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Experiments with AlMgB14 began in 1979 and continued sporadically over the next two decades. In 1998, Dr. Bruce Cook at Ames Labs in Ames, Iowa, initiated research around adding materials to the base composite. Several patents were issued from his efforts.

However, given limitations in his methods of manufacture, he was only able to produce the material in small quantities, and the quality of the resulting material was often inconsistent. (Specifically, inconsistent phases rich with TiB2 and AlMgB14 regions were common in these materials. Porosity was commonly 3-4% due to powder processing, with 1000 Vickers points or more difference in the same part. FeB49 along with spinel MgAl2O3 (3-10 wt%) were common unwanted additives in the various small test samples.)

New Tech’s predecessor company, Innovative Materials, Inc. (IMI), obtained patent rights in 2006 and started working on refinement of the manufacturing methods. Employing and refining some of the known successful methods used to manufacture binderless tungsten carbide, IMI was able to manufacture larger quantities of AlMgB14+ materials (a magnitude of 100’s over Dr. Cook’s process), to validate stability of the technology.

The methods developed are further scalable to a magnitude of 1000’s over Dr. Cook’s, translating to kilos at a time. In addition to dramatically increasing production lot sizes, reliable and repeatable particle size (with homogeneous mixing and a total removal of FeB49 and the reducing of spinel MgAl2O3) was also achieved.

The company is now able to make a homogeneous mix with reliable, repeatable particle size with porosity less than 1%, no FeB49, and is currently further reducing the amount of spinel MgAl2O3. Dr. Cook has tested these materials and is satisfied with the results. Additional testing of the material will focus on continuing to reduce particle size.

Since AlMgB14+ is a family of materials, one phase of the research will center on achieving the optimal AlMgB14 - TiB2 ratio for the best combination of microhardness, wear resistance, lubricity, and toughness. (Preliminary work at Ames Laboratory has shown that this ratio is near 50 vol. TiB2. Another aspect of research will be to determine the microhardness, and fracture toughness of composite – Co (Mn) bindered AlMgB14+ cermets with 1 to 20 vol. % binder phase.)

The hardest grade of AlMgB14+ material is similar to cBN at about 4500 Vickers, and one of the tougher grades is 9.8 MPa with Tungsten carbide about 10 MPa. The merging of these two grades should provide a very hard – tough grade.

New Tech’s focus is the unique and rare combination of properties that the patented material family has that is not present or currently available today, and that fills a market niche between tungsten carbide and cubic boron nitride (cBN).

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