2009 R&D 100 Winner
Metals and materials process efforts are almost by default an energy-intensive process, involving a mixture of temperature, pressure, and composition manipulation. For this reason, processed components are tied to significant thermal costs. Thermomagnetic Processing Technology (TMP) can reduce these costs through the use of superconducting magnets, which add a new dimension to the phase equilibria for a given material and also introduce a continuum of continuous cooling transformation curves. The result of a joint effort by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., Eaton Corp., Southfield, Mich., American Magnetics Inc., Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Ajax TOCCO Magnethermic Corp., Boaz, Ala., TMP is, by itself, a non-thermal process. It reduces energy use by coupling induction heating as the thermal source when needed, a measure that boosts operational efficiencies to 80%. If fully employed to replace heat treating in net-shape gear processing for carburized steels, TMP would save 36.7 TBtu/year. The gains by using TMP include a 64% increase in magnetic permeability for low-carbon steel, an 85% improvement in tensile strength, a 43% reduction in retained austenite for high-carbon steel, and a 15% increase in strength for magnesium alloy.