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INSIDE CI: Trick or Treat?

October 1, 2007
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The monthly roundup from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

Halloween is such a fun holiday. The decorations around our neighborhood are always fantastic, and I love to see all of the innovative costumes that the kids come up with each year. Their enthusiasm makes us all feel like kids again, at least for a little while. Perhaps most importantly, it's the one time of year that I don't feel obligated to lie to the grocery store clerk about my nonexistent low blood sugar problem, since everyone's cart is packed with candy.

According to The History Channel, the trick or treating tradition most likely finds its origins in England. During each annual All Souls' Day parade and festivities, poor people would go door-to-door to receive pastries called soul cakes with the promise that they would pray for each family's dead relatives.1 The tradition evolved, and today the threat of practical jokes often spurs the otherwise disinclined to provide candy and other treats to their costumed visitors.

In our industry, we don't get "tricked" if we don't deliver-we just lose business. Customers fully expect consistently high-quality goods, and rightfully so. Chances are they won't come back year after year if their expectations aren't met. The real trick, as it were, is in developing and cultivating the products and services necessary to meet those expectations.

If working with diamond and its superior properties can be seen as a treat for engineers, its high price tag certainly provides a simultaneous trick. A new technology, originally developed at Argonne National Laboratory and now available commercially, is overcoming traditional thin film diamond limitations for a host of applications. Ultrananocrystalline diamond offers improved electronic, thermal and optical transport properties while retaining the hardness and stiffness of natural diamond. "Perfecting Nature's Perfect Material” has the details.

Metallized ceramics are created when a metal alloy is attached to a ceramic surface through chemical or mechanical bonding. The resulting components (I can't help but think of them as Frankenceramics) combine the benefits of both material types to offer selective electrical conductivity, high-voltage insulation, hermetic sealing, enhanced thermal performance and hardware attachment capabilities for industries ranging from wireless communications to implantable medical devices (see "Put the Metal to the Ceramic”).

Traditional glass recycling programs designed to collect and process the glass from used bottles in order to create new bottles have largely been successful, but valueless mixed color glass is becoming an increasing burden in many communities. Construction fill or landfill cover are both viable options, but long-term, cash-generating markets are needed to keep community recycling programs in the black. "Recycled Glass Options for Tile” explains that a number of tile manufacturing methods can cost-effectively incorporate low-grade post-consumer glass and provide attractive "green" solutions for consumers.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans consumed 26 lbs of candy per capita in 2006, most of which is thought to be gobbled around Halloween.2 We certainly do enjoy our treats, and I can't help but think that I exceed expectations in that particular department more often than not.

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