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If we are dreaming about the great discoveries of the future, new technology solutions, eye‐catching innovations come to mind, but rarely think about the fact that a new material discovery can change our fundamental thinking, but can not even be that far to go: all that, dreaming about a material re‐invention.
The cellular or - in this case ‐ foamed metals are already well known by material developers. One could guess that lighter, more workable and still adequately strong material will mean for one direction of the future developments, but the so‐called fine‐tuning was yet to come. Metal foam‐based materials can play major role in the fields of transportation, household devices and building structural materials. The basic idea is not new, but now a Hungarian research and development team has the opportunity to really make significant progress in research and development of foamy metals.
Funded by the National Development Agency, the Institute of the Bay Zoltán Applied Research Nonprofit Ltd. in Miskolc, Hungary developed production technology, by which the resulting properties of metal foams can more considerably be affected. The new material combines light‐weight of plastics and the strength and fire resistance of metals. ALUHAB is manufactured from a special foamable aluminium alloy containing ultrafine particles. The alloying process applies high temperature nanotechnology for foamable additive (like soap in water) production. Moreover, the foam is produced by applying a so‐called oscillating gas injector (loud‐nozzle) technology, which is able to inject optional‐sized bubbles into the metallic melts.
The most important result of the Hungarian developments is that now submillimeter sized bubbles can be created, in addition a material was developed, which is contrary to recent ones, re‐meltable (remelting does not have any influence on its favourable properties), castable, weldable and workable with by traditional tools. By adjusting the bubble size the resulting material strength, thermal conductivity and sound absorbing capabilities can be set as well.
This is the first metal foaming technology, which provides stable re‐meltable metal foam, which can be casted into complex forms while the material properties do not change. Thus, when ALUHAB once is produced one can transport and re‐melt it at the place of use (for example in a foundry). Thanks to its bulky layer, almost any molded parts can be replaced by it. From its thin foamed sheets any casing part can be produced (e.g, mobile phone enclosure). ALUHAB has high strength (140 MPa bending strength of 1 g/cm3 density casted plate). The high strength of the product is derived from the unique homogeneity of cells and the ultra‐fine stabilizing particles, which has an extra improving effect on mechanical properties.
Dr. Norbert Babcsán (PhD.), head of Department of Materials Development of the research institute, returned back from the MetFoam 2011 conference with the Best Paper Award, which awarded the Hungarian metal foam to golden medalist.
The costs of production technology and the excellent properties make ALUHAB competitive in the application of plastics and light metals. Metal foam pilot production will be started this year through a spin‐off company. We hope that after successful operation the Hungarian technology product will be used in many fields from architecture through engineering and aerospace industry.
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