New way to make lighter, stronger steel in a flashJune 10th, 2011 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, June 10 (IANS) A Detroit entrepreneur surprised university engineers here recently when he invented a heat-treatment that makes steel seven percent stronger than any steel on record - all in less than 10 seconds.
In fact, the steel, now trademarked as Flash Bainite, has tested stronger and more shock-absorbing than the most common titanium alloys used by industry.
What they have discovered may hold the key to making cars and military vehicles lighter, stronger, and more fuel-efficient, reports the journal Materials Science and Technology.
Now the entrepreneur is working with researchers at Ohio State University to better understand the science behind the new treatment, called flash processing.
The inventor, Gary Cola, and his Ohio State partners describe how rapidly heating and cooling steel sheets changes the microstructure inside the alloy to make it stronger and less brittle, according to an Ohio statement.
The basic process of heat-treating steel has changed little in the modern age, and engineer Suresh Babu is one of the few researchers worldwide who still study how to tune the properties of steel in detail.
Babu, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, said: “Steel is what we would call a ‘mature technology’. We’d like to think we know mostly everything about it.”
“If someone invented a way to strengthen the strongest steels even a few percent, that would be a big deal. But seven percent? That’s huge.”
Yet, when inventor Gary Cola initially approached him, Babu didn’t know what to think.
“The process that Gary described - it shouldn’t have worked,” he said. “I didn’t believe him. So he took my students and me to Detroit.”
Cola showed them his proprietary lab setup at SFP Works, LLC. where rollers carried steel sheets through flames as hot as 1,100 degrees Celsius and then into a cooling liquid bath.
Though the typical temperature and length of time for hardening varies by industry, most steel types are heat-treated at around 900 degrees for a few hours. Others are heated at similar temperatures for days. Cola’s entire process took less than 10 seconds.
He claimed that the resulting steel was seven percent stronger than martensitic advanced high-strength steel.
Martensitic steel is so named because the internal microstructure is entirely composed of a crystal form called martensite.
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