This research develops innovative nickel nanolayer coated boron carbide (B4C/Ni) composites. B4C has high melting point, high hardness, good chemical resistance, and low density. However, the high melting point and high hardness make B4C very difficult to process and intrinsically brittle. Currently used hot pressing is expensive and inefficient; simple mixing of B4C and other additives hampers the desired performances. This project is aimed at establishing the framework for systematic understanding and manuipulation of matter, and will deliver far more desired properties and processability than the current stochastic approach. The particle-based electroless coating explores new methodology in high temperature material design; the combustion driven compaction process accelerates the application and improvement of ultrahigh pressure compaction; and the pressureless sintering studies of B4C/Ni hold great promise for the advancement of the unexplored nanolayer activated-sintering.
B4C/Ni nanocomposites have important applications in high temperature thermoelectric conversion, neutron absorption, cutting tools, and lightweight structural materials. With the knowledge gained on nano-coating and high-efficiency manufacturing, many hard-to-process high temperature materials can be re-designed. The program will provide important opportunities for Virginia Tech and industry to build alliance in nanomaterial research and development to accelerate nanotechnology transfer to industry. The proposed activities in engaging university faculty, students, and industry scientists will contribute greatly to enhancing U.S. manufacturing workforce. The outreach activities are targeted at three areas of nanotechnology: industry nanotechnology development, female engineering student retention, and high school nano-education.