Titanium

Engineers have produced a new nickel, copper and titanium “memory” alloy that that springs back into shape even after it is bent more than 10 million times.

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The journal Science reported that the new shape memory alloy shatters previous records for bending and is so resilient it could be useful in artificial heart valves, aircraft components or a new generation of solid-state refrigerators.

SMA_550

Shape memory alloy photo courtesy of Rodrigo De Miranda/University of Kiel.

shape memory alloys (SMAs) are already used in surgical operations and other applications. A stent, for example, might be squashed into a small space and then spring into its designed shape to prop open a blood vessel.

When SMAs are bent or otherwise structurally deformed, the stress (in the form of heat or electrical current) causes the SMA to spring back to its original design.

Yet, as a technology, the alloys have never entirely fulfilled their promise and entered the world of “high-cycle fatigue” applications.

“Usually shape memory alloys – like in minimally invasive surgery – they regain their shape once, or a few times, but not multiple times,” said Prof. Manfred Wuttig who developed the new alloy at the University of Kiel along, in Germany, along with colleagues from the University of Maryland. He is one of the paper’s senior authors and told the BBC. “This is highly unusual. It’s kind of a leap forward.”

The nickel, titanium and copper atoms are arranged in such a way that they can switch between two different configurations. This “phase transition” is what allows the alloy to snap back into shape after it has been bent. It can be triggered by heat, the metal can stay in a bent position when cold, or, in a different form of the alloy, it can happen as soon as tension is released.

The researchers’ paper in Science describes how, by embedding tiny impurity particles made from titanium-copper, SMAs can withstand deformation and re-formation up to 10 million times. This could open up SMAs for use in such high-cycle applications as refrigerator compressors and aircraft parts as well as more delicate surgical uses.

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An exciting development in the UK heralds more widespread adoption of additive layer manufacturing, or 3D printing, from titanium powder far beyond its current limited use in the aerospace industry.

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The UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) has agreed to invest £1.5 million ($2.3 million) in a collaborative R&D project, led by GKN Aerospace and Metalysis, the specialist metals technology company with partners Phoenix Scientific Industries Ltd. and The University of Leeds to develop the use of Metalysis’ high quality, low-cost titanium powder for use in aerospace additive manufacturing for the first time with a commercial partner.

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Alcoa’s latest move, as reported earlier in MetalMiner, to acquire, Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals Inc., in a $1.5 billion stock for stock deal is a logical and sound strategic move, building on the aluminum producer’s long-term plan to invest in downstream, value-added activities and gradually move away from the lower-return primary smelting business.

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Alcoa has invested heavily in new production facilities to meet an inexorable rise in demand for automotive sheet and to capitalize on it’s position as a major player in the equally buoyant aerospace sector.

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Indian Rare Earths Limited operates under India’s Department of Atomic Energy. When complete, the new $82 million titanium plant joint venture with India’s NALCO (National Aluminum Company) will make 100,000 tons (1 lakh ton) of titanium slag in the eastern state of Odisha. Some of it will also be used to make pig-iron. A feasibility study and technology selection on the project will soon be carried out.

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Incidentally, the MoU for formation of the joint-venture was signed between the two state-owned entities about three years ago but was revalidated last week. No explanation was forthcoming for the delay.

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India’s state-owned National Aluminum Co Ltd (NALCO) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with another public sector company, Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL), to jointly set up a titanium slag plant.

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That could be good news for India’s space program. Why? The project envisages adding value to Ilmenite, a titanium-iron oxide mineral, to produce the slag.

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The deadlock between Ukraine ­and Russia ­– particularly over Crimea, the current battleground where the US and the EU have joined the fray – got us thinking, “Man, there must be some massive supply chain implications here.” And there definitely are – for pricing, availability, lead times across a broad range of commodities, parts, components […]

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From fake knees to models of the Sagrada Familia, 3D printing and additive manufacturing have seemingly taken the industrial world by storm. Or at least that’s what the industry would like potential customers and users to think – which is what’s worried the industrial manufacturing sector the past couple years. However, MetalMiner is happy to […]

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India has taken another step in the production of titanium sponge when the well-known public sector steel producer, the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), signed an agreement with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corp (KSIDC) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd (KMML) to jointly set up an approximately US $458 million plant to produce […]

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The Economist covered an industrial development in a recent article entitled “A Tantalising Prospect” that would catch the eye of anyone remotely interested in the metal industry. The process described effectively allows the reduction of high-melting-point metal ores such as titanium, tantalum, and potentially other expensive metallic elements including neodymium, tungsten and vanadium, from the […]

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MetalMiner (and our parent organization, Azul Partners) has been quietly building up a cool business the past few years. The only thing increasing faster at the moment than our revenue and cross-site traffic — we’re currently up to nearly 100,000 unique visitors and over 300,000 visits per month across our four sites — is the […]

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