Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Los Alamos Engineers Workin' On The Railroad

Date:
August 30, 1997
Source:
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Summary:
Los Alamos National Laboratory engineers are applying their high-tech expertise to help engineers of another sort with an old problem: in a collaboration with the Association of American Railroads, Los Alamos is developing new alloys to extend the service life of railroad wheels.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Aug. 26, 1997 -- Los Alamos National Laboratory engineers are applying their high-tech expertise to help engineers of another sort with an old problem: in a collaboration with the Association of American Railroads, Los Alamos is developing new alloys to extend the service life of railroad wheels.

The research is tied to the largest Department of Energy railroad project ever conducted. DOE's Fernald Environmental Management Project in Ohio is scheduled to ship hundreds of tons of treated waste by rail to a disposal site in Utah.

The AAR awarded Los Alamos $150,000 to begin the research. DOE Fernald matched the research grant.

"If new alloys we help develop are accepted by the industry, it will affect rail wheels worldwide," said Dan Thoma, leader of the Laboratory's alloy development program. "Even a modest change in the life of the product can mean a savings of millions of dollars."

"Los Alamos' unique equipment and metallurgical staff were the basis of the formation of this partnership," said Dan Stone of the AAR Transportation Technology Center. "And the Laboratory's relative proximity to the TTC's Pueblo, Colo., location helps ease problems with research planning, coordination and execution."

When train wheels skid during braking, the tread of the wheels can reach temperatures over 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as the train stops, the wheels cool quickly, causing a thin layer of steel to transform into a brittle, untempered form called martensite. The martensite causes shallow, widening cracks on the wheels, or spalling. Eventually, the wheel goes out of round and wrecks the surface of the tracks. The damage may lead to derailments.

Because of spalling, the railroad industry must replace 75,000 wheels each year, at an annual cost of $70 million. These wheel defects also increase rolling resistance which increases locomotive fuel consumption. The industry estimates fuel costs rise about $50 per defective wheel, which means millions spent in total per year on extra fuel.

Los Alamos will investigate alternative alloys that limit the formation of martensite or cause the steel to return to its crack-resistant form during rapid cooling. Researchers will investigate combinations of alloying materials, including chromium, silicon and cobalt.

Although the railroad industry conducts large-scale research, Los Alamos' technical capabilities in metallurgy will allow rapid analysis and development of candidate alloys.

"We have a complementary set of tools to do this research," said Thoma. One such tool is a device that can simulate the temperature changes and pressures that railroad steel goes through during braking. A "quench deformation dilatometer" can cool a sample 1,800 degrees per second and apply simulated loads, allowing Thoma to evaluate the thermal history of steel samples.

"Even though it's been studied for years, steel is still an interesting material for research," said Thoma. "And alloy development is tied to the Laboratory's core mission, supporting maintenance and stewardship of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile."

Fernald contributed to support the research as an investment toward its massive environmental cleanup effort. For decades, Fernald refined raw uranium into metal used in production reactors at other Department of Energy sites to make plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons. Now 473,000 cubic yards of waste pit materials and surrounding soils will be treated by a thermal-drying process. Then the treated waste will be loaded onto gondola rail cars for disposal at a licensed site in Utah. The cleanup will require shipping about 100 ore cars loaded with contaminated soil every 11 days for seven years.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.

-30-


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Los Alamos National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Los Alamos Engineers Workin' On The Railroad." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830063148.htm>.
Los Alamos National Laboratory. (1997, August 30). Los Alamos Engineers Workin' On The Railroad. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830063148.htm
Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Los Alamos Engineers Workin' On The Railroad." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/08/970830063148.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) MIT researchers developed a light-based sensor that gives robots 100 times the sensitivity of a human finger, allowing for "unprecedented dexterity." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Several companies unveiled virtual reality headsets at the Tokyo Game Show, Asia's largest digital entertainment exhibition. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins