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Industry turns to steel and iron foam manufacture

A high degree of success has been achieved in producing metal foams made from aluminium. Now, researchers are looking to develop ways to create iron and steel foams to further benefit European industry.
Industry turns to steel and iron foam manufacture
Metal foams are structures that are strong but light, akin to metal sponges of different sizes with lots of bubbles inside. These structures boast many industrial uses from the aerospace industry to prosthetic bones. However, although science has significant experience with aluminium foams, it falls far behind in iron and steel foams.

The EU-funded project 'Development of an innovative iron based cellular material - new manufacturing routes for porous structures' (Stemacel) investigated how casting could be used to obtain cost-effective iron and steel foams.

Project partners successfully developed iron-based metallic foams through a process called melt-foaming that uses a standard foundry with existing equipment, supplemented by new foaming agents. Different samples and shapes of steel or iron were produced, as well as different alloys that promise valuable industrial applications. Micrographic examination and X-ray tomography mapped the structural characteristics and soundness of these metal foams. Image analyses of the pores, including size and morphology, were conducted, and overall tests underlined the positive results.

Overall, the project developed a powerful industrial process for the manufacture of steel and iron foam. Stemacel also demonstrated how steel foam and iron foam could be useful for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their products. The project's mandate also involved know-how and transfer of knowledge from the research arena to SME partners. As a result, these partners are set to penetrate new markets and strengthen competitiveness in the sector.

Lastly, selected project results of were published in journals and scientific conferences, contributing to the EU's leadership in innovative material development and application.

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