Enhancing steel properties through in situ formation of ultra hard chemically-bonded ceramic surface


Working in collaboration with Molycop we have demonstrated a new low-cost process for enhancing the properties of normal carbon steel using a problematic waste, automotive shredder residue (ASR). ASR generally consists of a mix of materials such as plastic, rubber, wood, fabric, non-ferrous metals, leather, glass, paper, textiles and contaminants/dirt. Dumping these materials ignores the potential of ASR as a source of important elements, particularly carbon, nitrogen, silicon, aluminium and titanium. While these elements are useful for many applications, the specific focus of our study was their potential for forming a ceramic surface on steel, in situ; the first such single step process we know of. Nano-indentation and compression-strength measurements clearly showed this multi-layer chemically bonded ceramic surface increases the hardness and mechanical strength of normal carbon steel.
Impact/Significance: The significance of this work is multi-fold:
·      Cost-effectives means of enhancing the properties of normal carbon steel
·      Promises to minimise the costs of product/component failures and/or short replacement cycles
·      Promises to reduce resources costs to industries and demands on raw materials
·      In situ process cheaper than conventional ceramic coating processes
·      Bonded surface superior to coatings
·      Address serious global challenge of ASR – 100-200kg of this non-recyclable waste generate for every vehicle decommissioned.

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