Understanding material needs

An effort is underway at the Materials Preparation Centre; part of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, to better understand the role processing has in a material’s final specific properties.

Scientists hope the effort will enable them to develop techniques for making advanced materials and for optimising existing materials.

The Process Science Initiative offers competitive funding for research projects that either improve fundamental understanding of the processing techniques for existing materials or explore techniques for producing novel materials.

PSI program manager Brian Gleeson said it’s critical that scientists understand what happens to a material when it goes from a liquid state to a solid state because most metals and alloys are made of tiny crystals.

The way in which the liquid crystallises to form the microstructure of the solid determines the material’s properties, such as its strength and formability. Subsequent secondary processing, such as rolling or extruding, also affects a material’s properties.

‘In much of the recent research, we’ve focused heavily on the properties of materials without really understanding how we arrived at, or can control, the microstructure,’ said Gleeson.

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