Air Force

Interface-controlled nanomaterials – developed from metallic, ceramic, and semiconductor sources

A new class of materials that fits between the ordinary industrial laminates and research-type super-lattices, in regards to properties and cost


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STM image of a cleaved superconductor. This technology from the Air Force has potential application in superconductors. Courtesy ORNL.

Air Force researchers have developed a novel class of laminate materials with a wide range of applications. These interface-defined nano-laminated materials (IDNLs) differ from both the large-scale laminates and the extremely fine-scale super-lattices, due to their unique micro- and nano-structures produced by new methods of fabrication. With these IDNL materials, the interfaces between the alternate layers can be designed and fabricated from many different materials. Because these materials are manufactured from powders they have properties different from that of the already known laminated materials – the interfaces can be varied from nearly coherent to completely incoherent by tuning the processing approach. The degree of deviation from perfect coherency can be controlled with little increase in cost.

As eluded to above, the process for making IDNLs starts with nanophase powders as opposed to monoliths. The steps of this process include the layering of the pastes made from powders of different starting materials followed by the rolling or pressing of the composite made of the stacked pastes (called greenware) to decrease thickness. Subsequently, before consolidation, the compressed and compacted greenware of the composite material is either folded on itself or is sectioned, and then the sectioned pieces are stacked on one another. In the final step, the prepared greenware is consolidated either by rapid sintering, or rapid hot pressing, dynamic compaction, plastic deformation, or hot rolling. The degree of coherency of the interfaces in the thus fabricated nanolaminate is significantly affected by the final consolidation procedure, with temperature, pressure, and the time at the temperature being the critical processing parameters.

The process and materials permit the manufacturing of large quantities of low-cost high-surface-area nano-laminates with at least 100,000 continuous nanometer-thick layers per 1 cm of the thickness of the laminate. Each segment of the laminate can have continuously unbroken interfaces between different materials, such as metals, ceramics, and semiconductors. Applications include such diverse fields as, fast ion conductors, magnetostrictive materials, hydrogen storage materials, superconductors, and environmental barrier materials.

This US patent 8,617,456 is related to US patents 8,475,705; 9,120,245; and 9,162,931. The ‘931 patent is the process of synthesizing the nano-material with controlled interfaces. The ‘705 patent embodies the continuous or batch process for fabricating the nanolaminate material. The ‘456 adds an annealing step to the batch process at an elevated temperature to cause atomic rearrangement and a tunable degree of coherency at the interfaces. The ‘456 also claims the use of nanopowders from a group consisting of metallic, ceramic and semiconductors. The ‘245 specifies the use of high aspect ratio anisotropic nanolaminates with defined size and shape to create long parts such as tubes or rods.

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