It’s not quite made to help a su­per­hero, but Texas re­searcher’s new al­loy comes close

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - INSCIENCE - By Tri­bune News Ser­vice

DAL­LAS — Four times stronger than stain­less steel, a unique al­loy blends chromium, cobalt, iron, man­ganese and sil­i­con.

It’s not Black Pan­ther’s vi­bra­nium or Wolver­ine’s adaman­tium claws, but a new al­loy de­signed by a Univer­sity of North Texas re­searcher has come pretty close.

Re­searcher Saurabh Nene has been work­ing with UNT’s Col­lege of Engi­neer­ing De­part­ment of Ma­te­ri­als Science and Engi­neer­ing to mix and flow ma­te­rial si­mul­ta­ne­ously, giv­ing the al­loy new strength.

The al­loy, which has no catchy name like its fic­tional coun­ter­parts, is cre­ated by melt­ing and cast­ing the ma­te­ri­als, then tak­ing the thin, flat mold to start “fric­tion stir­ring,” Nene said.

Nene, who has been work­ing on this piece of re­search for eight months, said the process in­tensely de­forms the metal’s makeup by forcibly in­sert­ing a ro­tat­ing tool into the cold metal.

“When you in­sert the tool in the metal, it gen­er­ates fric­tional heat,” Nene said “When you move the tool ahead, it starts mix­ing the metal. The mix­ing and flow of the metal cre­ates an in­tense de­for­ma­tion.”

The only prob­lem with us­ing Nene’s al­loys com­mer­cially is the cost. While he said he could not es­ti­mate that ex­actly, he is try­ing to change the chem­istry of the al­loy to re­place the cobalt el­e­ment. For ref­er­ence, cobalt costs $78,500 per ton. Iron costs $65.

“We are still try­ing to look for a good sub­sti­tute that is not costly but can have the same re­sult,” Nene said. “The main goal is to main­tain the prop­er­ties.”

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