Just 5 % of all possible three-or-more metal alloys have been thoroughly investigated. Now, a new automated process for mixing powdered metals and testing the alloy created for attractive properties makes it possible for the first time to scour the periodic table for optimum performance. The EU-funded project ACCMET (Accelerated metallurgy - The accelerated discovery of alloy formulations using combinatorial principles) was launched to accelerate the alloy discovery process to less than one year from the current five to six years by exploiting combinatorial principles. At the centre of ACCMET was direct laser deposition (DLD) that enables metal powders to be mixed, melted and deposited onto a substrate, forming a solid, dense alloy button with precise stoichiometry. Automated DLD synthesis is 1 000 times faster than conventional manual methods. DLD can be employed together with a combinatorial synthesis and testing protocol to speed up the process by focusing on certain element combinations and tests. All information gathered is stored in a virtual alloy library with advanced algorithms to identify processing parameters, composition, structure and properties. Specifically, experimental results are compared against model predictions, aiding in alloy identification. Algorithms such as artificial neural networks predict chemical, physical and mechanical properties of new compositions. These are used as input for rapid alloy synthesis of new promising metal alloys. ACCMET has achieved for the metallurgy industry what high-throughput technologies have done for the pharmaceutical industry: drastically reduced time to market. Moreover, emphasis on environmentally friendly alloys at an early design phase, in combination with life-cycle analysis, will contribute to conserving natural resources and the move to low-carbon technologies.
Metal alloys, ACCMET, metallurgy, direct laser deposition, combinatorial synthesis