Researchers discover new uses for high tech alloy

Aug 22, 2012

( -- Materials scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, Etrema Products, Inc. (EPI), and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division have developed new ways to form a high tech metal alloy which promise new advances in sensing and energy harvesting technologies.

To look at it, a length of wire fabricated in the Ames Laboratory looks much like the kind of steel wire a do-it-yourselfer could pick up at the local hardware store. A sheet form of the material, fabricated by EPI, looks equally unassuming. But these are made of a alloy called Galfenol, and the new forms of this “smart material” may be the key to future manufacturing breakthroughs like the creation of vibration free, quieter motors.

Galfenol, composed primarily of gallium and iron, was co-discovered in 1999 by the Ames Laboratory and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division. Galfenol’s unique properties make it change shape when subjected to a magnetic field, and flexible enough for a variety of manufacturing processes.

The three organizations spent a decade designing the alloy, optimizing its properties and developing production processes. Now, they have perfected methods of producing the material in rolled sheet and in wire form, making it possible to use Galfenol-based smart parts in a variety of new applications, especially vehicle technologies, both commercial and military.

“Galfenol exhibits a unique set of material properties that allow us to process it using conventional rolling and wire drawing equipment while at the same time we can develop the anisotropic magnetic properties that we desire,” said Eric Summers, Vice President and Chief Scientist of EPI. “In addition, we can machine Galfenol using standard mills and lathes and weld it to a variety of other materials. I know of no other current smart material that shows this flexibility in processing.”

Tom Lograsso, Director of the Division of Materials and Engineering Science at Ames Laboratory, said the project was built on the collaborative success of the giant magnetostrictive material, Terfenol-D. The goal was to find an alloy with similar properties to Terfenol-D, which changes shape when subjected to a magnetic field, but not as brittle.

“Terfenol is like glass. If you drop it on the floor, it shatters. It also can be very prone to corrosion. Galfenol bounces if you drop it; it can be machined; it can be welded. That has generated some new ideas about how to use this material,” said Lograsso.

Galfenol can be used as a vibration-based energy-harvester; attached to a vehicle motor it could supply power to the large number of sensors present on a vehicle. The material could also be used to supply power to wireless sensor networks via the same energy harvesting capability. The combination of magnetic and mechanical properties could lead to the development of active motor mount technology—creating an environment that actively senses and cancels out motor vibrations, effectively creating a “silent” motor.

“Galfenol is receiving strong interest in the community worldwide. Several companies are developing prototype devices based on Galfenol technology as the power conversion component; the core technology in a vibration-based energy harvester,” said Eric Summers of EPI.

Explore further: Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

Related Stories

Scientists spy Galfenol's inner beauty mark

Mar 25, 2009

( -- The sonar on submarines may get far more sensitive ears in the near future thanks to a mysterious compound developed by the military. Developed over a decade ago, it took a collaboration of ...

Nano-factory promises great things for graphene science

May 02, 2012

Forty times stronger than steel and conducting electricity ten times better than silicon, graphene is the wonder material that could one day replace silicon in microchips. Now the University is opening a new ...

Preventing contamination in recycling

Mar 06, 2012

Aluminum has long been the poster child of recycling. About half of all aluminum used in the United States is now recycled, and this recycling has clear and dramatic benefits: Pound for pound, it takes anywhere ...

A new twist on nanowires

Feb 22, 2012

Nanowires — microscopic fibers that can be “grown” in the lab — are a hot research topic today, with a variety of potential applications including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensors. ...

Recommended for you

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material

Apr 23, 2015

Researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have unveiled an important step in the conversion of light into storable energy: Together with scientists of the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin and ...

From metal to insulator and back again

Apr 22, 2015

New work from Carnegie's Russell Hemley and Ivan Naumov hones in on the physics underlying the recently discovered fact that some metals stop being metallic under pressure. Their work is published in Physical Re ...

Electron spin brings order to high entropy alloys

Apr 22, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that electron spin brings a previously unknown degree of order to the high entropy alloy nickel iron chromium cobalt (NiFeCrCo) - and may play ...

Expanding the reach of metallic glass

Apr 22, 2015

Metallic glass, a class of materials that offers both pliability and strength, is poised for a friendly takeover of the chemical landscape.

Electrons move like light in three-dimensional solid

Apr 22, 2015

Electrons were observed to travel in a solid at an unusually high velocity, which remained the same independent of the electron energy. This anomalous light-like behavior is found in special two-dimensional ...

Quantum model helps solve mysteries of water

Apr 20, 2015

Water is one of the most common and extensively studied substances on earth. It is vital for all known forms of life but its unique behaviour has yet to be explained in terms of the properties of individual ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 23, 2012
The price of gallium must have dropped if they are alloying it with iron in large quantitys.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.