National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of the Army Support Research in Military Vehicle Armor and Resorbable Biomedical Implants
ANAHEIM, Calif., February 8, 2011 – nanoMAG LLC, Ann Arbor, Michigan, the developer of novel lightweight, high-strength magnesium sheet technology, has been awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S Department of the Army for further research and application development for its unique material. A $730,000 contract extension with the U.S. Department of the Army will focus on development of lightweight composite armor for armored vehicles and ballistics applications. Meanwhile, a $100,000 NSF grant will support research work on resorbable biomedical implants for orthopaedic applications. nanoMAG LLC, a subsidiary of Thixomat Technologies LLC, made the announcement at the 2011 AeroCon exhibition here (Booth #4295) Feb. 8-10.
“We’re encouraged by the strong support we’ve received from these agencies as we more closely examine the unique properties of our magnesium products and their potential use in the military and biomedical fields,” said Stephen LeBeau, president of nanoMAG.
Military contractors are seeking lightweight, structural materials for personnel carriers to ensure mobility and reliability which is critical to personnel safety and improved fuel efficiency. The high cost of transporting fuel on the battlefield is a big issue with the current cost estimate at between $200-$300/gal.
nanoMAG magnesium sheet provides 200% higher strength and improved toughness over conventional magnesium, while also providing the strength of carbon steel sheet at one-fourth the weight. Until now, magnesium alloy sheet has been cost prohibitive, difficult to form, and limited in availability. nanoMAG’s new material is targeted at lightweight applications in military vehicle armor, resorbable biomedical implants, and structural aerospace applications. The patent-pending process features isotropic fine-grained strengthening which permits low-volume manufacturing for specialty applications at a competitive cost.
In military applications, the physical and mechanical properties of nanoMAG sheet compares favorably with steel and aluminum alloys in conventional vehicle armor and body armor. In vehicle armor, the goal is to encompass hard ceramic penetrator breakers in a nanoMAG matrix in the face in combination with light, strong, and ductile nanoMAG alloy backing. The total military vehicle armor market is projected to be $1 billion/yr and substitution of nanoMAG for either aluminum or steel represents a multi-million-dollar market opportunity, according to LeBeau. He noted that current nanoMAG technology offers twice the performance of conventional magnesium alloy products.
In body armor, shaped high-strength magnesium sheet is combined with ceramic cover plates and fiber composites to arrest incoming bullets and explosive fragments without generating secondary armor fragments. The low density of magnesium (1/4 that of steel) lightens the load on the soldier while the high hardness of nanoMAG sheet resists penetration. The company has already supplied nanoMAG sheet to a major supplier for testing.
In bioabsorbable implants, key applications include ligament fixation, craniofacial implants, and small bone implants consisting of screws, staples, tacks, wire, rods, plates, stents, and 3D shapes. Currently under development are nanostructured magnesium alloys of exceptional strength/density ratio and corrosion resistance that can be tailored to optimum biodegradation rates, while maintaining biocompatibility. Under the NSF funding, nanoMAG is working with Biomet Inc., Warsaw, Ind., a leading supplier of resorbable polymer implants.
The Thixomolding ThermoMechanical Process (TTMP), developed in conjunction with the University of Michigan, produces ultra-fine-grain “nanocrystalline” magnesium sheet with properties superior to conventional materials like steel, aluminum, and titanium. The nano structure is produced in-situ in a bulk form, avoiding the manufacturing issues associated with the handling of fine powders. The process uses Thixomolding® technology to produce a sheet bar which is put through secondary thermo-mechanical heat processing. A key factor is the precise control of the microstructure which increases the yield strength of the original Thixomolded® stock by more than 200% to more than 250 MPa along with 10% elongation. The result is an advanced magnesium sheet/plate with a superior strength-to-weight ratio than competitive materials.
nanoMAG’s “mini-mill” operation consists of discrete manufacturing cells capable of producing 500 tons per year with a modest initial capital investment. This unique manufacturing strategy reduces operating cost over traditional casting/rolling methods, permits economical short-run specialty products for niche markets, and allows incremental capacity to be brought online in response to market needs. The fine-grain sheet material also boasts greater formability, allowing fabrication of net-shape finished components currently not available.
The global market for medical implants is estimated to exceed $4 billion with roughly 50% tied to ligament repairs that could benefit from improved fastening systems using resorbable magnesium implants. For demanding structural applications, laminated composites of magnesium sheet with carbon fiber have been successfully fabricated, offering a new class of materials with even greater strength and stiffness. Other promising applications including ultralight aerospace and fuel cell systems have also been identified.
nanoMAG has a pilot/pre-production plant in operation in Ann Arbor, Mich. The company is actively seeking development partners to test and validate early pre-production samples tailored to end-use markets.
About nanoMAG LLC
nanoMAG LLC, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is a subsidiary of Thixomat Technologies LLC, a company with more than 20 years experience in the research, development, and marketing of technologies for the production of products utilizing magnesium alloys. nanoMAG supplies precision magnesium sheet and short-run specialty alloys to diverse industries including automotive, aerospace, biomedical, and military. nanoMAG magnesium sheet provides 200% higher strength and improved toughness over conventional magnesium, while also providing the strength of carbon steel sheet at one-fourth the weight. For more information, visit www.nanomag.us.
About Thixomat Inc.
Thixomat Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is the developer of the Thixomolding® process which produces injection molded products from magnesium stock. The process permits the manufacture of net or near-net shape parts requiring little finishing. There are more than 50 Thixomat licensees and more than 400 Thixomolding® machines have been sold worldwide.
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