Researchers Predict, Then Produce Superior Titanium Alloys. (Invent by Number)

By Gorman, J. | Science News, April 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Researchers Predict, Then Produce Superior Titanium Alloys. (Invent by Number)


Gorman, J., Science News


Ingenious people have produced alloys since ancient times. By trial and error, they mixed metals and other elements until the whole came out better than any component alone. In recent years, some scientists have said that alloy development is a mature field with little room for improvement.

This week, however, researchers report a new method for making titanium-based alloys with many qualities far superior to those in any alloy previously known.

The team originally intended to develop materials for automobile parts, says Takashi Saito of Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories in Nagakute, Japan. Instead, he and his coworkers wound up with materials that Saito says are too expensive for mass production in automobiles but have unusual properties suitable for a new generation of precision screws, eyeglass frames, medical devices, sporting goods, and spacecraft parts.

The alloys are strong yet unusually elastic, so they can deform more than other alloys and still return to their original shape. Engineers can also readily mold or bend the materials at room temperature into various shapes, a property called superplasticity.

The materials also possess two characteristics desirable in machine parts that experience wild fluctuations in temperature, such as those in a spacecraft. While most metals expand with any rise in temperature, the new alloys expand very little between -200[degrees]C and 300[degrees]C. Moreover, conventional alloys deform different amounts at different temperatures, but the new materials show about the same deformation whether it's -200[degrees]C or 300[degrees]C. …

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