Developing New Alloys and Processes for Transportation, Infrastructure, Electronics & Biomedical Applications
Using state-of-the-art facilities, we are developing new types of alloys with outstanding properties for various applications of direct benefit to society. All projects involve the production all our own materials either at UNSW or in our industry partners’ labs. These materials are produced by standard methods (such as casting & thermomechanical processing) through to more advanced methods of direct strip casting, spark plasma sintering, thin film deposition and 3D laser printing (additive manufacturing) for generating as-cast, thermomechanical processed, near-net-shape, and net-shape final products.
Various advanced processing and characterization techniques are available for understanding the structure and properties including, for example, Gleeble 3500 TMP simulator, melt spinner, arc melters, 3D printers, hot & cold rolling mills, twin roll strip caster, magnetron sputtering, spark plasma sintering, scanning electron & transmission electron microscopy, focused ion beam microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and X-ray diffraction etc. Some examples of our current projects are highlighted below:
Design of ultra-lightweight alloys
Our recently discovered ultra-light magnesium alloys are not only exceptionally strong and ductile, but corrosion resistant. As such, this new class of ‘stainless’ magnesium alloy has generated considerable interest for use in the automotive, aerospace, biomedical, sporting and electronic goods sectors. We are unravelling the reasons for the corrosion resistance of these alloys, why they are both strong and ductile, and how we can further improve their properties. The latter involves alloy design strategies for creating new compositions through to advanced structural characterization for understanding their unique structures and properties.
Agile manufacturing routes for creating novel alloy structures
Advanced materials are vitally important, but it is often the actual processing method that generates the novel structure/property combinations. We are working on innovative manufacturing/processing routes for generating near-net-shape and net-shape final products exhibiting unique structures and properties. These processing routes are very versatile and generally classed as ‘green-processes’ due to their minimal impact on the environment. We are focusing on methods such as thin film deposition, die casting, direct strip casting and additive manufacturing for generating new types of alloys without the need for major further processing. Materials of interest include advanced structural steels, aluminium, magnesium, copper & titanium alloys and new classes of high entropy alloys.
Design of implantable biomedical alloys
We are developing new glassy alloys and crystalline high entropy alloys that are as strong as steel but also biocompatible with the human body. Some can also be formed like a thermoplastic polymer into the desired shape by the surgeon followed by implanting. The novelty lies in the ability to tailor an alloy’s composition for creating either bio-inert or biodegradable alloys. The latter are particularly useful as bone fixation devices as they degrade gradually without trace, thereby eliminating the need for further intrusive surgery to remove the material once the bone is healed.