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Overview: Strong Metallic Alloys

The SMA cluster activities revolve around the development or improvement of metallic alloys to allow for more efficient use.  The main project is the development of Pt-based alloys for high temperature applications in aggressive environments.  In addition to developing the alloys themselves, the group is also involved in the construction of a thermodynamic database to enable the calculation of phases and their proportions for different alloys.  This will be an invaluable tool for future alloy developers and will also facilitate further improvements to the alloys, including further development of new alloys. Given that there was very little phase diagram information, the group has had to undertake extensive experimental phase diagram work in order to obtain data to build the database.  The driver for this R&D effort is Prof. L.A. Cornish and the work is on-going at Wits and Mintek.  The bulk elastic properties are being studied under Prof. J.D. Comins at Wits, whereas Prof. J. Neethling at NMMU is undertaking electron microscope studies.  Prof. P. Ngoepe is undertaking ab initio modelling of platinum group metals (PGM) alloys at the University of Limpopo (ULim). Mr A. Mwamba is investigating the utilisation of the Pt-based and other PGMs alloys as powder metallurgy components manufactured through water and gas atomisation, and mechanical alloying and subsequent sintering.

A new area of interest to the group is corrosion phenomena.  Dr J. van der Merwe is undertaking general corrosion studies at Wits.  Prof. J.D. Comins is also conducting corrosion studies at Wits using in-situ micro-Raman and electrochemical polarization; Mintek, on the other hand, is currently undertaking a major study on high temperature corrosion phenomenon called Metal Dusting, funded by DST’s Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI).  This will see the advent of increased R&D on ferrous metals being done as part of a drive to diversify the activities of the Focus Area. The driver for this is Mintek, which is the hub for the AMI’s Ferrous and Base Metals Development Network (FMDN). Dr M.J. Papo is the coordinator of the FMDN under which Metal Dusting sub-programme falls.

The newest member of the SMA cluster, Prof. C. Polese, brings a new dimension to the SMA R&D portfolio.  Prof. Polese’s research interest is in innovative aerospace technologies that include among numerous interests, advanced joining technologies such as friction stir welding (FSW) and laser welding.  In addition to the interest in these technologies, Prof. Polese also focuses on fitness-of-purpose studies such as damage tolerance analysis of structures, fatigue and fracture analysis using both numerical (i.e. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and experimental approaches. Prof. Polese’s R&D focus opens up likely collaboration opportunities within the SMA (e.g. with Dr L.H. Chown on her interest in titanium (Ti) metallurgy and its applications) and other national R&D initiatives such as the AMI and the Titanium Centre of Excellence (TiCoC).  Efforts are currently in progress into seeking alignments with these programmes in our continuing effort to diversify the activities of the SMA Focus Area.

Focus Area Co-ordinator
Dr A. Mwamba
Prof. C. Polese

Prof. J.D. Comins
Prof. L.A. Cornish (Director of CoE-SM)
Prof. J.H. Neethling
Prof. P.E. Ngoepe
Dr J. Papo
Prof. M.J. Witcomb
Dr J. van der Merwe
Dr N. Maledi