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Strongest Commercial Titanium Alloy Created

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 09:26AM

When most people think of titanium, I suspect many envision some very strong material that is used in only special situations like airplanes and spacecraft. Actually, titanium on its own is not all that strong and must be made into an alloy to get its amazing strength. Now, thanks to researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, we may see titanium coming to cars because they have developed a new and very strong alloy that is also relatively inexpensive to make.

About fifty years ago, metallurgists discovered titanium could be combined with iron, vanadium, and aluminum to create an alloy called Ti185. This alloy is quite strong, but only in certain places because of how the mixture tends to clump and form defects. Six years ago, PNNL developed a new way to create Ti185 that uses titanium hydride powder instead of molten titanium, and now they have optimized the process to make an even stronger version. This optimization involved carefully examining the placement of the atoms within the alloy after it underwent heat treatment. Heat treatment involves heating a metal up to high temperatures and then rapidly cooling it water, which causes the atoms and molecules to be locked in arrangements they would not normally have. The researchers found that by repeatedly treating the alloy at specific temperatures, they could influence the structure to make the alloy stronger than before, and this whole process is actually fairly inexpensive.

The type of steel used in cars has a tensile strength of 800-900 megapascals, but this optimized Ti185 comes in at nearly 1700 megapascals, so approximately double the tensile strength while being half the weight. While still more expensive than steel, its strength-to-cost ratio makes it more affordable for use in lightweight vehicles, and this research could lead to other alloys that could be cheaper. For example, it might be possible to optimize alloys of aluminum to give them greater strength, while keeping costs and weight in check.



Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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