What does cryogenics mean? Cryogenics is the science of creating, maintaining, and studying ultra-low-temperature environments. It goes further to examine how this affects the properties of various materials. An environment is cryogenic when the temperature falls below where ‘permanent gases’ begin to take on a liquid form. ‘Permanent gases’ here include nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and helium.
Thus, cryogenic temperatures start from approximately -100°C to absolute zero (i.e. 0K or -273.15°C). Cryogenic processing is the treatment of metals using such ultra-low temperature. It has found a wide range of applications including in the automotive industry. For the automotive industry, cryogenic processing has significant benefits. Keep reading to learn more about this treatment.
- Stress Relief and Stabilization
Motion, vibration, and heat can inflict high degrees of stress on automobile parts. These forces introduce microscopic gaps at the molecular level that cause some molecules to be displaced and out-of-sync with each other. These stresses reduce component strength and increase the risks of stress lines, cracking, fracturing, and mechanical failure.
Cryogenic processing offers stress relief, thus stabilizing and strengthening metal parts. It improves strain resistance and ensures greater stability at operating temperature. Cryo treated rotors and other treated auto parts have an enhanced ability to resist distortion.
- Abrasive Wear and Corrosion Resistance
Automobiles are heavily dependent on friction for routine mechanical operations. Friction, while a positive force, is also a powerful driver in the deterioration of auto parts. In addition, the materials used in the construction of car parts are prone to corrosion such as rust.
Cryogenic processing increases the density of motor vehicle parts, thus enhancing their durability and overall resistance to wear. It reduces surface roughness and the coefficient of friction. The processing bolsters the part’s resistance to corrosion. Cryo treated rotors are tougher, stronger, and last longer.
- Enhanced Machinability
Auto parts subjected to cryogenic processing may be re-machined without losing the positive effects of the cryogenic treatment. They can also be redeployed in environments where narrower tolerances are expected.
The treated parts have a more predictable tolerance for stress-inducing forces. Therefore, they can be used in instances where standard parts would be at a higher risk of catastrophic failure. An example of such high-performance scenarios is the motorsports industry.
- Reduced Downtime and Lower Replacement Costs
The cost of acquiring a car can pale in comparison to the cost of maintenance over its lifetime. Anything you can do to reduce your maintenance and replacement costs without compromising the safety and usability of the vehicle should be welcomed.
Ergo, the improved wear resistance inadvertently extends the life of auto parts treated with cryogenic processing. The longer lifespan not only reduces downtime but also lowers replacement costs.
- Better Electricity Transmissivity
The electrical and mechanical properties of many materials change dramatically when cooled to -100°C or lower. A wide range of ceramics and metals lose all their electrical resistance, thus realizing a state of superconductivity.
Metal auto parts subjected to cryogenic processing experience improved electrical properties with lower resistance.
- Smoother Engine Assembly
Materials shrink when subjected to extreme cold. This property has seen the use of liquid nitrogen in the assembly of automobile engines.
For instance, it’s crucial that valve seats attain an extremely tight fit on installation. To make this possible, the seats may be first cooled with liquid nitrogen, which causes them to contract. At this point, they are easily inserted in the engine head. As they warm up, a perfectly tight fit results.
Highly Effective but It Does Have Limitations
Cryogenic processing doesn’t just address the outer surface of your auto parts. It changes the molecular microstructure and can, therefore, deliver huge long-term gains. Nevertheless, cryogenic processing is not a cure-all, nor is it a license for vehicle neglect, poor maintenance, or misuse. It isn’t a substitute for structural problems that were introduced during the part’s manufacture.