Practical application of most present and future scientific and technical developments directly relates to the issue of novel materials. A vast number of basic modern technologies deal with this issue. The material science and its technologies do all poss


Victor TREFILOV, director with the Institute of Material Science under the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Practical application of most present and future scientific and technical developments directly relates to the issue of novel materials. A vast number of basic modern technologies deal with this issue. The material science and its technologies do all possible to satisfy global demands for necessary materials and ready-made commodities. Moreover, the material science is the key to resolution of such global problems of humankind as depletion of mineral resources, pollution and disturbance of heat balance on the planet. Settlement of these problems is a bridge to retention of the high pace of economic development. The pattern of productive capacities and labor productivity highly depend on achievements of the global material science.

It is precisely the lack of materials with required properties that holds back the progress in new super-efficient and environment-friendly power generation and transformation technologies, microelectronics and computers, new memory storage systems, high-strength wear-resistant materials for mechanical engineering, efficient ‘spare parts’ for living organisms (such as artificial bicuspid valves, skeleton and joint parts, dentistry substances, etc.).

The results of scientific research in solid-state physics and chemistry, which are the basic disciplines of material science, have led to creation of new classes of matter. These include very unusual and still somewhat mysterious quasi-crystals; the previously unknown allotropic forms of carbon, that is the so-called fullerenes, which were first discovered in cosmic dust throughout interstellar space at the beginning of the 1980s and now are successfully synthesized in many scientific labs worldwide. Other examples are superfine forms of substances occurring as the so-called nanomaterials; shape-memory substances; high-temperature super-conductors; sophisticated composite materials with a specially arranged substructure of reinforcing stripes, nets, microcells, layers and fibers; amorphous substances or the so-called glass-to-metal materials, etc. These substances open up completely new horizons for scientific and technical research and development.

Owing to various economic and technological advantages, powder metallurgy has a very special position among the highly promising industrial sectors designing novel materials. This manufacturing process increases the metal use ratio to 0.98, limits the scope of and sometimes completely abandons conventional metal-making stages (along with their usual disadvantages) and definitely brings the pollution down. The technology of powder metallurgy is the ground for manufacturing a wide range of articles made of the so-called new ceramic.

The primary merit of powder metallurgy is its ability to mix unique combinations of different components within one material, which is impossible to achieve by other means. This peculiarity of powder metallurgic technologies has allowed creation of a wide range of composite materials, the so-called pseudo-alloys, cermets, dispersed-strengthened and reinforced materials.

In addition, powder metallurgic technologies are capable of making superfine materials that cannot be and can hardly be obtained using the methods of conventional metallurgy. These are the so-called glass-to-metal or amorphous states. Manufacturers show very keen interest in these new substances because they help resolving such extremely complicated tasks as production of structural ceramics, manufacturing of products with special magnetic and electric properties, production of extra corrosion-resistant materials including the mentioned nanomaterials. Methods of powder metallurgy are widely applied to manufacture articles from diamonds, diamond-like materials and fullerenes, as well as to synthesize quasi-crystals.

Powder metallurgy fabricates an extraordinarily broad range of articles such as:

structural, frictional and self-lubricating items for mechanical engineering;

contact pieces, magnets, ferrites, heaters and superconductors for electrical engineering;

hard and superhard alloys and materials for cutting tools and abrasive tools applied in metal-working and mining;

high-melting-point, refractory and radiation-resistant alloys and ceramic for aerospace industry;

inactive, thermostable and refractory materials for chemical industry and so on.

Especially numerous are the functional materials (sometimes also referred to as intelligent materials) that use piezoelectric and ferroelectric properties of matter and abruptly change their physical and chemical properties depending on the surrounding environment (temperature, pressure, electric and magnetic fields, etc.). These materials have so many possible applications that scientific literature has introduced a special term of ‘dielectronics’. Application of these materials includes but is not limited to piezoelectric transformers, secondary cells, tunable band-pass filters for wide frequency band, piezoelectric motors, coders and decoders, delay lines, waveguides and other surface acoustic wave devices, frequency modulators, frequency converters, night-vision systems, computer memory storage devices and displays, storage batteries with unbelievably high accumulating capacities, etc.

On the modern European markets automotive industry consumes 80% of the total physical P/M products, machine building – 15%, electric devices – 3% and other industries – 2%. Consumption of P/M products for manufacturing of an average European car is estimated to grow from 6-15 kg today to 23-26 kg in 2004. Thus, the European Powder Metallurgical Association believes that the European market for P/M products will double in the coming years. It is notable that global output of powder metal products has already doubled since the collapse of the USSR.

Ukraine’s powder metallurgy has a large potential (equaling to approximately 1/3 of the former Soviet capacities). Thus, Ukraine can occupy a worthy spot among manufacturers of P/M products in the world.

Unfortunately, quite a few companies have gone out of business or launched production of other products owing to the protracted economic and organizational crises. However, in spite of the difficulties, scientific and technical potential of powder metallurgy, as well as of the whole material science, keeps on advancing and progressing. It is quite enough to mention only a few programs initiated by the Institute for Material Science: Interstate scientific and technical program named "Creation of new materials on the basis of superfine metal, composite and ceramic systems and development of resource-saving technologies to manufacture products from these materials"; bilateral collaboration programs with the Russian Federation, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Uzbekistan, Republic of Kazakhstan; the national program of powder metallurgy, etc.

Transition to power-saving and high technologies has initiated development of a principally new market for commodities and services, namely, the market for scientific knowledge, information technologies and know-how. Experts have estimated that the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States can potentially take 10 to 15 percent of the world market for hi-tech products and services related to material science if the CIS member-states start pursuing a common scientific and technical policy. It is very unwise to miss such an opportunity because, should the situation be left as it is, the market niches will be occupied by others.

So far during the transition period further advance of scientific research and inventions has been left waiting for entrepreneurs and business ventures to start showing demands for science. It is extremely important and necessary to arrange due cooperation among scientific institutions and small and medium-size enterprises, which are susceptible to hi-tech products.

The main objective is to help local manufacturers abandon imports of at least a certain portion of commodities, to substitute conventional materials with less critical and more environment-friendly ones, to assist organizing production of components and spare parts and to supply hi-tech products and technologies to the market.

the Metal

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