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Refractories Review: Refractories in Cyberspace

April 12, 2000
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Given the unlimited applications and benefits of the Internet, the scope and economic impact of the industrial revolution will pale in comparison with the cyber-electronic revolution. Now anyone can create a website that millions of people virtually anywhere in the world can access and use. The opportunities are limited only by the imaginations of the users.

In 1998, searches of the World Wide Web for the word "refractory" yielded only 1,500 to 4,000 matches. The same searches today yield many more: Altavista, 42,850; MSN, 26,993; iwon, 26,735; infoseek, 17,221; and Lycos, 14,604. However, Yahoo and America Online yielded only 101 and 300 matches, respectively. A search for several specific refractory terms on Altavista showed match counts of 27,170 for alumina, 11,391 for magnesia (many of which were for tourism, medicinal uses, etc.), 199 for fused alumina, and 81 for alumina refractory. By comparison, on Altavista the common words car and food resulted in 7,336,745 and 6,675,425 matches, respectively.

Dictionary.com offers five entries for the word refractory, with three main definitions of the word, including (1) resistant to authority or control, e.g., as refractory as a mule, (2) resistant to treatment (medical), e.g., refractory anemia, and (3) difficult to melt; resistant to heat, e.g., a refractory material like silica or alumina. Some of the synonyms given for the word refractory are perverse, contumacious, unruly, stubborn, obstinate, unyielding, ungovernable and unmanageable. Britannica.com offers two definitions of the word refractory, which, the site reports, is derived from the French word "refractaire," meaning high melting.

Patents.ibm.com is still available for searching, reviewing and obtaining patents. A search for the word "refractory" on the ibm site revealed 9,864 matches. Annual production figures for the U.S. refractories industry can be found at the Department of Census website (census/gov/ftp/pub/cir/www/ma32c.html), though the 1998 figures had not yet appeared by press time.

The refractories community-including manufacturers, consumers, contractors, suppliers and others-will continue to expand its use of the Internet and gain more benefits. Some companies (and their website designers) will maximize the practical and commercial role of their websites, taking full advantage of the global extent of the Internet. Likewise, other websites can be expected to appear that will provide needed education, aid in comparison and selection of refractories, allow sharing of field experiences, contribute to improved lining design capabilities, aid in the advancement of refractories technology, and provide many other practical benefits.

For example, an independently monitored website seems to be needed, where lining designers and contractors can compare and obtain specific refractory properties from a continually updated compilation, rather than using generic values that appear in books or materials compilations, e.g., for "refractory brick" or "concrete."

The author welcomes any comments regarding your use of the Internet for work, websites that are needed, and any favorite refractory-related web sites.

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