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Cool it, quick: Rapid cooling leads to stronger alloys

Researchers reveal a new technique to produce high strength metallic alloys, at a lower cost using less energy

A team of researchers from the University of Rostock in Germany has developed a new way to rapidly produce high strength metallic alloys, at a lower cost using less energy than before. It's expected that this breakthrough will profoundly change how we produce components used in a diverse range of applications; including transport and medical devices.

The research, which appears in the latest issue of the open access journal Materials Today, reports on the first Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) system with an integrated gas quenching mechanism, capable of alternating the phase compositions and retaining the smallest grain features inside a structured metallic alloy.

SPS is a technique used to fuse fine powders into a dense solid material, by placing powder into a mold (or die) and simultaneously applying pulses of electric current and mechanical pressure to it. By varying SPS cooling rates, it is possible to control the phase and grain sizes in a material, and so, to tune its mechanical properties. In their study, the team of researchers led by Dr. Eberhard Burkel, a Professor of Physics of New Materials, demonstrated that rapidly cooling a material directly after SPS fabrication can produce a material with enhanced hardness, strength and ductility.

The new rapid cooling SPS system is based on a commercially available design, modified to include a series of gas inlet nozzles. After sintering, most SPS systems are left to cool naturally, or are flooded with argon gas. The system blasts nitrogen gas into the chamber at high speeds, rapidly cooling the material.

To demonstrate the utility of the system, Grade 5 Titanium (Ti-6Al-4V) – known as the "workhorse" of the titanium industry – was produced at different cooling rates. The most-rapidly cooled alloy was found to be up to 12% harder than the naturally-cooled alloy, and with an improved ductility up to 34±3%. Ti-6Al-4V is the most common titanium alloy in use worldwide, with applications in the aerospace, biomedical and marine industries.

In their article the researchers explain, "This high-ductile alloy offers unprecedented opportunities for the easy manufacturing of complex shapes for biomedical and new engineering applications."

First author of the study, Dr. Faming Zhang, said "The system will play a major role in the production of novel materials, from metals, alloys, metal matrix composites to micro- and nanostructured semiconductors."

Notes for Editors

This article is "The potential of rapid cooling spark plasma sintering for metallic materials" by Faming Zhang, Michael Reich, Olaf Kessler and Eberhard Burkel. It appears in Materials Today, Volume 16, Issue 5, Page 192-197 (2013) published by Elsevier. Full text of the article is freely available from here. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Dr. Stewart Bland at +44 1865 84 3124 or

About Materials Today

Materials Today is the Gateway to Materials Science and home of the Open Access Journal of the same name. The journal publishes peer-refereed review and research articles that assess the latest findings and examine the future challenges, as well as comment and opinion pieces from leading scientists discussing issues at the forefront of materials science. Visit for access. Materials Today also publishes news, interviews, educational webinars, jobs and events; and provides free access to a range of specially selected articles from Elsevier's materials science journals. For more information on all aspects of Materials Today, including the editorial calendar and advertising options, contact the editor, Dr. Stewart Bland at Follow @MaterialsToday on Twitter; and on Facebook:

About Open Access Publishing at Elsevier

Elsevier has been providing open access publishing options since 2005. Today, researchers can choose to publish in over 1,500 hybrid journals as well as 39 full open access journals and these numbers will continue to grow rapidly. All of Elsevier's open access publications have been peer reviewed, ensuring that the broader community not only reads the latest research but that it is factual, original and of the highest quality and ethical standards. For more information about Elsevier's open access program, visit

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier's online solutions include SciVerse ScienceDirect, SciVerse Scopus, Reaxys, MD Consult and Nursing Consult, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite and MEDai's Pinpoint Review, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world-leading publisher and information provider, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Stewart Bland | EurekAlert!
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