The School of Materials Science and Engineering has the mission of contributing to the country’s integral development, through the training of high-quality professionals, and carrying out research and outreach activities.
As a high-quality public university, It must likewise maintain scientific, technological and technical leadership, academic excellence and a strict adherence to ethical, humanistic and environmental norms, and remain competitive at the national and international levels.
To be an academic unit of the University in the field of Materials Science and Engineering, dedicated to the training of high-quality professionals, to carrying out relevant research, implementing outreach activities, and establishing links with the national productive sector that promote the country’s development, done in an ethical manner within a framework of responsibility for protection of the environment.
To be a leader in the management of education, research, outreach activities and social action in the area of Materials Science and Engineering in Costa Rica and the region.
Services to Industry
Metal alloys undergo microstructural transformations and corresponding changes in their properties (mechanical, physical, etc.), when subjected to heat. Heat treatment is a manufacturing process that takes advantage of these changes to regenerate the microstructure or change it to fit desired requirements.
- Complete annealing: This treatment regenerates the microstructure of the alloy, taking it to its state of maximum balance and obtaining the softest possible state of the material, which is ideal for machining and elimination of tempering and imbalanced phases.
- Recrystallization annealing: Applies to materials that have been strongly deformed when cold. With this treatment the grain is refined, hardness decreases and alloy workability increases.
- Normalized: Treatment used to regenerate the microstructure of the alloy. It can be used as a final heat treatment and produces a material with better resistance than complete annealing, with greater hardness but still soft enough for machining.
- Tempering and annealing: Treatment used to harden iron alloys (steels and cast iron), generating maximum hardness in the material (55-68 HRc).
Thermochemical treatments are used to change the surface chemical composition of metal alloys, introducing a chemical element by diffusion using a heat treatment.
- Nitriding: Used in ferrous alloys (steels and cast iron) to produce a layer of nitrides on the surface of the material, which increases resistance to fatigue, corrosion and surface hardness of the material. We use the patented Tenifer process.
- QPQ (quench-polish-quench): This is a surface hardening process using nitrocarbons that increases resistance to corrosion and fatigue. It is sometimes known as Tufftride, Tenifer or Melonite. The method has three cooling steps: nitrocarburization, polishing and post-oxidation. This process is often used when two or more of the following properties are required in a work piece: wear resistance, corrosion resistance, lubricity and fatigue resistance. Common applications of the process are for piston rods of shock absorbers, cylinders and rods for hydraulic systems, pumps, shafts, spindles and valves.
- Cementation: Used in low carbon steels (max carbon content 0.3 wt.%). Carbon is introduced into the surface to obtain a harder layer (60 HRc) of high mechanical strength and a strong core.
Metallography and macrography
Metallography is the study of the microstructure of materials. The analysis of a microstructure of materials allows determining if the material has been processed correctly, making it a critical step in determining the reliability of the product and reasons for its failure. The basic steps for the proper preparation of metallographic samples include: sample selection and cutting, assembly, sanding, polishing and attack. Standard: ASTM E3, ASTM A247, ASTM E1558, ASTM E381, ASTM E407, ASTM E340, ASTM E112, ASTM E45, etc.
- Rockwell hardness: The Rockwell scale is a hardness scale based on the indentation hardness of a material (usually a metal alloy). The Rockwell test determines hardness by measuring the penetration depth of an indenter under a large load (major load) compared to the penetration made by a preload (minor load). We have measurements on the scale: A, B and C. Standard: ASTM E18.
- Rockwell surface hardness: a scale used for thinner materials or thick coatings.
- Vickers hardness: A highly accurate scale which makes it possible to evaluate all kinds of materials, coatings, thin layers, etc. Standard: ASTM E92, ASTM E384.
- Shore A hardness: Used to measure hardness in polymers. Standard: ASTM D2240.
Failure analysis is a critical process to determine the physical causes of a problem. The process is complex and uses many different techniques and a variety of observations, inspections and laboratory techniques. One of the key factors in correctly conducting a failure analysis is to keep an open mind when examining and analyzing evidence to permit a clear and unbiased perspective on the failure. Collaboration of experts in other disciplines is required in certain circumstances to integrate the analysis of evidence with a quantitative understanding of the stressors and basic information about the design, manufacture and service history of the product or system that failed.
For these reasons, the customer is initially requested to deliver a sample with the necessary information to make a quote and evaluate the techniques that will be used in the failure analysis.
Optical Emission Spectroscopy
This is an instrumental method of analytical chemistry that makes it possible to measure specific concentrations of a material in a mixture, and detect a wide variety of elements. This technique is used to measure the concentration of a particular element in a sample; in our case solid metal samples are analyzed, and the team has eight databases for analyzing different alloys listed below:
- Cast iron.
- Carbon steels.
- Stainless steels.
- Tool steels.
Thermogravimetry (TG), differential thermal analysis (DTA) and Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC)
For differential scanning calorimetry we have DSC equipment with a capacity of -90 to 550 °C, high sensitivity and calibration using the sapphire standard for heat capacity and Indian for temperature and enthalpy of reaction. This allows identifying reactions in materials such as change of phase, structure and caloric capacity with temperature, both in heating and cooling, cyclic and modulated analysis.
Thermal analysis of solid and liquid substances subjected to temperatures up to 1100 °C in the presence of an inert atmosphere (nitrogen) or oxidizing atmosphere (air) in simultaneous thermogravimetry and calorimetry. The measurement system has Thermogravimetric Analysis with simultaneous Differential Scanning Calorimetry, carried out in collaboration with the Center for Research and Chemical and Microbiological Services (CEQIATEC) of the TEC.
Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometry (FTIR)
Analysis of solid and liquid samples for qualitative determination of chemical components. Transmission techniques and attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy are available in collaboration with the Center for Research and Chemical and Microbiological Services (CEQIATEC) of the TEC.
Determining particle size and zeta potential
Using a Zeta-Sizer it is possible to determine the size of particles (<20 µm) in suspension, as well as the zeta potential (load) of the particle in various media (water, solvents, etc.) Standard: ASTM E2865.
This laboratory has a PANalytical Empyrean diffractometer which is unique in Costa Rica that has outstanding characteristics for analyses of phases or crystallographic compounds of a substance or material.
The analyses carried out must undergo daily control measures using a Silicon standard. In addition, the laboratory has NIST SRM 660c linear position and shape calibration standards, lanthanum hexaboride powder, NIST 640e silicon powder, NIST 1976b alumina disk and NIST 676a alumina powder.
Additionally, this equipment has a parallel plate collimator and a table that permits measuring thin films using the X-ray diffraction technique.
Consultancies on phase analysis and chemical composition of crystalline substances are provided.
In collaboration with the TEC Institutional Microscopy Laboratory, the following microscopy analyzes are performed:
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
- Topographic analysis of samples.
- Metallography, characterization of grain size and phase structure of metallic materials and alloys, presence of precipitates, phases and dispersoids at the micro-scale.
- Determination of grain size, preferential orientation and plastic deformation textures.
- Determination of chemical composition by microanalysis.
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis of crystalline microstructures, thin layers, micro- and nanoparticulate material, composite materials and semiconductors.
- Crystallography and determination of the crystalline structure of metallic, ceramic and composite materials.
- Determination of grain size, dislocation density and other structural defects, determination of chemical composition by microanalysis.
- Determination of the morphology of precipitates, impurities, and other micro and nanometric particles dispersed in the matrix of a material.
The following analyses are performed in this laboratory:
- Axial fatigue.
- Torsional fatigue.
In this laboratory, tensile, compression, three- and four-point flexion, torsion, axial fatigue, and torsional fatigue tests are performed. It has two types of equipment:
- Tinnius Olsen universal testing system model H50SK with a load cell of ± 50KN. This is electromechanical equipment used for monotonic tensile, compression and flexural tests.
- MTS Bionix axial-torsional Tabletop Test Systems. This servohydraulic system is used for monotonic analysis of traction, compression, flexion, and torsion as well as for axial and torsional cyclic (fatigue) tests. This system has:
- Vertical test space: 30 - 714 mm (1.2 - 28.1 in).
- Space between columns: 460 mm (18.1 in).
- Stroke movement distance: ± 50 mm (1.9685 in).
- Dynamic force: ± 25 kN (5.5 kip).
- Torsional capacity: ± 220 N-m (2000 in-lb).
- Additional load cell: Axial Torsional Load Cell ± 2.5 kN / ± 25 N-M (550 lbf / 250 in-lbf).
The cost will depend on the type of analysis required.
Advice on mechanical studies of materials, processes and structures is provided.
Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)
These types of tests can be applied to different types of materials and are used to determine the quality and physical integrity of structural components such as stationary or mobile storage tanks, pipes, and welding in general located on bridges, boilers, buildings and any other element that should be studied without affecting its operating conditions.
- Industrial radiography: Use of X-ray generators to obtain high-quality images and definition, using the most advanced digital radiography technology so that results are immediate and available to the client at the time of inspection.
- Industrial ultrasound (thickness measurement and failure detection): State-of-the-art phased array technology equipment for the internal study of materials using type A, type B and sectorial scanning.
- Hydrostatic tests: To determine the tightness of containers that are going to be subjected to different working pressures.
- Penetrating liquids: Use of very high capillarity inks applied to detect discontinuities with surface openings, using highly sensitive colored and fluorescent techniques.
- Magnetic particles: A method that can be applied to ferromagnetic materials for the detection of surface and subsurface discontinuities, using the magnetization technique with an electromagnetic yoke and colored or fluorescent particles; highly versatile to adapt to complex geometries.
- Visual inspection: Extensive experience in the detection of different types of discontinuities caused by manufacturing processes including casting, laminating, forging, wire drawing, and welding.
Professionals are highly qualified and certified (level III in industrial radiography and industrial ultrasound) with extensive experience gained by participating in multiple nationally renowned projects, with strict adherence to procedures based on updated international standards such as ASTM, AWS, API, and ASME.
Corrosion, coatings and electrochemical tests
- Accelerated corrosion test (saline chamber) (ATSM A117): A comparative test used to evaluate materials (alloys) and coatings (example: paints, galvanized materials, etc.) in extreme conditions.
- Potentiodynamic polarization curves: A technique used to determine the kinetics (corrosion rate) and stability of a metallic sample (with or without surface modification, e.g. paint) in a fluid. Ideal for immersed metals, coating valuation, determination of passivation potentials, cathodic protection potentials, etc. Standard: ASTM G59, ASTM G5, ASTM G61, ASTM F2129, ASTM D6208.
- Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS)
- Sensitization studies in stainless steels (ASTM A262, A763): This method is used to detect possible sensitization of stainless steels and its effects on corrosion rate and mechanical properties. Sensitization can be caused by the welding process or thermal cycles to which the material has been exposed.
- Determination of the thickness of metal layers.
- Determination of dry film thickness for polymeric coatings (paints), according to Standard PA-2
- Adhesion test (ASTM D3359 and ASTM D 4541)
The Materials Research and Outreach Center has professionals with more than 20 years of experience in the national industry who have provided advice in the areas of metals, polymers, ceramics, corrosion, characterization of materials, non-destructive testing, failure analysis, metal extraction and refining, coatings, welding, machining, material forming, casting, etc.
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