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New 3D printed superalloy that could cut carbon emissions from power plants developed by researchers

Source:        DateTime:2023.04.07        Hits:

Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories have shown that a new 3D printed superalloy could help power plants generate more electricity while producing less carbon. 

Sandia scientists collaborated with researchers at Ames National Laboratory, Iowa State University, and Bruker Corp. on the project. The high-performance superalloy from the teams contains an ‘unusual composition’, according to the teams, making it stronger than typical materials currently used in has turbine machinery.

The institution said that the experiments showed that the new superalloy - made up of 42% aluminium, 25% titanium, 13% niobium, 8% zirconium, 8% molybdenum, and 4% tantalum - was stronger at 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 degrees Fahrenheit) than many other high-performance alloys, including those currently used in turbine parts. The team also said it was still stronger when it was brought back down to room temperature.

“We’re showing that this material can access previously unobtainable combinations of high strength, low weight and high-temperature resiliency,” said Sandia scientist Andrew Kustas. “We think part of the reason we achieved this is because of the additive manufacturing approach.”

“Electronic structure theory led by Ames Lab was able to provide an understanding of the atomic origins of these useful properties, and we are now in the process of optimising this new class of alloys to address manufacturing and scalability challenges,” said Ames Lab scientist Nic Argibay.

Argibay added that Ames and Sandia are partnering with industry to explore how alloys like this could be used in the automotive industry.

According to Sandia National Laboratories, the findings could have broad impacts across the energy sector as well as the aerospace and automotive industries, and hints at a new class of similar alloys waiting to be discovered. Sandia says that the superalloy development represents a ‘fundamental shift’ in alloy development as no single material makes up more than half the material. By comparison, steel is around 98% iron combined with carbon, among other elements.

Kustas added: “Iron and a pinch of carbon changed the world. We have a lot of examples of where we have combined two or three elements to make a useful engineering alloy. Now, we’re starting to go four or five beyond within a single material. And that’s when it really starts to get interesting and challenging from materials science and metallurgical perspectives.”

Sandia states that moving forward, the research team is interested in exploring whether advanced computer modelling techniques could help researchers discover more members of what could be a new class of high-performance additive manufacturing-forward superalloys.

“These are extremely complex mixtures,” said Sandia scientist Michael Chandross, specialist in atomic-scale computer modelling. “All these metals interact at the microscopic, even the atomic, level, and it’s those interactions that really determine how strong a metal is, how malleable it is, what its melting point will be and so forth. Our model takes a lot of the guesswork out of metallurgy because it can calculate all that and enable us to predict the performance of a new material before we fabricate it.”