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Making Practical Use of Electromagnetic Fields in Materials Processing and Applications


OBJECTIVE: Develop predictive computational models/tools to exploit the effect of electromagnetic fields in materials processing that enables tailored polycrystalline microstructures, enhanced properties, and shortened materials development cycles beyond the current state-of-the-art. DESCRIPTION: The Army is interested in applying external physics-based fields during the processing of materials to develop enhanced properties and performance that is otherwise unachievable by conventional processing methods. The use of electromagnetic (EM) fields in materials processing and in controlling properties during their application has the potential to increase affordably, engender materials with unique properties, and to produce a specific property over the duration of field application (i.e., property selection on demand). The targeted physical and mechanical properties identified for enhancement may include but should not be limited to strength, hardness, fracture toughness, elastic modulus, or fatigue life. While numerous field-assisted methods have been experimentally explored over the years, the ability to simulate the effect that these fields have on the microstructure and, in turn, the properties and performance are not as prevalent. In order for computational methods to succeed in this endeavor, they must be able to capture the fundamental physics associated with how these field effects couple to, interact with, and affect the underlying microstructure and, hence, the resultant properties of the material. The goal of this SBIR is to develop the computational framework, models, and tools necessary to predict behavior under field effects and to design new materials using field effects with properties that are otherwise not achievable using conventional processing techniques. Of particular interest in this SBIR is utilizing electromagnetic fields to engineer the microstructure and properties of polycrystalline metals for defense-related applications. The polycrystalline materials targeted for this work include conventional aluminum, copper, iron, tungsten, titanium, or magnesium alloys. The processing applications of interest for these models, with and without electromagnetic fields, include heat treatment and annealing of conventional metal alloys; electrodeposition, mechanical milling, or nanocrystallization processes for generating ultrafine grained and nanocrystalline materials; relieving residual stresses imposed during processing; surface mechanical attrition treatment (SMAT) techniques, shot peening, burnishing, etc. Previous literature has focused on how electromagnetic fields have been used to exert influence on metallurgical phenomena, such as grain boundary migration, grain boundary segregation, formation of texture, recrystallization, precipitation, phase transformation and sintering. For example, high magnetic fields have been used to both suppress abnormal grain growth and engineer the grain boundary character distribution of polycrystals. PHASE I: The goal of Phase I is to develop a physics-based computational model that can predict the evolution of microstructure and properties under intense electromagnetic fields during material processing. This model will be used to develop novel materials with tailored microstructures and properties to address Army materials needs or goals. The deliverables for Phase I are (1) a validated computational model that is capable of predicting the effect of electromagnetic fields and resulting changes in processing path on material properties, (2) the data created or used to validate this model, and (3) a physical example of applying this model to a material system demonstrating a quantifiable change in properties of the selected material system. Execute a strategy that incorporates materials of interest and process-specific technologies while providing self-identified and challenging but achievable goals that target Army interests. PHASE II: The goal of Phase II is to provide additional research and development of methodologies that will culminate in a validated software tool for predicting microstructure and properties in multiple alloy systems that meet or exceed current/future Army materials criteria. In this phase, it is envisioned that the computational models will be further extended by validating for multiple alloy systems of interest, performing parameter sensitivity studies and uncertainty analysis for the model, and utilizing within a robust design optimization framework with uncertainty to obtain optimal processing paths with electromagnetic fields in an effort to target different customized microstructures and material property specifications. The computational model should be packaged as software or as optional add-on modules in existing commercial software products. PHASE III: The goal of Phase III is to commercialize the developed capability for tailoring microstructures and properties subjected to intense electromagnetic fields. This phase should clearly demonstrate the return on investment from utilizing the developed computational capability to achieve/improve material properties. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: The underlying technology(ies) associated with this topic are broadly applicable to all materials that require thermal processing and are physically receptive to electromagnetic fields. The potential advantages of the processing technology, including energy savings, properties control and tailoring, and small volume production are equally valuable to both commercial and defense manufacture. Virtually all metals and many ceramics industries, even commodity industries, as well as commercial and defense aerospace, automotive, and ship industries could benefit.
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