professor, recently received a four-year, $813,000 grant from NASA for research into guidance and control technology for a reusable launch vehicle (RLV). Lu's research is part of a larger $3.9 million project being undertaken in conjunction with Ohio University, Auburn University, and the University of Alabama.

NASA's Space Launch Initiative is a five-year, $4.8 billion project designed to substantially improve safety and reduce the cost of space travel. Lu says his team will help develop guidance and control systems for the next generation RLV, which is being explored as a replacement to the space shuttle. NASA's ultimate goal is to develop RLVs that are at least 10 times safer and cost one-tenth that of the shuttle, while improving crew survivability of any accident. Lu's research will contribute to greater safety and efficiency of launch vehicle guidance systems in the ascent, abort and re-entry phases of space flight.

"NASA's award tells us we're on the cutting edge of aerospace research at Iowa State," Lu said. For more information, contact Lu, (515) 294-6956, or Dennis Smith, Engineering Communications, (515) 294-0267.


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