QuesTek Innovations LLC, a materials R&D (“integrated computational materials engineering”) operation, recently earned a two-year, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to design and develop a new aluminum alloy that has high strength characteristics as well as thermal stability.
“This project builds upon our past successes such as Ferrium®, C61™, C64™, M54™, and S53® alloys, developed in part with Department of Defense funding and now sold to commercial, industrial, and governmental customers by U.S.-based alloy producers under their licenses from QuesTek,” noted the company’s president and CEO Charlie Kuehmann.
The objective of this research is an alloy that is stronger than the current material (alloy 2014) at both room temperature and after high-temp exposure, in combination with corrosion- and fatigue-resistance — but with manufacturing costs similar to Alloy 2014. For reference, 2014 is described as a “precipitation-hardening alloy with good strength after heat treatment,” and common used to manufacture aircraft structures and truck frames.
Questek — which offers a “Materials by Design” service to develop new materials that reduce capital, processing, operating or maintenance costs, or improve environmental protection — noted that Alloy 2040 offers higher strength than 2014, but it has a single source and often is a more expensive selection, in part because of the raw materials cost associated with silver addition.
According to its contract, QuesTek will computationally design the new material by using conventional aluminum alloying additions and processing techniques. Eventually, it plans to license intellectual property for the new alloy to multiple alloy producers, in order to develop “a robust supply base.”
It said the new alloy should reduce component weight, improve component durability, and reduce operating costs. The project’s completed state will be production of full-scale, die-forged prototype parts in order to demonstrate improvements in key material properties versus alloy 2014. Potential applications of the new aluminum alloy include aerospace wheel and brake assemblies, and forged aluminum products used in aerospace structures or commercial vehicles, performance racing vehicles, and off-road equipment.