BAM: Almost as hard as diamond while stealing the title for the world’s most slippery material ever created is more slippery than Teflon and makes components last many times longer.
The revolutionary material consists of boron, aluminum and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2) creating a superhard substance that is just third hardest to diamond and cubic boron nitride. The material, dubbed BAM, was accidentally discovered at the US Department of Energy Ames Laboratory in Iowa in 1999 following attempts to create a substance that generates electricity when heated.
World’s best lubricant
While BAM does not exhibit this property, its unique composition gave it an even more desirable edge. The material exhibited superb hardness and incredibly low coefficients of friction.
“Its hardness was discovered by accident. We had a terrible time cutting it, grinding it, or polishing it,”
Says Alan Russell, a materials scientist at Iowa State University in Ames.
Fortunately for Ames Lab, the chance discovery led to the development of a $3-million program to further progress the new material into a usable substance that could help significantly increase energy efficiency and material resiliency.
The material has a coefficient of friction of less than half that of the previous record holding material of Teflon. Where Teflon has a coefficient of friction of 0.05, BAM maintains an incredible 0.02. For a general reference, steel maintains a frictional coefficient of 0.16.
The new material can be applied as a micro-thin coating to many different surfaces which provide the energy and longevity benefits that BAM maintains. According to Bruce Cook, lead investigator on the Ames Lab project, he estimates BAM could save US industry alone 330 trillion kilojoules (9 billion kilowatt-hours) every year by 2030 – translating into about $179 million of savings a year.
The material’s mechanical characteristics are currently being studied as it is not well known why the material maintains such dexterity. Normally, a material will only exhibit characteristics of hardness or low friction points, it is an entirely new phenomenon in which both were discovered at high degrees within the same material.
BAM has the potential to solve every engineer’s worst nightmare: frictional wear. Friction degrades machines, expends massive amounts of energy, and adds a large degree of complexity to design. However, BAM could help alleviate much of the tension by providing a super hard, incredibly slippery material that helps machines last much longer than ever before.
Boron Aluminium Magnesium (BAM) [Image Source: Wiki]