Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Really Slick S****

Scientist at DOE's Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, have found a material that is very hard and slicker than teflon by a factor of 2.5X.

A superhard substance that is more slippery than Teflon could protect mechanical parts from wear and tear, and boost energy efficiency by reducing friction.

The "ceramic alloy" is created by combining a metal alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2). It is the hardest material after diamond and cubic boron nitride.

BAM, as the material is called, was discovered at the US Department of Energy Ames Laboratory in Iowa in 199, during attempts to develop a substance to generate electricity when heated.
I think they mean 1999.
Those chance findings have now developed into a $3-million programme at the Ames Lab to develop the BAM into a kind of eternal lubricant, a coating for moving parts to boost energy efficiency and longevity by reducing friction.

BAM is much slipperier than Teflon, with a coefficient of friction of .02 compared to .05. Lubricated steel has a friction coefficient of 0.16.

One way to exploit this slipperiness is to coat the rotor blades in everyday pumps used in everything from heating systems to aircraft, says Russel. A slick BAM coating of just 2 microns could reduce friction between the blades and their housing, meaning less power is needed to produce the same pumping power.

Bruce Cook, lead investigator on the Ames Lab project, estimates that merely coating rotors with the material could save US industry alone 330 trillion kilojoules (9 billion kilowatt hours) every year by 2030 - about $179 million a year.

BAM is also potentially attractive as a hard coating for drill bits and other cutting tools. Diamond is commonly used for this, and is harder, but it reacts chemically with steel and so degrades relatively quickly when used to cut the metal.
Ultimately it would mean multi-billion dollar savings per year. Think of what it would mean to reduce friction in automotive bearings by a factor of 8 and in addition eliminate the need for oil changes. Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get us from here to there.

One of the things this article points out is that you never know what you will find when you start looking - if you are paying attention.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


ZenDraken said...

There is a lot of astonishing new tech out there bubbling away in labs, just on the verge of bursting forth. (Polywell, anyone?)

This gives me cause for optimism in spite of all the doom and gloom floating around. The means to do great things are within our grasp.

EIA said...

Yes. But what about the replacing teflon in it's primary (or at least most visible) usage ... i.e. non-stick cookware?

I might want that, if the price is right - I am sick of how quickly teflon cookware wears out due to accidental scratches or overheating.

LarryD said...

According to the article, BAM is the third hardest material known. So, yeah, it should be applicable to problem of creating a non-stick finish on cookware.

I've gone back to the old solution - cast iron.

rumcrook said...

I wanna bam my rifle

adolfo said...

Some very hard materials have been made at lower pressures, but to make bulk amounts normally requires extremely high pressure. The reason is that superhard materials are usually very dense - to increase the density you need to squash it until it changes phase into one that's stable.

LarryD said...

They can deposit it from a plasma.
Fortunately, the BAM material is amenable to application as a hard, wear-resistant coating. Working with ISU materials scientist Alan Constant, the team is using a technique called pulsed laser deposition to deposit a thin layer of the alloy on hydraulic pump vanes and tungsten carbide cutting tools. Cook is working with Eaton Corporation, a leading manufacturer of fluid power equipment, using another, more commercial-scale technique known as magnetron sputtering to lay down a wear-resistant coating.