By Cameron Chai
Abakan’s company, Powdermet has reported significant developments in the commercialization of MComP nanocomposite metals and become a part of a joint venture development team, consisting of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Eck Industries and Oshkosh, to advance nanostructured high-strength light-weight metals.
Powdermet has achieved a 30% to 50% improvement in the ductility of its MComP micro-nanocomposite aluminum alloys when compared to that of advanced high-strength aluminum alloys, which include aluminum lithium. A novel powder metallurgy technique developed by Powdermet enables the retention of ductile reinforcing phases and nanocrystallites throughout the powder extrusion or forging process, thus producing high-strength aluminum materials that require minimal machining.
Powdermet’s forged nanocomposite aluminum materials demonstrate a tensile strength of 50-72 ksi and ductility as high as 16% when compared to 50-70 ksi strength and 12% ductility of aluminum lithium alloys. The nanocomposite materials have also demonstrated tensile strengths as high as 200 ksi with ductility of 1% to 2%. The objectives of the MComP product development are to fabricate aluminum alloys with a strength of 100 ksi and ductility of over 8% without utilizing high-cost rare earth metals and demonstrate thick cross-section component production utilizing Powdermet’s small footprint 5,000 t press and deformation processing equipment. The National Science Foundation and the US Army are also part of this development.
The joint venture development team with the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the project leader will design and fabricate high-strength, lightweight aluminum and magnesium structural components by producing ultra-light weight aluminum materials having the strength of steel. One of the objectives of this joint venture is to reduce the cost of these ultra-light weight materials and make them to be used in the fabrication of larger, intricate metal castings, thus enabling their wider adoption. According to the university lab tests, addition of nanoparticles improves the aluminum alloy performance at a cost lower than through the addition of rare earth metals. However, homogenous dispersion of nanoparticles is very difficult to achieve due to their small size. Powdermet’s expertise and capabilities will be helpful in addressing the challenge in the homogenous dispersion of nanoparticles throughout a billet or casting.