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A novel process for manufacturing complex shaped Fe-Al intermetallic parts resistant to extreme environments

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EQUINOX (A novel process for manufacturing complex shaped Fe-Al intermetallic parts resistant to extreme environments)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2019-07-31

1. Problem that is being addressed by EQUINOX
There is a need to find solutions to replace Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) such as Chromium (Cr), Nickel (Ni), Molybdenium (Mo) and Vanadium (V) in high volume end consumer products. CRMs are crucial to Europe's economy and essential to maintaining and improving our quality of life. Intermetallic materials, in particular low cost Iron Aluminides (Fe-Al), offer outstanding material properties. Unfortunately, it is difficult to translate their properties to real products, as intermetallics suffer from low ductility at ambient temperature and poor machinability. EQUINOX project is applying a highly innovative route for the production of a new generation of Fe-Al based intermetallic materials with improved ductility and machinability, for the production of parts that will be almost ready to be used.

2. Importance for society
A. Reduce the dependency of Europe from Cr imports
EQUINOX would allow saving at least 18.000 Tons of CRMs per year, by substituting stainless steel through CRM free Fe-Al based intermetallics.
B. Environmental impact
The EQUINOX project well fits into “Growing a Low Carbon, Resource Efficient Economy with a Sustainable Supply of Raw Materials for materials under severe conditions”. Specifically, the EQUINOX process:
• Has no CO2 emissions
• Prevents waste of materials
• Prevents “material tourism”
• May be completely based on renewable energy sources
• Vastly reduces the needs of CRMs, like Cr, Ni and Mo
C. Creation of new jobs
The opening-up of new market sectors is expected to significantly increase the employment opportunities in existing European companies and promoting the birth of new high-tech companies.

3. Overall objective
The main objective of EQUINOX is to develop a novel process that allows to substitute Cr/Ni based (stainless) steel parts used in high volume end consumer products such as in the lock industry, electronics, process industry and automotive industry with a novel near net-shape production technology for a new class of highly advanced ductile Fe-Al based intermetallics.
Near net shape intermetallic FeAlx-parts of complex shape were made along a radical new concept of reactive Al-melt infiltration of channel based porous Fe-preforms. The combination of a fine grained intermetallics microstructure with a 3D-periodic pattern of infiltrated channels allowed to end up with intermetallic parts of hitherto unknown ductility, even 300°C below the ductile brittle point. The promising combination of corrosion, friction and mechanical properties attracted much interest among big endusers to substitute materials that are presently based on critical raw materials with high Cr and Ni content by abundant Fe and Al based ones. Parts that may be used in brake discs, cavitation resistant pumps and high temperature applications such as injection systems or turbine blades are under consideration. The project EQUINOX started from a theoretical idea at TRL1 in 2016 and is aiming to be continued at TRL 3-5 in a follow up project with big industrial endusers, three of which are global No.1 in their respective field of products.
A. Progress beyond the State of the Art
EQUINOX consortium has been made up of specialized teams from different theoretical fields of material research to guide the experimental work by a sound strategy based on theoretical predictions of phase formation, flow simulation, thermodynamics, diffusion kinetics - supported by specialists of high end analytics to understand reactive infiltration of 3D-porous structures at the submicron-level. For the first time in the history of intermetallics this team was able, to put a complex shaped body of Fe3Al/FeAl on the table that has been simply made by infiltration of Al-alloy into a porous iron body - only 18 months after start of the project. A final heat treatment ended up with Fe3Al/FeAl-parts that are almost free of pores, without the need for any secondary step. A Patent application has been filed.

B. Expected results and potential impact
a. The opening-up of new market sectors is expected to significantly increase the employment opportunities in existing European companies and promoting the birth of new high-tech companies.
b. Significant contribution to reduced dependency on CRMs in the medium term.
c. Contribution to the large scale adoption of the new cost-effective technology in the EU.
d. Availability of new materials with improved performance under extreme conditions and for electronic devices. Ductility of this material will be higher than conventional stainless steel products with similar performance inducing new standards, due to the small grain size.
e. Contribution to achieving the objectives of the EIP on Raw Materials, i.e. to help raise industry's contribution to the EU GDP to around 20% by 2020.
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