An improved titanium alloy — stronger than any commercial titanium alloy currently on the market — gets its strength from the novel way atoms are arranged to form a special nanostructure, the researchers noted in their study.
The researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US examined this alignment and then manipulated it to make the strongest titanium alloy ever developed and with a lower cost process to boot.
The note in a paper published in journal Nature Communications said that the material is an excellent candidate for producing lighter vehicle parts, and that this newfound understanding may lead to creation of other high strength alloys.
Researchers used powerful electron microscopes and a unique atom probe imaging approach to examine the structure and once they understood the nanostructure, they created the strongest titanium alloy ever made.
This nanostructure of the alloy would help the auto industry build lighter vehicles that use less fuel and put out less carbon dioxide that contributes to climate warming, the researchers said.
The team optimised the heat-treating process that makes alloy stronger to tailor the nanostructure and achieve very high strength.
“We found that if you heat treat it first with a higher temperature before a low temperature heat treatment step, you could create a titanium alloy 10-15 percent stronger than any commercial titanium alloy currently on the market and that it has roughly double the strength of steel,” Arun Devaraj, a material scientist, said.
“This alloy is still more expensive than steel but with its strength-to-cost ratio, it becomes much more affordable with greater potential for lightweight automotive applications,” Vineet Joshi, a metallurgist, added.