design for a sustainable future
Metal foams look soft, light and airy. They almost give you the impression that they could collapse in themselves. In reality they are very hard and rigid. Metal foams also incorporate aspects which can be highly relevant from a sustainability point of view.
Depending on the type and structure, metal foams consist of 80-90% air and 10-20% metal. They are therefore excellent materials for lightweight construction, as they not only offer an excellent balance between strength and inertia, but are also very rigid. Nowadays metal foams can be produced from most metallic materials and however their lightweight characteristics alone are not sufficient to characterise them as sustainable.
They offer other functional aspects such as cushioning effects and sound and heat absorbing qualities, which will make them highly attractive for applications in the areas of construction and engineering. The aesthetic qualities of metal foams, which are especially attractive in combination with light, have inspired designers and architects for many years. However, so far a real breakthrough has been impossible due to high production costs.
This could change now as Hollomet GmbH in Dresden has installed a new production technology which is based on sinter technology. To produce the material, an organic carrier foam is coated with a metal powder binder suspension in a powder-metallurgical molding process. Then the carrier material and the organic binder are removed through a thermal treatment. The last step is to sinter the final structure. The material excels through high permeability, high specific surface and low specific density. With the right choice of material, highly corrosion- and oxidation-resistant foams can be produced.
Until now metal foams have been produced in a casting process, which is expensive. The innovative process developed by Hollomet will lower production costs and the price of these metal foams will become attractive for much broader applications.
The foam structure offers a large internal structure which can be used for air filtering processes. This cleaning and filtering function is another added value especially in polluted urban environments. Metal foams and their innovative applications offer huge opportunities for engineers, designers and architects.
This article was written by Dr. Sascha Peters - www.saschapeters.com , all rights reserved © 2009
To find out more about the application of sinter technology in the production of metal foams please visit www.hollomet.com .