The new practice will use laser shock peening (LSP), a method that shoots an infrared light beam on to pieces of metal to change their physical, mechanical, and environmental properties.
It will make the metals on aircraft components and structures more durable and less sensitive to corrosion by increasing its longevity. When they are processing the metal, each sample they test goes through a rigorous course of manipulations and stress, heat, and environmental tests. Its structural and chemical properties are assessed right down to its nano-structure.
"We hypothesize that, when we use the LSP processes to impart deep, compressive, residual stresses to these components, we strengthen the metal in a very deliberate way, which makes it less likely to fail," said University of Cincinnati Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Professor S.R. Mannava.
Questions have come up regarding just how durable the metal will be when going through this process, and researchers at the university are ready to take the next step in the process once they find out for sure.
"When we have confirmed the metal itself won't fail due to fatigue, cracking or corrosion, we will fortify huge pieces of metal for use in prototypes and, eventually, mass production,” MME Professor Vijay Vasudevan said. "We will also conduct basic research to understand the effects of the process on how the material behaves in order to optimize the process for specific, future applications."
Right now, they are testing the technology on passenger aircraft. Professors Mannava and Vasudevan have tested and fortified numerous samples already. Researchers have stated the technology – which was originally developed and patented by General Electric - can be used for many different things, such as medical devices, automobiles, power generation, nuclear imaging components and chemical processing.
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