SBIR Phase II: Ultra High Temperature Microwave Processing of Ceramics

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1127538
Agency Tracking Number: 1127538
Amount: $499,857.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2012
Solicitation Year: 2012
Solicitation Topic Code: NM
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
105 Jordan Road, Troy, NY, 12180-0000
DUNS: 003026353
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Holly Shulman
 (518) 283-7733
Business Contact
 Holly Shulman
Phone: (518) 283-7733
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project addresses the need for breakthrough technologies in the production of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics, including nanograin structures, with improved performance-to-cost ratio. UHT ceramics are often challenging to densify. The development of UHT microwave assist technology (MAT) furnaces will dramatically improve the commercial applicability of UHT ceramic products through lower temperature densification and faster heating cycles. MAT, the combination of microwaves with radiant heat, is proven to enhance diffusion, leading to finer grained microstructures. This project will extend the use of MAT to temperatures above 1700 deg. C, into the range of sintering temperatures for UHT ceramics. A prototype UHT MAT furnace will be designed and built, capitalizing upon in-house MAT system design expertise and research results from Phase I. Proprietary MAT-modeling software will assist with optimizing furnace design and process efficiency. Selected UHT ceramics will be studied to demonstrate sintering with the prototype. Three current industrial UHT ceramic manufacturers, who expressed strong interest in using MAT for sintering products, will collaborate on the project. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes performance enhancements at reduced processing costs, and growth in the use of ultrahigh temperature (UHT) ceramics. Expanded uptake of UHT ceramics will benefit a wide array of manufactured products in electronics, automotive, and aerospace applications. The process of sintering UHT ceramics is extremely energy-intensive. UHT microwave-assist technology (MAT) processing will reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions by 50-80% for UHT ceramic production. This process may replace pressure-assisted methods, by combining MAT with techniques such as variable rate sintering. MAT may also decrease the use of sintering aids to improve erosion and wear resistance, and high-temperature strength. This faster process enables just-in-time manufacture and enhances competition with respect to foreign competitors. Finally, the UHT MAT furnace technology will lead to new and value-added products, through property improvements from finer grain sizes and cost reduction. This will position American manufacturers for new revenue opportunities and job growth.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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