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News

The building blocks of specialised technologies

3M Europe : 23 April, 2003  (New Product)
Advanced materials, primarily comprising ceramics and polymers, are best described as substances with special properties. They are building blocks for an enormous range of applications.
Within the scope of 3Mís Advanced Materials Technology Center, these technologies are further delineated into miniplatforms, including microelectronic mechanical systems, advanced imaging, optical communications, surface modifications and nanocomposites, to name a few.
From research completed under the umbrella of the Advanced Materials

Technology Center, 3M has developed products for use in such diverse industries as automotive, electronics, aerospace and dentistry.

Advanced materials can result from the combination of quite dissimilar materials, like ceramics and polymers. For example, incorporating nanoceramics into polymers has the effect of imparting ceramic-like properties to the composite, while maintaining the attractive processing of the polymer. Using nanotechnology, 3M has developed a dental composite that has aesthetic properties almost identical to a toothís natural structure. These nanocomposite fillers provide strength and wear-resistance, yet have a more natural appearance than traditional fillers.

In the field of optics, 3Mís advanced materials technology leads to new glass
materials with unique properties by controlling refractive index, photosensitivity and composition of new glasses. These new glasses are used in specialty fiber optics for amplifying optical signals. Similar developments in glass bead technology have produced new retroreflective beads for highway pavement markings.

Because of 3Mís understanding of substrates, inks and dispersions, advanced materials for imaging applications provide better and longer-lasting graphics often in demanding exterior applications exposed to weathering. 3M has developed imaging substrates and marking materials, such as inks and toners. These material developments produce high-performance substrates for ink-jet printing, high-performance ink-jet inks, high-durability thermal transfer ribbons and materials for electronic displays.

Advanced ceramic materials are being applied to the important issue of emissions from diesel engines. Diesel engines are known to emit small carbon particles from the exhaust. To clean up these emissions, 3M is developing new ceramic filters that will capture smaller particles, yet minimize impact on engine performance. This demanding application requires complex material systems to withstand the high temperatures and mechanical forces generated in an exhaust system.

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) are the combination of mechanical miniaturized machines with similar-sized electrical circuitry to achieve mechanical motion on a very small scale. These devices are usually made from silicon using similar techniques of the microelectronics industry. Being able to fabricate such devices and control the surfaces and materials in these micromachines is another rapidly developing advanced material system. 3Mís material expertise in surface chemistry is being used to make such devices more reliable. New designs and applications for MEMS are being tested, with potential applications ranging from optics to biotechnology.
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