A groundbreaking innovation has just arrived on the frontier of heat treating and it’s called nanoparticles. Professor Xiaochun Li at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, has just discovered a way to utilize nanomaterials to improve metal castings.
The invention of nanotechnology has opened a floodgate of ideas to improve a plethora of products as well as improve the manufacturing process itself. The improvements that nanotechnology can offer are limitless and have even been explored in recent sci-fi blockbuster movie GI Joe and TV show Revolution. A nanoparticle is thousands of times smaller than bacteria, measuring in at a mere 1 millionth of a meter. This is the difference between the size of Earth and a red grape.
Until just recently, the idea of nanoparticles and nanomaterial infusion was believed to be a dead end. Previous testing and studies had shown that the nanoparticles were too difficult to keep in their dispersed positions. Prof. Li discovered that applying ultrasonic waves to the cooling strands was the key to avoiding unwanted fusion between particles. The results were amazing! Benefits from incorporating nanoparticles include 100-120% increase in metal strength and a much faster manufacturing time than the traditional heat treating methods of metal casting. Faster heat treating times also translate to lower manufacturing costs for companies and lower prices for you and I.
What can nanoparticles do for you? The best part about nanoparticle metal casting is that every industry can profit from its benefits. Metals like aluminum and magnesium that require lengthy heat treating processes for strengthening can now be treated in almost half of the time and can become stronger and lighter than ever before. The obvious applications would be for the transportation industry so they can build faster and lighter vehicles. However, the applications are endless for the aerospace field, movie set manufacturing, military transport vehicles, computer manufacturing, and even for the production of sporting goods like fishing poles. Any industry that works with lightweight metals will be able to create stronger and better products in less time.
As with any new technology, the question manufacturers now face is how they can start using nanomaterials in their products. In order to utilize nanomaterials, companies will have to refurbish their industrial ovens or buy new heat treating equipment. Knowing that the initial investment will be deterrent for manufacturers, Professor Li has turned her focus to making nano technology a cost effective option for even the smallest mom and pop shops. With a 2015 as the goal date for industrial applications, nanoparticle technology could be here tomorrow.