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SAE INTERNATIONAL publishes Tech Briefs, a monthly magazine of “Engineering Solutions for Design & Manufacturing.” Three articles in its January 2018 issue show the range of its editorial coverage extending from elemental metallurgy to 3D printing to quantum computers. Here are tidbits from this technical trio of merit.

NASA-427 Aluminum Alloy is a perfect example of NASA’s performing scientific research to the benefit of us all. Its George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama, developed this alloy for cast aluminum products that have powder or paint-baked thermal coatings. According to Tech Briefs, compared with other alloys, NASA-427 has “greater tensile strength and increased ductility, providing substantial improvement in impact toughness.”

A practical implication of these properties is NASA-427’s decreased time required for heat treatment. Researchers at Marshall suggest that this alloy’s future is more than just space-bound. For example, NASA-427 is particularly well suited for aluminum automotive wheels.

Topologically Optimized Metal Fabrication combines optimization of shape with techniques of 3D printing to enhance the strength of metal parts yet reduce their mass. Topology is the mathematical study of continuously deformable objects and their preserved characteristics. (A coffee cup and a donut both have a single hole….) The idea of 3D printed parts is to build them in layers of material in calculated shapes, possibly of metallic powders, then sinter them into solid objects.

Tech Briefs notes, “For structural aircraft and spacecraft components, lightweight aluminum and titanium are increasingly being used.”

The Italian Thales Alenia Space collaborated with 3D Systems of Leuven, Belgium, to exploit this approach in producing a component for a telecommunications satellite. Tech Briefs notes, “Topological optimization determines the most efficient materials allocation to meet the exact performance specifications of the part. It takes into consideration the given space allowed, loads that need to be handled, boundary conditions, and other critical engineering factors.”

A titanium antenna bracket for a geostationary telecommunication satellite is fabricated by 3D printing, its shape dictated by topological optimization.

3D Systems’ Direct Metal Printing technology yielded a titanium bracket that has greater stiffness-to-weight ratio than a conventional bracket, yet it’s 25 percent lighter as well. What’s more, its fabrication takes only about half the time of traditional manufacture.

”Flip-Flop Qubits bring quantum computing closer to market in what could make today’s most advanced computer hardware obsolete. The new chip design, devised by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, allows upscaling of a quantum computer without the precise placement of atoms required in other approaches.

For a brief overview of quantum computers replacing digital on/off bits, see my “Quantum Computer Update” here at SimanaitisSays. As noted there, quantum entanglement doubles processing power with each added quantum bit, aka qubit.

A 50-qubit device achieves what’s called “quantum supremacy,” superiority in performing computational tasks beyond any digital device. However, the challenge has been getting these added qubits to behave. Optimally, they need to be spaced at distances of 10-20 nanometers—just 50 atoms apart.

An artist’s impression of flip-flop qubit theory in an entangled quantum state. Illustration by Tony Melov in This source also gives more details on the flip-flop qubit concept.

UNSW researchers’ flip-flop qubits can be placed hundreds of nanometers apart and still remain coupled. Researchers note that this is useful in allowing room for interconnections as well as components such as control electrodes and readout devices. What’s more, Tech Briefs notes, “The new qubit can be controlled using electric signals instead of magnetic signals. Electric signals are significantly easier to distribute and localize within an electronic chip.”

Thus far, the researchers admit their results are only theoretical; no flip-flop qubit has yet to be fabricated. But the theory suggests this advance in quantum computing is entirely feasible in what’s been called “the space race of the 21st century.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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