Ohio State University engineers have succeeded at developing a new technique for welding metals that could be used for vehicle’s body in the near future and these metals are much stronger and use less energy.
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In fact, the process for welding the metal consumes 80% less energy and yet produced a 50% stronger result.
Since the auto industry requires stronger but lighter metals that will not prove too heavy for the vehicle to drag, the newly developed steel by the OSU engineers could prove invaluable to the auto industry very soon.
Traditional steel manufacturers already know that several metals are unweldable because high heat and re-solidication weakens them, but the new technique for welding does not have this problem.
“Materials have gotten stronger, but welds haven’t. We can design metals with intricate microstructures, but we destroy the microstructure when we weld,” said Glenn Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at OSU. “With our method, materials are shaped and bonded together at the same time, and they actually get stronger.”
Daehn went into the dynamics of the new welding process in a speech he gave at the Materials Science and Technology 2015 summit in Columbus recently. Meanwhile, the annual meeting is organized by the American Ceramic Society, Association for Iron and Steel Technology, ASM International, and the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society.
Normally, traditional metal manufacturers use resistance spot welding technique which passes high power current through a metal in order to cause the natural properties of the metal to create heat that will melt it before welding itself. But the main problems of this is that it requires a large amount of energy to generate the power currents, and the portion that is melted does not become as strong as it was before it was welded.
In a study funded by the Department of Energy of OSU State and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Daehn’s team developed the vaporized foil actuator (VFA) welding, where a powerful capacity bank produces a short electrical pulse within an aluminum foil. The foil then vaporizes within microseconds and a plume of hot gas forces the two metals together within a short moment.
Since the steel would not melt, no metal that is weakened is in between them; rather, the speed at which they come together bonds one atom of one metal to that of another. Meanwhile, not much energy is used up because the electrical pulse is very short, and the level of power needed to vaporize the foil is not up to what is needed to melt metal parts.
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Through this technique, the researchers have bonded copper, aluminum, magnesium, iron, nickel, titanium; and bonded commercial steel and aluminum alloys among other base metals. The OSU Technology Commercialization Office is licensing the technology, and Daehn together with his team look forward to collaborate with auto makers in this aspect.