Mike Davies, International Sales and Applications Engineer at Micro Materials, talks to AZoNano about the NanoTest Xtreme and the benefits it offers user when performing indentation experiments under vacuum conditions.
SM: Can you please give our readers an introduction to the NanoTest Xtreme?
MD: The NanoTest Xtreme builds on Micro Materials over 25 years of experience in making nanoindentation equipment. It has been designed specifically to allow us to perform indentation experiments under vacuum conditions. The motivation behind this was to allow us to extend our operating temperature range beyond that of our ambient system the NanoTest Vantage. Operating under vacuum allows us to remove moisture and oxygen from the environment extending the available test temperature range to -100 C to 950 C from the -30 C to 750 C range available on our ambient system.
SM: Why is this significance for your customers?
MD: The extended temperature range will allow our customers to test their materials in an even wider range of operating conditions. This makes it possible for them to make an assessment of potential in service performance based on reliable high temperature data rather than extrapolation from room temperature measurements.
SM: Has this temperature range opened up new markets for Micro Materials, and where have you seen the most significant development?
MD: We have seen a lot of interest from people working in the power generation sector, particular in nuclear energy, where the combination of temperature and environment on the Xtreme allows researchers to obtain information that cannot be gathered using other technique. The case study below is just one example of that.
Another key area is aerospace where the drive for greater efficiency has led to a requirement for materials capable at operating at ever higher temperatures. The Xtreme is allowing researchers in this area to test at higher temperatures than have ever been possible on earlier generations of the NanoTest allowing them to push the boundaries of their research.
The low temperature capability is particularly relevant to those working in the development on satellites as in orbit different parts of the satellite can see huge fluctuations in temperature during their daily cycle which might have an impact on their performance.
SM: Have you got any case studies you are particularly proud of?
MD: Micro Materials applications team have been working closely with researchers from the University of Oxford to develop techniques for the interrogation of irradiated material which is being trialled for use in the development of the next generation of experimental fusion reactors. The NanoTest Xtreme is integral to this work as it allows the researchers to interrogate the near surface damage caused by the radiation at reactor operating temperatures. This gives the researchers a much clearer picture of the structural stability of these materials at temperature. The vacuum element is important as one of the materials being considered is tungsten which oxidises readily at higher temperatures. Since the interest is in the properties of the tungsten not the oxides that form the oxidation protection given by the vacuum environment is vital to obtaining useful data.
SM: How has the Xtreme allowed researchers to perform working-life performance analysis?
MD: The Xtreme allows researchers to gather mechanical property data and assess the wear behaviour at operating temperature. This data can be entered directly into models to assess the potential working life performance of components.
This approach has seen particular interest from those working with tool coatings who can use these data to evaluate cutting speed vs tool degradation for the next generation of coatings.
SM: How do you plan on developing the NanoTest Xtreme in the future?
MD: We are always looking for ways to improve the temperature range and performance of the Xtreme even further. At the moment we are in the middle of a project to push the high temperature capability beyond 1000 ⁰C. This project is at a pretty advanced stage, some of our instrument users at Aachen University, Germany have already presented data gathered at 1000 ⁰C on a customised system so we know that the target is achievable. We should have a new product ready to launch by summer 2017.
SM: Where can our readers learn more?
MD: There is more about the capabilities of the NanoTest Xtreme and current projects being undertaken using it on our website www.micromaterials.co.uk
About Mike Davies
Mike graduated with a degree in Physics at the University of Nottingham, and went on to complete a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering focusing on the characterisation of the mechanical properties and creep behaviour of power station structural materials at their operating temperatures using high temperature nanoindentation.
He joined MML in 2011, bringing a wealth of high temperature experience and knowledge to the existing sales and applications team.
Since joining Mike has worked on projects to expand the capabilities of the NanoTest range particular highlights include the first high strain rate nano-impact experiments performed at 750 ⁰C and the ongoing project to extend the nanoindentation temperature range beyond 1000 ⁰C.
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