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Microwave-plasma platform engineers solid-material properties

By Scott Jenkins |

A new production process for engineering a range of nano- and microstructured solid materials can reduce the costs of manufacturing the materials compared to conventional “wet-chemistry” approaches, and can allow novel chemistries that are not accessible through traditional methods. Developer Amastan Technologies (North Andover, Mass.; www.amastan.com) has built two production-scale plasma reactors and plans to launch its first commercial products — metal powders designed for 3-D printing — in 2019. The technology platform, known as Uni-Melt (diagram), concentrates microwave energy inside the reactor to produce a highly uniform, 6,000K plasma region for synthesis of solid particles. Raw materials, in the form of solution precursors or raw solids, are fed into the reactor in a continuous process using a carrier gas. By carefully and precisely controlling a set of 15 process parameters, the system can guide the formation of a range of engineered solid materials with various properties. The controlled parameters include plasma power, residence time and flow gas, which can create oxidizing, reducing or neutral environments for synthesis. “The Uni-Melt platform is highly versatile, with the ability to create dense metal powder…
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