Steely flash

A novel heat treatment for toughening up steel takes just seconds to give the alloy a 7% boost in strength, according to Detroit entrepreneur Gary Cola. Suresh Babu of Ohio State University is now working to develop further the process known as Flash Bainite. The process generates the well-known martensite microstructure within steel but also generates another form, bainite, scattered with carbides that endow it with a potentially 30% strength increase over conventional martensitic steel. The technology, which rapidly heats and cools the steel, presumably avoiding dissolution of the carbides, could lead to stronger, but lighter and more fuel efficient, vehicles, military equipment.