What Materials Can Replace Steel?
After Russia pledged to scale back its military operations around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine, the prices of most industrial metals fell, led by aluminum, showing people's concerns for supply shortage eased.
At an earlier time, the West imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which aroused concerns about the supply problem because Russia is a major producer of nickel, aluminum, and copper.
Russia is also a major gas supplier to Europe, where potential supply disruptions are seen as hitting power-intensive aluminum and zinc titanium carbide powder are still very uncertain.
We use steel to build houses, parks, and playgrounds. If steel no longer exists, or if we have to build cities on Mars, what materials can replace steel?
Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastics (FRP)
It was first heard in 1940. Fiberglass has no steel in it, but it is very hard: An 8mm thick glass plate cannot be penetrated by a speeding bullet.
To make fiberglass, glass is first melted and drawn into wires. Glass fiber is very elastic and can be spun into cloth. Fiberglass or glass-reinforced plastics are made by pressing layers of glass cloth together and adding heat treatment to a hot-melt plastic.
The mechanical strength of fiberglass is comparable to that of steel, but it weighs only a quarter of that of steel, so it's very light. Moreover, fiberglass does not rust, and does not conduct electricity.
Glass fiber reinforced plastics (FRP) is a new technological material, which is light, beautiful, and strong, and can be used to make car bodies, motorboat hulls, railway carriages, construction materials, etc. The body of a car made of fiberglass weighs just over 150 kilograms. Fiberglass powerboats don't rust and rot, and they can be made into one piece without splicing. If the body of the boat breaks somewhere, just put some adhesive resin around it and put pieces of glass cloth on it.
The use of FRP is more and more extensive. In the military, FRP is used to make light tanks and gunboats, and in sports, FRP is used to make pole vaulting poles and bows for archery. In life, FRP is also used to manufacture furniture and kitchen bath equipment, such as bathtubs, sinks, which are beautiful, light, strong, and durable.
Iron and steel materials have many advantages, but it also has many defects, such as not corrosion resistance, not high-temperature resistance, not being hard enough, and heat insulation. Ceramics make up for these defects.
We all know that ceramics are fragile. After analyzing the composition of ordinary ceramics, scientists believe that one of its main materials, clay containing more impurities, is the source of ordinary ceramics' easy cracking. So, a silver-gray silicon nitride ceramic was made by mixing sand, starch, and zirconia in a nitrogen-filled furnace at 1,400 °C for seven hours.
This colorful high-tech ceramic, with almost the same specific weight as aluminum, can withstand high temperatures of more than 1500℃, and has very good toughness, and amazing hardness, only diamond can cut it. Since then, silicon carbide, zirconia, titanium carbide, toughened alumina, and other new ceramic materials have come out.
Different high-tech ceramics with different compositions have their own use.
Zirconia ceramics, for example, are particularly resistant to wear, corrosion, and high temperatures. Engine cylinders made of zirconia do not need a cooling system so that the heat generated by fuel combustion in the cylinder can be converted into the power required by the car to the maximum. In addition, the new cylinder is hard, not easy to wear, and the acid gas is formed by the decomposition of fuel oil corrosion. Therefore, this high-tech ceramic automobile engine has a long service life, high power, low manufacturing cost, and can save a lot of metal materials and 30% of the fuel consumption.
More interesting is that the cutting tool is made of high-tech zirconium-containing ceramics, once the knife body is impacted by external forces and cracks, it will automatically expand, and the cracks will be closed. Zirconia ceramic scissors, the blade is not blunt, rust not crack, known as never scrap "long life scissors".
The development of high and new technology can make ceramic become harder than iron and steel, and also can make it as ductile and plastic as copper, aluminum, and other non-ferrous metals. Titanium oxide ceramics, for example, are ground into extremely fine grains and, with a binder, melted into sheets at high temperatures. Simply heat the sheet to 1809°C and crush it. The result is a wavy ceramic plate. Another calcium fluoride ceramic, even when heated to 80℃, takes on the characteristics of extrusion deformation.
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At present, international supply chains were shocked, and logistics and transportation efficiency decreases. Geopolitical conflicts further aggravate uncertainties about the European and American economic recovery and the global commodity supply. For this reason, I assume the price of the titanium carbide powder would not decrease significantly in the short term.