Case studies

Metal foams already have a number of established and profitable market niches. At the high value-added end of the market, the DUOCEL® range of metfoams are used as heat exchangers, both of the regenerative and the purely dissipative types; they are used, too, as lightweight support structures for aerospace applications. The INCO® nickel foams allow efficient, high current-drain rechargeable batteries. ALPORAS® aluminum foams have been deployed as baffles to absorb traffic noise on underpasses and as cladding on buildings; CYMAT® aluminum foams can be used both for lightweight cladding and as structural panels.

These are established applications. Potential applications under scrutiny include automobile firewalls, exploiting thermal and acoustic properties as well as mechanical stiffness and energy-absorbing ability at low weight; and components for rail-transport systems, exploiting the same groups of properties. Other potential applications include integrally molded parts such as pump housings and hydraulic components. Some metfoams are potentially very cheap, particularly when cost is measured in units of $/unit volume. Here they rival wood (without the problems of decay) and other cheap structural materials such as foamed plastics.

The eight case studies together with the potential applications listed in this chapter and in Chapter 1, Table 1.2, will give an idea of the possibilities for exploiting metal foams in engineering structures.

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