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New Process Turns Cement into Metal Semiconductor

A team of scientists, including a physicist from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and associates from Japan, Finland and Germany, have uncovered the process for turning liquid cement into liquid metal, which could lead to advances in electronics.

“This new material has lots of applications, including as thin-film resistors used in liquid-crystal displays, basically the flat panel computer monitor that you are probably reading this from at the moment” – Chris Benmore, physicist at U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory

The process, which is called ‘electron trapping’, turns what is normally an insulating material into room-temperature semiconductors, which have better corrosion resistance than metal, less brittleness than glass, and low energy loss in magnetic fields, along with being able to be formed into various shapes through processing and molding.

“The team of scientists studied mayenite, a component of alumina cement made of calcium and aluminum oxides. They melted it at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius using an aerodynamic levitator with carbon dioxide laser beam heating. The material was processed in different atmospheres to control the way that oxygen bonds in the resulting glass. The levitator keeps the hot liquid from touching any container surfaces and forming crystals. This let the liquid cool into glassy state that can trap electrons in the way needed for electronic conduction.”

According to Benmore, the details of the process were not understood in detail before now, but after the recent success, other materials can be developed and tested for converting to conductivity in the same way.

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