Thermomagnetic Processing Technology
An interdisciplinary team of ORNL researchers led by Gerard Ludtka and Gail Mackiewicz-Ludtka, along with partners Eaton Corporation, American Magnetics, Inc. (AMI), and AJAX TOCCO Magnethermic Corporation, recently won an R&D 100 award for the development of thermomagnetic processing technology. Called a “heat-free heat-treating method,” it could revolutionize the U.S. heat-treating industry with reduced energy and processing costs.
Proactive uses of magnetic fields for materials processing have long been ignored before being aggressively studied by these researchers. Their efforts have resulted in the development of thermomagnetic processing technology, which uses superconducting magnets to cut down on energy use in the typical heat treating process. High magnetic field processing also reduces residual stress (post-heat treating stress) and can eliminate unwanted material phases, thus making costly and energy-intensive specialized thermal processing steps unnecessary.
Besides heat treating advantages, the use of magnetic field processing often allows the incorporation of phases or structures that are not normally produced by conventional thermal processing, thereby leading to improved properties and materials performance. In some cases, this approach can lead to substantial increases in strength, decreasing mass and increasing energy efficiency for transportation and other applications. ORNL is currently working with equipment manufacturer lead AMI and team leads within DOE’s Industrial Technology program to develop commercialization plans for specific applications, components, and related intellectual property.
Funding for this research was provided by Department of Energy's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technology Program, Toyota, Eaton, AMI and Ajax-TOCCO.