Is there a better time to salute metallurgists than when much of the country is in the midst of a massive cryogenic experiment? It is -15°F without wind chill as I write this, so I am reminded of the unique challenges of selecting materials and heat treatments for extreme conditions. I’ve been through worse cold snaps than this, including a Boy Scout Klondike Derby outing where -28°F proved to be close enough to the brittle state of plastic pipe to destroy some competitors’ sleds. Traditional sled materials such as wood, leather, and rope proved immune to the conditions; much like well bundled kids without thermometers handy. Their mothers gave us an earful about irresponsibility when we returned home, but the boys were pretty proud of themselves for overcoming the brutal temperatures without damage. Thanks to ever-present modern communication, today’s scouts would never consider setting out in a weather emergency.
My first recollection of “metallurgy” was seeing a photo of a Liberty ship with the bow broken off from the cold ocean water. I survived the required classes in engineering school but never really appreciated this important field until decisions had to be made about materials and thermal processing for wind turbine components that might end up in very cold conditions. We even had to build and test lube systems in a deep freezer; -40°F is very hard on pumps. Since then I have learned a great deal about materials selection, heat treating, deep freezing, and the various test methods used to insure proper performance at extreme temperatures.
The most important thing I learned is to have good reference materials on hand and the contact information for expert metallurgists at the ready. As always, AGMA standards are an excellent place to start. My friend Al Swiglo heads up the Metallurgy Committee, which is always working to keep the standards current with this rapidly advancing field. Many metallurgy papers are presented at the AGMA Fall Technical Meeting and other materials symposiums. You can count on Gear Technology to publish the papers which are most valuable to the gear trade.
Here are some links to past articles that might be of interest: