Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No. 235: Method to analyze metal’s microstructure at the atomic level (February 1, 2011)

Kobe Steel developed the method to analyze metal’s microstructure at the atomic level. The microstructure is the decisive factor of metal’s performance. The company modified the state-of-the-art “Three Dimensional Atom Probe” designed to examine the stereoscopic distribution of an atom. It energized a metal after making it needle-shaped and took out layers where atoms line up one by one, and examined the distribution pattern of the arrangement of atoms. The new method makes it possible to measure two million atoms every minute. In the experiment, Kobe Steel examined copper alloy and found that copper alloy for terminals around a vehicle engine has a high degree of heat resistance. The new method clarified that the distribution of nickel atoms and phosphorus atoms matters and that heat resistance improves as the number of clusters of both atoms increases. Currently, a very small amount of nickel, titanium, or vanadium is added to steel and copper to increase the strength and flexibility. Kobe Steel plans to clarify the distribution of elements to develop steel and copper of the same performance with a smaller amount of additives, and subsequently aluminum alloy with a higher degree of bending workability for vehicles.

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