Researchers using advanced electron microscopes and supercomputer models have discovered a way to potentially develop more powerful, environmentally friendly engines for transportation and power generation.
More specifically, Ohio State University researchers have found a way to prevent defects called “nano twins” from forming in superalloys that are used in jet engines, according to a recent university press release.
Nano twins are microscopic defects that grow inside alloy under heat and pressure, which causes the alloys to deform and weaken. Ohio State materials science and engineering professor Michael Mills said increasing concentrates of certain elements in superalloys stops the formation of the nano twins at high temperatures, which makes the alloys stronger.
Stronger, more heat-resistant alloys enable turbine engines to run cleanly and efficiently, he said in the release.
The researchers made the discovery by studying the formation of nano twins in two different commercial superalloys using advanced electron microscopes and computing models. As part of their research, they used computing resources at the Ohio Supercomputer Center, which is home to three Intel Xeon-based supercomputers.
During their research, they found that the first superalloy with cobalt and chromium formed nano twins. But the second superalloy with titanium, tantalum and niobium resisted the formation of nano twins, the release said.
“We discovered that when the amount of titanium, tantalum and niobium in the alloy was increased, while decreasing cobalt and chromium, we could actually strengthen the region around the faults and prevent the fault from widening into a nano twin,” said Timothy Smith, a former Ohio State student and lead author of a study that was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
According to the press release, their findings could speed the development of more powerful and environmentally friendly turbine engines that are used for transportation and power generation.