Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fusion Nuclear Reactors

When I attended the Naval Academy many many years ago, there were no electives, only selection of a language. Nuclear engineering was just coming into being.. There was one course and it really consisted of atomic structure because very little else was known..
Didn't pay too much attention to its progress until 1958, when I became employed by Sylvania Corning Nuclear that I became interested in nuclear engineering again. At that time I was hired by the Research Laboratory to work on refractory metal alloys and beryllium that would be part of the first nuclear reactor that would propel an airplane. The feature was that the plane would never have to land, and there would be merely an exchange of crews and supplies. Good idea, except no one considered the weight. When they did and found the idea impractical, I now believed that I was out of a job. Therefore I found employment in the beryllium industry that was also heavily involved in the growing nuclear industry. Not sure that all has been declassified so am not going there.
It was not long after that the concept for a fusion nuclear reactor was conceived. As I recall, Princeton University was active and still is a key player.In a simple sense the concept was to concentrate and accelerate neutrons within a field shaped by super conducting magnets to collide, react and create electrical energy for public consumption. This is a simplistic explanation because I am far from being a nuclear physicist. However I am interested in materials and they have been stumbling blocks to its development.
 I previously discussed Generation IV reactors, which are conceived for introduction between 2020 to 2030. Fusion nuclear reactors are still not conceived to come on stream until 2050.
Reasons for this still evolve around material development. Superconducting magnets are still not advanced as desired to concentrate and accelerate the neutrons.In addition, alloys that stand the elevated temperatures and neutron wall loading are still in the infant stage of development.
MagnaTech believes that we have little to contribute to the development of super conducting magnets. However, we do believe that we can assist in improvement of structural materials required to sustain the harsh environment and conditions imposed by reactions occurring at the walls. The environment consists of complex combinations of high temperature , high stresses, reactive coolants and extensive radiation damage.What this means is that alloys that have strength sufficient at operation at temperatures as high as 500 C at stress levels imposed in a highly reactive corrosive environment are needed. Candidate materials for the structural components include reduced activation ferritic martensitic steels that can be joined to form complex structures.In addition the surface must be resistant to corrosion attack from possible liquid coolants and from radiation degradation. A tall order, but MagnaTech believes that we have technology available that can resolve some of these anticipated problems. Therefore MagnaTech is seeking opportunities to partner with others to advance our concepts to resolve some of the material problems resisting the development of these advanced fusion nuclear reactors. MagnaTech would therefore be delighted to engage in dialogue with other companies that would be interested in advancing this technology.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

More Cncerning Three D Printing

Three-D printing has been making inroads into part manufacturing since the beginning of this century. The impetus for this progress is because we need to make parts faster and cheaper. If only one part of a kind, such as a forging die is needed, now it appears to be that Three-D printing is the way to go. Also, if a complex, thin walled part that is made of expensive material and much waste as chip or scrap is generated  form the part, then again Three-D printing may be the answer. I attended a show in New Jersey last week and  examples of parts were on exhibit that demonstrated both situations discussed above.
However, Three-D printing requires not only a precise computer engineered model to produce a complex part, but  also  either an electron beam or a laser to melt the particles deposited as fine incremental layers that are built to generate the volume of the part desired. These components are expensive and mandatory start-up expenses that cost $600,000 to $1,000,000.
Powders are also expensive in respect to wrought, cast or forged alloys .These powders are mostly gas atomized, requiring protection to minimize surface oxidation. As a result, depending on the powder size distribution required to distribute the thin layers for melting, these powders may cost as much as $100 per pound. Although, there are increasing numbers of gas atomized powder producers, alloy compositions are more limited as opposed to wrought compositions, which are readily available commercially.
Once a decision has been made that the cost and time saved is justified, then production of the part may also yield additional problems. First, thickness of the powder layer and the direction of the laser or electron beam required to melt the powder layer requires careful consideration or else porosity, contamination between layers  or inconsistency in chemistry may result. The part, if used in a critical application where safety and lives are at risk, must satisfy the physical and the mechanical properties of the wrought alloys already satisfying the properties required of the part for performance. In this case, almost a secondary operation, known as hot isostatic pressing is required to assure a pore-free structure. Additional heat treatment may also be necessary to provide a uniform microstructure rather than a non-uniform cast structure. Required properties of existing specifications must be assured.
In addition to the internal core properties, the surface of the part may also require careful consideration and modification. Most parts in service fail either from corrosion, fatigue, impact or wear. Therefore careful consideration of the surface is  required. Three-D parts normally have rough surfaces that require some modification to provide a desired surface finish. In addition, some surface modification may be required to protect the working surface from the environmental factors causing the part to corrode, fatigue, wear or fracture from impact.
As we have described, there is still much work to be accomplished before advanced manufacturing becomes competitive with current processing. However, at least two prime manufactures within the past week have become more committed to continuing development of the current processes. General Electric has a consortium in process whereby they are studying how these processes can be used in their applications, such as turbine engines, windmill construction and other areas as well. An off the road equipment manufacturer has also challenged innovators to come up with ideas that will increase the use of advanced manufacturing processes to reduce cost and time for production for three of the components that are used on their equipment. Yes, there is much interest in advanced manufacturing and MagnaTech believes that we can assist in overcoming currently troubling problems.. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Generation IV Nuclear Reactors

The Department of Energy has recently requested proposals for the development of alloys that will sustain the harsh environment of a nuclear reactor. The reason for this request results from a Nuclear Energy Road Map that was recently presented to Congress for approval. There are many reasons for this program to proceed. Our current reactors are at the limit of their life and extending service is expensive. Current reactor designs have shown that large on-site reactors as replacements cannot possibly compete with low cost, abundant natural gas and other hydrocarbon fuels. However, in a green society, hydrocarbon fuels are considered a threat to the ozone layer.
Therefore a different approach offers a possibility to resolve the issue of expense of new reactors and the emissions problems associated with fossil fuels. There are approximately six designs of these new concept reactors. However, all have been generated using computer modeling and have not been tried using real world technology.
The new designs operate under the concept of the Brayton cycle as opposed to the conventional Carno Cycle. Unfortunately the Brayton Cycle, for most efficient operation, experiences temperatures as high as 1600F (870C). The first problem encountered is what materials can be used at these temperatures that will satisfy current pressure codes. So far two alloys have been identified as probable materials. Both are Haynes nickel based alloys with high chromium, tungsten and cobalt additions.We have studied the properties of Haynes Alloy  230 and believe that our patented processes can assist the alloys to overcome the problems of high temperature creep, hot corrosion and radiation effects, as well as possibly strengthening the core properties. We therefore have submitted a proposal to develop or modify this alloy to satisfy the current requirement. This is the first step in proving the worth of development of Generation IV nuclear reactors.
If  MagnaTech or others can resolve the performance of the alloys to satisfy current pressure codes, then it is expected that the new type reactors would become commercial as early as 2030 or as late as 2050. If successful, then the advantages are that the reactor would be smaller, more efficient and built off-site. Also, at those temperatures the secondary heat could be used to make cheaper hydrogen to be used as an automotive fuel. Combining the two cost factors now make the cost of developing Generation IV reactors economical. MagnaTech looks forward to participating in the development of these new, more efficient economical, environmentally more friendly reactors to supply an ever increasing population that will require cleaner, more efficient, safe energy. MagnaTech would appreciate any input from readers who are interested in this area of development. We do need cleaner, cheaper more friendly fuels that do not increase greenhouse pollution. MagaTech would love to establish contact with all inetrested parties seeking material advances in alloy or design development within this area of research. MagnaTech appreciates your participation and awareness in this potentially revolutionary cleaner energy future.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Nuclear Reactors for Cleaner, Lower Cost Energy

This topic brings me a long way back to the beginning of my career. At that time I was employed by Sylvania-Corning in their Research Laboratory in Bayside, New York  to develop new materials for a nuclear reactor that would permit a plane to fly continuously without ever landing. General Electric was the prime contractor. Unfortunately the reactor was so heavy compared with the lift capacity of the plane, therefore an impractical application.
However, there were many things that we developed that were incorporated into a novice nuclear program that led to the application of today's nuclear reactors for electrical energy and to the nuclear reactors that serve to power our modern submarines and aircraft carriers.
However, now forty years have passed and these reactors are being extended beyond their intended time limit of service. Efforts are still being made to extend their life for an additional twenty years.
These reactors are large and the efficiency level is decreasing as life is extended. In addition, America has remained stagnant in development and modernization of existing reactors, compared with European countries.
It is refreshing to know that the Department of Energy is now very active in programs to decrease the size of future reactors while improving efficiency at lower cost. In addition, a new factor has entered the equation. In the past we did not consider acts of terrorism to be a big issue. Now these are issues to be seriously considered and become part of the technology in developing new reactors for tomorrow.
To permit development of these  lighter efficient reactors, new concepts have been developed that require improved efficiency in cooling to permit the reactors to operate at higher temperature and pressure. Present materials will not have this capability. Therefore there is current interest in the development of new materials that can withstand the higher temperature and pressure that is anticipated. For the new concepts to be exercised these new materials and coolants and reaction to creep and corrosion become immediate areas of influence for success of the concepts. MagnaTech believes that we have some technology to offer in improvement of current and new materials and intend to actively pursue opportunities in the development of these materials. Therefore MagnaTech is interested in partnering with companies that have thermal capability to permit heat treating and reaction of materials that we believe that can improve performance of these potential reactors of tomorrow. Should you believe that you can team with MagnaTech to develop these new materials, we would be pleased to consider a partnership or consulting to develop new materials for these nuclear reactors of the future. Please contact us regarding potential commercial application.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is There A Need For New Steels?

Hi: Price of gas down to much lower levels. However, that appears to be a sham because now that this price of gas is much more favorable, the States want to increase the cost again through taxation. Obviously there is a continual need for maintenance on the roads,  especially bridges. However, life for these things is at least 30 years and funds were established long ago, by those with vision, to maintain the assets that were constructed. Why then now are we running out of these funds and why a need for a tax increase to pay for what we have already planned for? Well that is politics, and we do not participate in that game.
However, we do have an interest in materials and materials include steel. In fact, when life was more sane, steel was the name of the game. If you wanted to get lofty and fly, then a much more expensive aluminum came into play, because of its low density.
I haven't counted the number of the steels that we have in inventory now, but I would guess a number somewhere in the thousands, including all modifications. Therefore, the question, why is the automotive industry in need of new steels? Well, these days , we can't leave politics out. In addition although fuel, called gas, was great because it provided additional freedom to go farther and see places and things that we only read about. Now, too much of a good things brings problems such as exhaust problems causing bad things such as smog and other related issues.
Well, what is the problem? Aha, it is the steels. They are much too heavy, causing us to use too much gas. Gas isn't bad; steels are.Therefore, let us get rid of those nasty steels that we have used all these years. After all, we have the greatest innovators that were ever born, and in addition we have computers that can remember all this. After all, why should we need to think about this.
Ah, but there is a solution at hand. My gosh, we have been using aluminum all these years to build gadgets that fly and we have been very innovative here. Why not get rid of those nasty steels and use aluminum. Cost, no problem. We will save the cost by saving on gasoline usage. Wow, two problems fixed. 
But how about safety/ After all steels are much stronger and therefore when road rage catches up to us and we get in an accident what bad is going to happen? Not to worry, our modern day engineers can resolve this with the aid of their trusty computer. Problem resolved.
However, we now return to the land of reality. We have a billion dollar industry in existence that has resolved our materials problems for years. Stainless steels evolved from a need to combat corrosion, Tool steels were developed to permit us to machine more and more materials, including steels,  that were harder, more complex and required closer tolerances. In fact there is a family of steels that are called superallys and these, at least in this country, evolved from the evolution of stainless steels.
Well, the steel industry is once again challenged to come up with a new family of steels that can resolve the issue of high cost gasoline plus tax, How can the industry accomplish this need? Well, current thinking is to improve the modulus of elasticity and if possible, decrease the density.  MagnaTech has some ideas regarding this area of opportunity, to resolve some of the current problems. We are currently creating a proposal to accomplish some of these objectives and are interested in partners to share the solution to this current problem. If you are interested, please contact us. We are innovators not producers, and therefore, there could be good profit for you as a manufacturer of what we can innovate. Call or email us at your convenience.Thank you.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A New Concept

Almost six months ago MagnaTech attended a meeting with a diverse group of small businesses that intend to combine with a prime contractor selling  to the government to explore how local small companies could be efficiently utilized to assist the prime in resolution of its problems. The concept was to use the association of the small local companies and their individual talents to combine with the Prime to resolve its specific problems.
At the first meeting ninety small companies were in attendance, and the concept was introduced. Several different categories where the prime was having difficulty  were explored. Ideas of strengths and resolutions were presented. Each  group presented what they considered the strength of the group. We were within a group named maintenance. As part of this group there was a company that specialized in making an instrument that diagnosed problems that occurred within the equipment supplied by the prime. Therefore we focused on the strengths of that company in a supportive roll.
As time progressed and the monthly meetings scheduled occurred, there was a continual reduction in the number of companies present at the start of each succeeding meeting. This decrease resulted because the companies did not see a fit into the final process and objective. The reasons were that as the program jelled, there were less reasons for participation.
Currently the remaining participating companies has reduced to twenty. For the last two sessions, the remaining companies have concentrated on assimulating the ideas presented into an outline that is useful to prepare to compose a White Paper that briefly presents the concept and funding required to prove whether the concept is worthy. A problem requiring solution has been identified by the prime. Now the objective is to assimulate the associated skills of the collective group to propose a resolution of the problem. The group has five pages to convince the government that the concept is valid. If accepted, then the collective would continue to write a proposal, twenty to twenty-five pages in length describing in detail how the group will act collectively to resolve the problem.
MagnaTech is interested in this and similar programs that are coming on stream as a new way of co-operation with primes to accomplish resolution of the prime's problems through the participation of small business and acceptance of ideas for a specific solution. The concept is not new, and the thrust is to provide a collective set of skills rather than a single source for resolution. This is currently a work in progress and it will be interesting in preparation and review of the White Paper. MagnaTech expects to be a strong participant in both cases. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Get Out Your Grills

Just attended a webinar today and never realized that simple things like grills have a corrosion problem. Seems like that investment you made to entertain your friends on a hot summer or beautiful spring day, as you like it, is subject to being an ugly sight in just a couple of years, depending on your environment. When you stop to think about it, most of us toil at the unit, dutifully cooking our favorite specialties in food until the entire crowd is thoroughly sated and then we are too tired to clean up the mess. After all, tomorrow is another day and we will really have energy to do what we needed to do now, before we could procrastinate. In reality, in a couple of years after purchase, when we just had that brilliant idea that we should invite all our friends over again, oops! We are into a problem because the sight that we see as we are ready to cook is ugly. The inside consists of black oxide or carbide scale, if we are lucky. In worst case we can see daylight through holes that have perforated the shell. Certainly the grill and the supports are nothing to write home to mother about either.
What on earth has happened? How could this top of the line piece of equipment be in such a useless state? The problem is that most of us do not understand the damaging effect of heat and  the environment experienced by the grill. After all, we have only used it for a couple of hours and then maybe cleaned and stored it for another day. Unfortunately, over that small period of time, the grill, while at maximum usage, could have reached temperatures as high as 500 degrees centigrade. In addition there was charcoal contained therein and the atmosphere reacting to create either or carburization or oxidation. To accelerate these reactions the normal liquid products being emitted from whatever is being grilled are also dripping and wetting these hot surfaces. Should we further leave the cooling unit outside in the weather, as a thunderstorm quickly arises, more trouble. If we are at the ocean, well, even more trouble because a salt atmosphere enters the equation as well. 
Therefore not only to resolve this kind of problem but all other corrosion problems, billions of dollars are spent yearly for restoration or replacement. In other words, corrosion remains one of the most troublesome problems within the world. Replacement or restoration is therefore an expensive proposition. There is therefore a need for improved thin coatings to protect equipment sustaining increasing temperatures in harsh environments to at least extend the useful life cycle. Currently paints, plated surfaces, polymers and ceramics are used to accomplish these objectives. 
Plated surfaces are  creating problems because plated surfaces contain metals that are now considered to be harmful to health. Therefore those nice chrome plated surfaces are no longer available. Polymers are limited to lower opperating temperatures and ceramics are brittle and tend to chip. 
Therefore there  is a continual search for new coatings to protect surfaces from heat and the environment in which the unit exists. Magnatech participates in this world. We currently have five patents protecting proprietary assets using nanotechnology to create  tough, wear and corrosion resistant surfaces. We also continue to do research in this area that will either improve or restore the surfaces of parts that are subjected to these harsh environments. Perhaps your next grill will have longer life as a result of use of a MagnaTech development. In closing, MagnaTech wishes you a super spring, summer and fall entertaining your friends, hopefully with a surface that will survive all of your basic sins in creating the worst environment for their preservation. Fair Winds!