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10 21st century Scissorhands Preparing Hybrid Composite Materials

- KAERI Develops 3D printing technology for preparing metal-SiC hybrid materials

- Technology secured for production of essential composite materials for quaternary industries including aviation, space, energy, and environment

□ Edward Scissorhands, a movie that premiered in 1991, is a 20th century Hollywood masterpiece. What is outstanding in the movie is Edward Scissorhands played by actor Johnny Depp. With scissor blades for his ten fingers, Edward trimmed the neighbor’s hair, took care of trees in the garden, and even made ice sculpture resembling the heroine. Edward’s marvelous skills at carving all materials into shapes are exactly the same as real objects gave the audience the feeling of reading a fantastic fairy tale.

□ Recently, one Korean research team has drawn attention by opening a new horizon of 3D laser printing technology, which is the 21st century’s scissorhands. The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (acting president Baek Won-pil) announced on January 24 that it had successfully developed a ‘3D printing technology for preparing metal-SiC hybrid materials’ that allows the hybridization (combining two or more functions or roles in one object) of a metal and SiC (silicon carbide).

  ㅇ SiC refers to silicon carbide, which has a hardness similar to that of diamond, tolerates a high temperature of about 1,500℃, and has an extremely high thermal conductivity. Therefore, the material has been extensively applied as a coating material for fuel rods in nuclear reactors, in engines for air planes and spacecrafts, and in highly heat-resistant structural materials for buildings.

□ The essence of the technology for preparing hybrid materials is ‘rapid and accurate coupling.’ Since the properties of metals and SiC are very different, the tight coupling of the materials based on the conventional melting or physical junction requires a large amount of cost and time but yields a very low accuracy. However, in the newly developed technology, a 3D laser printer precisely stacks SiC particles on a metal surface, allowing the partial coating of a surface regardless of the shape of the product. KAERI has already patented, in the middle of January, an innovative process technology for not only Korea but also the US, Japan and Europe.

□ The ‘metal-SiC hybrid materials’ produced by this ‘coating treatment’ are drawing much attention as versatile materials for the future, because they have the durability of metal as well as the high thermal stability, hardness, and resistance to corrosion and abrasion of SiC. In particular, the materials are expected to be used to successfully compensate the durability of zirconium alloy, the metallic material used for nuclear fuel claddings, and to prevent the risk of explosion.

□ KAERI has a plan to develop accident-tolerant claddings by applying the new technology and facilitate the advancement of the technology for wide application to various industries.

  ㅇ The market for composite materials, including ‘metal-SiC hybrid materials’, is continuously growing with the advent of the Fourth Industry Revolution. The domestic market size is about 600 billion KRW per year while  the global market size is about 50 billion USD per year.

□ Dr. Kim Hyun-gil of KAERI stated, 3D printing technology for preparing metal-SiC hybrid materials is an accomplishment from the technological innovation led by KAERI.” He also added, “since the demand for hybrid composite materials manufactured using the technology is expected to increase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, its  technological power will be continuously strengthened for practical application to the energy, environment and aerospace industries.”


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