Stainless steel

QinetiQ Nanomaterials Limited (QNL) has developed of Tesimorph ES-25 – an experimental magnetic stainless steel material with a particle size of 25 nanometres – many times smaller than anything currently available.

The result of QNL’s experimental work on alloyed and structured metal nanoparticles, this production breakthrough is particularly applicable to applications like metal injection moulding where smoother flows and therefore finer component detail can be achieved.

Conventional process methods for other steel powders tend to produce relatively large, micron size particles. The Tesima process can produce commercial quantities of nano size particles, opening up a wide range of potential applications for stainless steel nanopowder for the first time.

“We have always known that the Tesima process has great flexibility and a far greater range of capability than the manufacture of basic metal and oxide nanopowders,” explains Dr. Paul Reip, Managing Director of QNL.

“This latest development is part of our ongoing work on complex and modified nanomaterials under the Tesimorph brand. We are in the early stages of creating a diverse range of complex and structured materials, including alloys that for the first time can be made at the nano scale. Potential applications for Tesimorph ES-25 and related nanomaterials include metal injection moulding, ultra fine filters, coatings and security features.”

He continues: “Having initially developed a range of generic compounds and basic metals we started to look at more complicated advanced materials. Such materials can combine a number of different functionalities at the nano scale and some of the most difficult nanomaterials to produce are alloys. Tesimorph ES-25 is our first move into this area and we believe that it will be the first of a family of such materials, from steels to new materials such as shape memory alloys.”

QNL Commercial Director Dr Mike Pitkethly adds: “We have now reached a point where we are actively seeking industrial partners to further develop this family of metallic Tesimorph nanomaterials and bring them to market. The key issue is always the need to scale up the manufacture. The Tesima process can be scaled to produce consistent and reproducible product and is an excellent match for large scale industrial development.”

QNL develops bespoke metal, oxide, carbide and nitride nanopowders in the 20nm to 100nm particle size range for specific customer applications using its patented Tesima process. The process is continuous, allowing extended operation and is scaleable so that quantities from kilogrammes to tonnes are possible.

By incorporating materials at the nano scale, different physical properties can be added to existing materials, either improving their functionality or giving them unique properties. Powders are manufactured dry but can also be incorporated into other media, such as liquids or polymers.

Recently developed nanomaterials include: silver, a material with numerous applications, particularly valued for its anti microbial properties; aluminium for energetics and explosive applications; cuprous oxide for anti fungal applications; tungsten carbide for cermets; zinc oxide for UV protection; and cerium oxide for catalysts.

QNL is a wholly owned subsidiary of QinetiQ Group, Europe’s largest research and technology organisation.

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