Alchemy, a contested medieval practice often noted for the transformation of common metals into gold, is one of the last influences you would expect to see in the world of engineering. But researchers from the Department of Energy and Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute/SPring-8 are using it to transform cement into metal.
Although not technically alchemy, the team did use liquid cement to transmogrify into a glass-metal hybrid. They did this by using an aerodynamic levitator with laser beam heat to melt mayenite, a calcium aluminum oxide mineral. The hybrid material could possibly be used to create a glass semiconductor for use in your television, computer or other commonly-used devices.
“This new material has lots of applications, including thin-film resistors used in liquid-crystal displays, basically the flat panel computer monitor that you are probably reading this from at the moment,” said Chris Benmore, a physicist from the U.S. Department of Energy. Who knew such archaic concepts (the conversion of common materials into those more desirable) would be used in contemporary technology?