12 May 2015

New metal composite floats on water

by Will Parker

A new metal matrix composite that combines light weight with strength and heat resistance could be used in marine vessels within three years, say its developers. The researchers behind the new metal matrix syntactic foam, from Deep Springs Technology (DST) and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering (NYU), have published details of their work in the International Journal of Impact Engineering.

NYU researcher Nikhil Gupta said the magnesium alloy matrix composite is reinforced with silicon carbide hollow particles and has a density of only 0.92 grams per cubic centimeter, compared to 1.0 g/cc of water. According to Gupta, the light weight does not compromise the material's strength, and it is strong enough to withstand the rigorous conditions faced in the marine environment.

The syntactic foam starts with a matrix made of a magnesium alloy, which is then turned into foam by adding strong, lightweight silicon carbide hollow spheres developed and manufactured by DST. A single sphere's shell can withstand pressure of over 25,000 PSI before it ruptures - one hundred times the maximum pressure in a fire hose. The hollow particles also offer impact protection to the syntactic foam because each shell acts like an energy absorber during its fracture.

Gupta believes the technology for the new composite is very close to maturation and could be put into prototypes for testing within three years. "Amphibious vehicles such as the Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector being developed by the U.S. Marine Corps can especially benefit from the light weight and high buoyancy offered by the new syntactic foams," he explained.

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Source: New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering