Key role for Waikato PhD graduand at Bay of Plenty titanium facility

19 October 2010

aamir mukhtar

Titanium Powers: University of Waikato PhD graduand Aamir Muhktar working at the Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA).

University of Waikato PhD graduand Aamir Mukhtar who works at the Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA) in Tauranga says helping New Zealand companies to make better titanium powders will greatly improve product development.

Mukhtar lives in Hamilton but commutes weekly to Tauranga and will graduate with a PhD in Materials Science and Process Engineering on October 21 at Hamilton’s Founders Theatre.

He says TiDA’s new facility at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic campus will help New Zealand companies develop new products for the international marketplace.

“There are around 30-40 companies in New Zealand which have shown an interest in using the technology. At the moment titanium research is in its infancy, but by making better powders, ultimately we can make better products,” says Mukhtar.

New and improved products, such as shape memory alloys, are continuously being developed and tested, and are an indication of where research could lead the country in the future. Aamir says the facility – which boasts some of the latest technology in the world – is an excellent opportunity for local businesses.

“TiDA’s goal is to help New Zealand companies tap into the emerging global industry. We can help them produce revolutionary new products in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way,” he says.

His work involves analysing shape, size and microstructure of metal powders; elemental composition; and fracture analysis of metals and powders using the latest scanning electron microscope (SEM). Other equipment tests hardness and tensile strength of metals.

 “We’re lucky to be working with the latest software and can get results much more quickly for clients than before when companies had to send their products overseas.”

Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, Aamir arrived in Hamilton in 2006 to begin his PhD study at the University of Waikato with Professor Deliang Zhang’s research team in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

His research focused on producing a new type of copper composite and alloy powder with vastly improved mechanical strength and electrical conducting qualities than had previously been achievable with pure copper.

The work involved adding different elements, or impurities such as alumina, to the copper to see how it changed the structure once heated at different temperatures. Getting exactly the right combination of elements was critical to the end product, which will prove invaluable in several local industries, including microwave manufacturing.

Powder metallurgy is the process of turning metal powder into solid objects and is developing rapidly in New Zealand, especially using titanium because it is light, non-toxic, biodegradable, corrosion-resistant and is the fourth most abundant metal in the earth’s crust.

Titanium is mainly used in New Zealand for medical purposes, such as hip implants and dental tools, or in engine components. In other countries it is used in the aerospace industry.

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