14 September 2011
CLEVELAND–Where’s a lot of electronics innovation coming from today? Mining. Really.
There has been considerable discussion in the past couple of years about minerals, especially rare earth elements that are often hard to extract or exist in places where it helps to have a vast army to protect you.
Beryllium isn’t considered a rare earth material, but is closely associated with them and is no less crucial to leading electronics design these days.
Just ask Materion Corp., which got its start in the mining business 80 years ago and just happens to own one of only two major beryllium mines in the world. Materion’s is in Utah; the other in Russia. (Never heard of Materion? Neither had we: it rebranded in early 2011 after 80 years as Brush Engineered Materials; see the second video for an explanation).
You could call beryllium the wing-man element because it makes other materials better by association. Its properties include high thermal connectivity and rigidity. It can be used on crucial points in a lead that is, for example, made of less-expensive copper. The contact point can be much smaller than the overall quantity of copper, but it’s important that the contact have some small portion of beryllium for ruggedness, for example.
“You don’t need a lot of it to make a big impact,” said Jason Maher, Materion marketing director for strip and wire products.
We invited Maher and Michael Gedeon, technical services manager, to talk about the high-tech blending that goes into materials to suit different applications and thermal and conductivity requirements (and then about Materion itself, see second video).
They responded by picking as a neat location the automotive museum at the Case Western Reserve Historical Society here, which hosts one of the largest collection of cars in the country. Our timing was excellent: they closed the facility for renovations just a few days later.
Mining one’s own business
What’s in a name (change)?