Metal analyzer improves strength of metals and safety of troops

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On October 10, 2008

Steel castings used in critical military applications can now be quickly analyzed to help improve the metal’s strength and performance thanks to researchers at Missouri S&T. The university recently purchased a metal analyzer that tests for non-metallic particles, called inclusions. Inclusions can reduce the durability of a metal part, which could lead to a shortened part lifespan in critical components, such as armor and canons.

“This equipment enables us to quickly locate and summarize the size, shape and chemical content of any inclusions in metal samples,” says Kent Peaslee, F. Kenneth Iverson Steelmaking Professor of materials science and engineering. “We can now do a more thorough and accurate analysis in 30 minutes with this new equipment than we were able to do before in a week.”

Missouri S&T researchers use the Aspex Pica-1020 (Particle Identification and Characterization Analyzer) to scan and analyze steel samples to locate inclusions and discover their number, shape, size and composition. Researchers then work to minimize inclusions to improve metal durability and reduce the risk of fractures and component failure.
“Fractures start at small defects, such as inclusions. As they spread through the part, they can lead to failure which could be catastrophic, depending on the application,” says Peaslee. “By controlling inclusions, fractures originating on them will decrease, resulting in fewer problems in the field.”

A grant titled “Inclusion Characterization System for Materials Improvement” for $100,000 from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Acquisition Center allowed S&T to purchase the analyzer.
“This is a new application for this type of analyzer,” says Peaslee. “It was first used in crime investigations to test for gun residue. The military uses it to test particles in jet engine oil for any engine breakdown. This is the first time it has been used for improving the quality of steel components for military applications.”

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On October 10, 2008. Posted in Materials Science and Engineering, Research, Top Headlines