The properties of materials may be improved and the range of their application extended by nanostructuring their surface by means of special treatment or by application of the respective coating. Most effective for the former version are methods of vacuum electronic-ion-plasma modification, i.e., the effect of the concentrated currents of charged particles and plasma making it possible to control matter on an atomic level. As a result, the article becomes harder and more corrosion-and wear-resistant, with the preset electric- and heat conductivity, and so on, attributed to it. Moreover, the cost of this method is minimal, while the end product is quite expensive. N. Koval, Dr. Sc. (Tech.), N. Sochugov, Cand. Sc. (Phys. & Math.) and A. Batrakov, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.) devoted their contribution to the newspaper Nauka v Sibiri to the efforts of Russia's researchers in this new sphere.
Research at the Institute of Heavy-Current Electronics of the RAS Siberian Branch (Tomsk) has been carried out in this sphere in the past two decades, in particular involving the problems of formation of heavy-current discharges, solid plasma generation, with effective generators and sources of charged particles created on this basis. Science-based principles have been elaborated here in the past few years of electronic-ion-plasma methods for treatment of metal and alloy surfaces, with nanocrystalline and nanocomposite layers formed with unique physical and operation properties. And this fact is certainly of interest for various industrial sectors.
Methods and equipment for modification of the surface of materials by heavy-current low-energy pulse electron beams have been created at the Institute that are unique for the sum total of their parameters. In its substance the process is as follows. As a result of the effect of this beam, the upper thin layer of the article (remaining practically cold inside) is heated and, next, melted, with its super-rapid re-crystallization. Finally, its surface loses to a certain extent its former roughness (consequently, we have got a new polishing method) and becomes corrosion-, wear-, impact load-, and temperature drop-resistant. Moreover, even tools made of tungsten carbide, a refractory material, may be subjected to such treatment.
The second version of nanostructuring material surfaces, developed by the researchers of the Institute, consists in the application of super hard coating to the material surface by means of ion-plasma methods. This is highly important, for the development of most of the production processes involves greater loads, higher temperatures and increasingly aggressive media for the operation of mechanisms and components, which leads to their rapid wear. The researchers can offer even now a new method for making metals and alloys more durable, i.e., to protect them with a nanocomposite coating (Ti-Cu-N) that is three times as hard as the widely known pobedit alloy. There are plans for the methods and equipment to be introduced in production for this idea to become a reality.
Creation of heat-saving glass is another important aspect of utilization of nanostructures. Ordinary windows, as we all know, are the weakest link in heat protection of buildings. That is why they have been increasingly replaced by low-emission or spectral-selective glass-packages installed in special blocks. However, these new goods are quite expensive. The researchers of the S.S. Kutateladze Thermophysics Institute of the RAS Siberian Branch (Novosibirsk) have put forward an
idea of creation of heat-saving coating for transparent polyethylene (polyethylenterephthalate) film, not for glass. It may be, according to the researchers of the Institute of Heavy-Current Electronics of the RAS Siberian Branch, a nanocrystalline layer of aluminum-finished zinc oxide, applied by unbalanced pulse magnetron dispersion. With such heat-insulation layer fastened in between the window frames in an ordinary window, heat loss will be over 50 percent less, i.e., the effect will be no worse than that from the installation of expensive glass-packages.
If put into practice, the Siberian researchers' idea will allow us not only to save heat but also substantially improve the microclimate in the premises by eliminating cold zones near the windows. Work is currently underway to improve these methods and optimize the characteristics of the coating. There is every reason to hope that the idea will be materialized on a commercial scale in the next two or three years.
N. Koval, N. Sochugov, A. Batrakov, "Surface Nanostruclures-From Research to Application", Nauka v Sibiri, No. 3, 2007
Prepared by Olga BAZANOVA
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