U.S. researchers have devised a new approach to make the production of Nickel cheaper by 40%.
The research team from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) worked with the Federal U.S. Mint to devise the new strategy.
According to the researchers, the new approach produces a coin every bit as tough and reliable as the old nickel but also every bit as familiar to the American citizen.
The method could also be used to create new, colorful materials for resilient electronics such as laptops and phones.
The process stems from NIST’s 2011 Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) that strove to decrease the time it takes for a new material to reach market by at least half while keeping costs low.
The MGI has over the years built computational and IT tools needed for the development of all kinds of new materials for use in a wide variety of manufacturing applications.
The team worked backward, first identifying the desired qualities for the new nickel piece and then figuring out what alloys and procedures might be needed to make it a reality.
This apart, the U.S. Mint outlined that the new coin had to be produced at its facilities in Denver and Philadelphia, both of which use a specific type of slow-cooling procedure.
According to the researchers, dealing with the coin’s color proved particularly challenging.
Although most people do not think of the coin as having a special tone or hue, coin collectors are a demanding group and will often reject coins that are even slightly off-tone.
The general public also might not trust a coin that is too orange or too yellow.
This is where the MGI process proved enormously useful: Starting with the set of parameters for resilience, conductivity and color, the team was able to produce a new mix of copper, nickel and zinc that was 40 percent less expensive than the previous metal mix.
The team relied heavily on a type of materials design system known as an Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) framework.
According to the researchers, the method uses a large amount of computer modeling to discover how different components will react when mixed together. In this case, those components were metal alloys.
Image credits and content: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)