TOMSK, Jul 27 – RIA Tomsk. Bearings, serving for decades, will be produced by physicists of Tomsk State University (TSU); there are already preliminary agreements on their use as part of domestic lung ventilators and aerospace equipment. In autumn it is planned to release prototypes for tests. How Tomsk became a leader in the field of new ceramic materials - is in the review of RIA Tomsk.
Bearings - are the weak point of any mechanism: they wear out quickly, and the entire device fails. Ilya Zhukov, the head of the TSU Laboratory of Nanotechnologies of Metallurgy shows two ideally smooth rings made of dark ceramics – from these, an almost "eternal" bearing will be assembled in the future.
"It will be able to work for decades. It will withstand high loads, speeds and does not require lubrication. As they say, put it on and forget, while ordinary steel bearings do not last long, and in some cases steel is generally acceptable", – says Ilya.
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Initial powders to obtain new material
Ceramics for such bearings are made on the basis of powders of aluminum, magnesium and boron (AlMgB14). The material was known even before Tomsk residents - the results of its tests were published by the Americans several years ago. They were very promising: ceramics had a high hardness (32 gigapascals, this is a third of the "reference" diamond) and at the same time an ultra-low coefficient of friction (up to 0.02), that is, it was "slippery" itself.
But further research by American scientists quickly left the public scientific space - perhaps the developments became secret. Or maybe colleagues failed to synthesize the material itself ... Ilya Zhukov explains:
"The most trivial approach (for making ceramics) – is to take all the components separately - one part of aluminum and magnesium, 14 parts of boron – and mix. The smaller the better, and the purer the better. But pure, finely dispersed aluminium powder is very expensive and not yet available on the market.
To deal with powdered magnesium is also not easy - it ignites in air, it is difficult to work with it due to its high explosiveness. Pure boron itself is expensive: the cost of one kilogram is from 50 thousand rubles, and it just off very quickly during research!".
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In 2017, Ilya Zhukov won a grant from the RSF to develop a domestic analogue of AlMgB14 ceramics. “My postgraduate student and me made a good technological groundwork, traveled across Russia to conferences, and the guys who were interested in this topic were taken to Tomsk”.
Fuse and "crush"
Tomsk scientists proposed their own original method of producing ceramics, ingenious in its simplicity:
“We came up with the idea that aluminum and magnesium can be fused (they are inexpensive in ingots), and only then mechanically grind in a protective atmosphere (in argon – so that there is no oxygen). Then to “sprinkle” with boron – and then use classical methods of powder metallurgy to form the material – pressing, sintering and so on.
The leading journals in materials science – Materials today communication and Ceramics International – gladly accepted articles about our research, because no one has used such approaches before", – Ilya Zhukov said.
Now a large collaboration is working on the project – colleagues from Saint-Petersburg State Institute of Technology and Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Physics and Technology have joined the Tomsk residents, and the Institute of High Current Electronics of the SB RAS is also involved.
“We are at the stage of fundamental research and are beginning to actively go to industrialists to immediately test the results. In July, we held negotiations with several enterprises that need bearings for special purposes – some, for example, are engaged in ventilators, others – in aerospace technology. We are looking for funding and in the fall we plan to make prototypes for testing", – the scientist sums up.
There is an idea
Ilya Zhukov – is a "son" of the materials science school of TSU: he graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Technology, entered the postgraduate course, where he studied ceramic and composite materials. His father, Alexander Zhukov, is a Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, the head of the Laboratory of High-Energy Systems and New Technologies at TSU.
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Ilya recalls with a smile: "One of the reasons for entering postgraduate school was the dynasty. Although the fact that I ultimately became interested in science – is the merit of my scientific adviser in postgraduate school. There are many examples, including with my fellow students, when you get to a sluggish supervisor who has been sitting in the department for a hundred years, works on rotten equipment and does not move anywhere ... The guys quickly lose interest.
I was lucky: I got to Svetlana Petrovna Buyakova (she is now the Deputy Director for Science at the Institute of Strength Physics and Materials Science, she always has creative approaches, some ideas, a constant dialogue: "Guys, come on! Are you interested in this?" – "Yes, I am". – "So do it!". Thanks to this eternal drive, I realized that I wanted to go to science, studied, got a degree (in 2012) and stayed at ISPMS".
But then I escaped from the institute...
"I will say this: the creative potential that we, the young ones, have had to face the resistance of generation 60+. Conflicts began, and we went to TSU "under the wing" of Alexander Vorozhtsov (the current TSU vice-rector for research and innovation), to his laboratory of high-energy and special materials.
At that time, the university had a well-developed technology for producing nanosized powder materials, various metal compounds. Together with Sergey Vorozhtsov, the son of Alexander Borisovich, we began to closely expand research, accumulated equipment.
Over the past five years, we have developed a large collaboration of three materials science laboratories, and together we are achieving a lot in fundamental research", – says Zhukov.
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Samples of aluminum alloys obtained in the laboratory
So, now one of the promising studies - including from a practical point of view – is to increase the strength of metal products by introducing refractory (with a melting point of up to 2000 degrees) nanoparticles into the melt. Ilya Zhukov explains:
"They can increase the strength by 50% of the original and at the same time increase the ductility of the metal. Some of the approaches have already been tested at the Polyus Research and Production Center.
There is a demand for this technology from the industry, for example, we started working with one of the automakers to add our "magic powder" to their aluminum melt, from which they pour cylinder block heads. It's difficult to work with industrial partners – they have a very regulated business and business processes, but they find us on their own – isn't this recognition?"
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In June, Shanghai Ranking presented the Shanghai Global Ranking of Academic Subjects for 2019, TSU entered the 101-150 group on metallurgy.Areas for 2019, TSU entered the group 101-150 in metallurgy.