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Development of magneto-fluorescent nanostructured composites for application in nondestructive testing


Structural inspection of ferromagnetic materials using fluorescent magnetic particle (PMF) is a fast and inexpensive conventional nondestructive testing (END) widely used in the industry for detecting its structural flaws and shallow subsurface discontinuities, which may compromise the structural integrity of the object. Their functioning is based on the induced magnetic attraction to the fracture borders, exposing their precise location for visual fluorescence detection. National leader in END for almost forty years, Metal-Chek do Brasil has been under strong commercial and technological pressure from Magnaflux, an American company belonging to the Illinois Tool Works (ITW) group, made up of hundreds of businesses present in 57 countries and more than 20,000 patents. In this scenario, Metal-Chek started in 2014 a scientific partnership with the University of São Paulo to solve some practical problems faced in the development of its particles and to create new PMF that could enter the market in a disruptive way. Among the desired characteristics for new PMF, one can quote green processes, rational use of raw materials and superior quality of PMF in relation to morphology, fluorescence and magnetic response. Pilot processes have already been developed for the synthesis of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPION), TRL7 (Technology readiness level 7) and the synthesis of three PMF production routes, TRL4.Among the planned routes, the most promising is the one that organizes SPION in superparamagnetic microspheres (M-SPION) by spray drying, followed by coating with pigments in a fluidized bed reactor. This methodology hierarchically organizes SPION and pigments, minimizing quantum effects of fluorescence suppression, effects of light extinction by the magnetic component and phase heterogeneity. From these results with TRL4-7, it is understood that the technology is ripe for direct submission to PIPE II. The research is proposed to optimize morphology, magnetism, fluorescence and performance in the detection of particle defects due to: 1) optimization of SPION production; 2) diameter of the M-SPION; 3) microencapsulation coating; 4) composition of the covering. Besides, the materials will be characterized by electron microscopy (SEM and TEM) and optical, magnetometer (VSM), thermal analysis (DTA and DSC), size distribution, rotational viscometer, fluorescence and UV-VIS spectroscopies and tests on specimens. Due to the superior performance and low production cost, these particles may be introduced in END markets with higher added value, such as aerospace and in Europe. It is estimated that these new processes and products will lead to a significant increase in Metal-Chek's market share and an increase of up to R$ 16 million per year in sales. Of these R$ 3.6 million correspond to domestic customers and R$ 12.4 million exported to Socomore. Such materials will inaugurate the fourth generation of PMF, being the only nanostructured on the market, which places Metal-Chek in a prominent position to become a major global producer of inputs for END. (AU)

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