When machining, most people focus on the part or product they are producing. Purdue professor Srinivasan Chandrasekar and his colleague, Dale Compton, however, find the scrap most interesting. While studying machining processes, the researchers found that the metal chips produced were composed of nano-crystalline structures, which possessed characteristics such as high strength and wear resistance. "After that, we lost all interest in the more complicated processes and concentrated on the residue," Chandrasekar laughs. Typically the chips are collected as scrap, melted down and reused. But melting turns these natural nanocrystals back into ordinary bulk metals, removing their super strength and other unusual properties. "We've known that if a material is deformed beyond recognition, one can create a new stronger material with different characteristics," Chandrasekar continues. The shaving tool applies the correct amount of pressure to deform the metal shaving. He believes that a machining process could be designed to create materials with specific crystal sizes, which could have a number of applications. For example, the shavings could be made into powder and added to other materials to form a new class of composites. Or the powder could be compressed into solid bodies and used to build fuel system components, turbocharger blades, bearings, or gears with better wear resistance than those used today. Nanocrystal materials have long been a pie-in-sky material because they cost about $100 per pound to produce. Chandrasekar expects that, with the new patent pending process, will cost only $1 per pound above the cost of the raw material. For more information, contact either: Srinivasan Chandrasekar at (765) 494-3623, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Dale Compton at (765) 494-0828, email: email@example.com.
The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
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