"Industrial aluminum slabs are typically produced by blending small amounts of copper or manganese in a reservoir of molten aluminum that is rapidly cooled, a process known as direct-chill casting. Variations in the way these elements solidify can yield uneven results that weaken the final product, with castings sometimes ending on the scrap heap. Controlling the distribution of strengthening elements to aluminum throughout a casting is thus key to reducing waste and improving product reliability.
Over the past three years, MIT Assistant Professor of Metallurgy Antoine Allanore and his student Samuel R. Wagstaff [PhD '16] developed a new process that uses a turbulent jet to reduce this uneven distribution in aluminum alloy structures by 20 percent. This work was in collaboration with global aluminum processor Novelis. The researchers were able to pinpoint a single number - the "macrosegregation index" - that quantifies the difference between the ideal chemical makeup and the actual chemical makeup at specific points in the solidification process." - MIT News