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Ion Bombardment
August 2, 2010   
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Polish scientists have developed and patented a method to modify the surface of metal molds using a beam of accelerated ions. The method has proved to be an international success.

The method, based on what is known as ion implantation technology, won a silver medal at the International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in mid-May. The judges praised the method’s applicability in the rubber industry.

The prize-winning method is the result of a joint effort by the Andrzej Sołtan Institute for Nuclear Studies in ¦wierk near Warsaw, the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology in Warsaw, and the Institute for Engineering of Polymer Materials and Dyes in the north-central city of Toruń.

Ion implantation technology is based on the use of controlled beams of accelerated ions for customized changes in the structure and properties of materials. In the ion implantation method, ions of one material are implanted into the surface of another material. In the first phase of the process, atoms of the introduced material become ionized and then accelerated in an electrical field to speeds reaching thousands of kilometers per hour. An ion beam thus formed is directed onto the surface of the processed material. Owing to their high energy, the ions sink 1 micrometer into the processed material. Using this method, it is possible to introduce practically any substance into any kind of material at concentration levels that are unattainable with other methods, according to the Polish scientists.

The structure of the bombarded material changes significantly. The surface acquires new properties that are often completely different from those of the source material, according to Prof. Jacek Jagielski at the Institute for Nuclear Studies.

For example, the ion implantation method makes it possible to upgrade steel tools and modify metal molds used for the production of tires and sealing in the rubber industry.

“In the case of metal molds for the rubber industry, modifying the steel’s surface energy prevents the rubber from adhering to the mold,” says Jagielski. “The process refines the quality of the products’ surface and at the same time radically reduces production stoppages because the molds no longer need to be cleaned so often.”

The method will also be applied in the production of precise sealing for aircraft and military equipment, according to Jagielski.
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