The future may once have been mere plastics, but today the future is superplastics
. Plastics are being treated with nanoparticles to create stronger, cleaner, more flame-resistant plastics.
Scientists are applying superplastics technology, previously used with metals, to create near-net shape ceramics that are dense, smooth, and relatively free of flaws.
Superplastics forging generally involves making a ceramic preform from a starting powder by wet- or dry-mixing a composition that can be from 70% to 99% silicon nitride, up to 30% stabilizing additive, and up to about 7% free silicon.
Jupiter scientists say the forging that takes place during superplastics processing densifies the end product more uniformly than conventional hot pressing does.
But in superplastics forging, the preform can be designed to have a shape similar to that of the final product, which allows the flow of material during processing to be controlled more uniformly.
This raises the possibility that fine-grained ceramics as well as some liquid-phase ceramics can be formed into complex shapes using superplastics forming techniques similar to those now used on high-strength metallic alloys, notably titanium.
Superplastic metals can be molded almost like plastics themselves.
This result "contradicts the current opinion that a temperature of at least [half] of the absolute melting temperature is required for superplastic flow," says Terence G.
Commercially available superplastic metals have grains at least 100 times as large.
Processing superplastic metals at lower temperatures means lower energy costs and less wear on tools.