Cellular Materials Laboratory

The cellular materials lab is equipped with many of the fabrication technologies needed to make cellular materials including vacuum furnaces, an industrial scale autoclave, a laser welding machine, 3D additive manufacturing system, mills and lathes, press brakes and materials characterization tools such as of Instron mechanical testing machines, and 3-D X-ray imaging systems.

Vacuum Furnace

The vacuum furnaces are used to make metallic cellular materials from titanium, nickel and aluminum alloys. The one shown in Figure 1 is capable of performing computer programmed processes such as sintering, diffusion bonding, brazing, and heat treatments at elevated temperatures (up to 1600°C) in either high vacuum (<10-7 torr pressure) or under an inert gas (e.g., Argon), up to 103 torr pressure allowing for high metallurgical quality and ultra-low contamination of the cellular materials. The photograph in Figure 1 is Centorr Vacuum Industries, System VII vacuum furance located in our lab.

We make extensive use of the furnace for brazing. Brazing is a bonding method for joining two or more close-fitting metal or ceramic base components with filler metals in the space between them. It is drawn into these regions by capillary action. We use the vacuum furnace to braze a wide range of metal alloys, such as stainless steel, copper, nickel, aluminum and titanium alloys, for the fabrication of cellular structures with superior joints of high integrity and strength.

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. Centorr vaccum furnace in our cellular materials fabrication laboratory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Industrial Autoclave

An autoclave is a pressure vessel with a furnace located within it.  Feed throughs allow the interior pressure of the vessel and/or a component within it, to be varied.  It is ideal for the manufacturing of high performance polymer matrix composites and cellular composite materials. The autoclave in our lab (ASC Process Systems, Econoclave 3x5) has a maximum temperature capability of 250°C, and maximum working pressure of 10 atmospheres. Photograph’s of this autoclave are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The ASC autoclave used to make polymer matrix composites, composite cellular materials, syntactic foams and sandwich panels with composite facesheets.

 

Laser Welding Module

Laser welding is a non-contact process using intense laser light which rapidly heats a material in milliseconds to join components with a great number of geometries. A photograph of the laser welding machine (TRUMPF Laser HL2006D) located in our lab is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The laser welding module used to make metallic cellular materials.

3D X-Ray Imaging System

This system is capable of performing non-destructive analysis and obtaining high resolution images for a wide variety of materials with either high or low absorption coefficients and various sample sizes. Its high resolution 3D imaging ability distinguishes itself from traditional surface analysis devices like the SEM, AFM, and conventional CT systems in the capability of analyzing 3D internal structures. The uniquely designed software allows for instrument operation 24/7 without human input or interaction.

A photograph of the Xradia MicroXCT-200 high resolution 3D X-rays imaging system used by our lab is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Xradia MicroXCT-200 system for 3D materials characterization at sub 10μm spatial resolution.