Issue: Sep 2007


A patented powder metallurgical process transforms nickel foam into a true homogeneous alloy foam



Automotive Industries interviews Dirk Naumann, Director of New Technology at CVRD Inco Special Products.

by Lenny Case

Earlier this year, the Canadian CVRD Inco Special Products developed a new, uniform, porous metal alloy foam that is specifically designed for deep bed diesel exhaust treatment systems. Called INCOFOAM® HighTemp, this alloy foam is expected to be popular with the automotive industry.

“Our patented powder metallurgical process transforms nickel foam into a true homogeneous alloy foam substrate. INCOFOAM® HighTemp alloy foam is an ultra porous, nickel based super alloy foam, engineered to function in the hostile diesel engine exhaust environment. Strong, lightweight and ductile, it is an ideal catalyst carrier and delivers excellent filtration efficiencies. The performance and versatility of this new material will enable exhaust treatment system designers and manufacturers to develop the next generation of multi-functional components,” says the company.

CVRD Inco Limited is a global leader in the manufacture of metallic foam. The company, formerly Inco Limited, is a subsidiary of Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) of Brazil. “CVRD Inco is now the world’s number one nickel producer and our new team has a strong mandate to keep on building and expanding this great company. Our management group combines the proven skill and experience of the former Inco team with seasoned CVRD executives who understand the business culture and systems of CVRD, to help ensure we get the very best of both organizations going forward,” said Roger Agnelli, Chief Executive Officer of CVRD.

“By bringing the CVRD nickel assets into CVRD Inco, notably our Onça Puma
and Vermelho development projects, we significantly strengthen our position
as the world’s undisputed nickel leader in the years ahead. Together with our development project at Goro, our new operation at Voisey’s Bay, our strong base of operations at Sudbury, Thompson and PT Inco, and the opportunity for expansion at these existing operations, we’re uniquely positioned to provide the nickel that society needs for decades to come,” said Murilo Ferreira, President and Chief Executive Officer of CVRD Inco.

CVRD Inco has formed a joint venture company with Süd-Chemie AG, Munich called Alantum to bring to the automotive market diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC’s) and diesel particulate filters (DPF’s) based on CVRD Inco’s patented alloy foam technology. The JV was formed late 2006 and commercial production of the applications are expected to begin in 2008. “The introduction of increasingly stringent regulations for exhaust emissions in Europe offers an outstanding opportunity for growth. In setting up the joint venture, the two companies aim to fully participate in that growth, based on this unique offering to the automotive industry,” said the company in a press release.

The company says that while Süd-Chemie brings in its depth of knowledge in catalysis, Inco brings to the joint venture its new alloy foam substrate and extensive metals processing technology. The new generation of catalyzed substrates for emission control products offers considerable benefits compared to traditional catalyzed ceramic substrates.

CVRD Inco is headquartered in Toronto and has 13,000 employees across the globe. The company nickel sales account for 19 per cent of global nickel sales. The company also produces copper, precious metals, cobalt, sulfuric acid and liquid sulfur dioxide.

Automotive Industries spoke to Dirk Naumann, Director of New Technology at CVRD Inco Special Products.

AI: Please tell us a little about the most recent innovations in nickel technology.

Inco Special Products is in the business of extending the boundaries of nickel technology and we have an exciting portfolio of innovative product solutions for a range of industry needs. These include traditional areas of expertise, such as energy storage, where we have developed materials which significantly increase rechargeable battery capacity, and powder metallurgy, where we have developed specialty nickel powders to enhance their blending characteristics, resulting in improved strength and consistency of alloys used in near net shape part production. Most exciting of all, however, are the advances we have made in alloy foams. These porous metallic structures can be formulated to provide high temperature and corrosion resistance in material formulations optimized for a huge array of different applications. Initially, these foams will change the way in which diesel exhaust emissions are treated, removing hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, but will go on to be used in industrial catalyst, heat and mass transfer applications, among many others.


AI: What kind of research does your company do in developing materials that improve the performance of rechargeable batteries and fuel cells?
CVRD Inco has several ongoing research programs seeking to improve the storage capacity, useful life and cost effectiveness of its energy materials. We work closely with the major battery makers in collaborative programs where our different technologies and expertise complement one another in reaching the desired goal. In such a well researched area, good relationships and close cooperation are essential to achieving results.


AI: What role does CVRD Inco play in the development of hybrid engine technology, high performance catalysts and emission controls?

A critical technology behind the development and introduction of hybrid systems is the performance of the power storage device. Many technologies come together in such a device but it is clear that many improvements center on the energy storage materials, in terms of their capacity and charge / discharge rates. CVRD Inco has a strong commitment to hybrid engine technologies and is proactively working with specialized battery and car makers to improve performance and build on an increasing environmentally conscious consumer base.
Of course, hybrids by definition combine both internal combustion and electrical drive systems and, in addition to its contribution to the electrical development, CVRD Inco is also cleaning up the engine exhaust. CVRD Inco’s new alloy foam is an ideal carrier for high performance catalysts, its structure providing for high mixing rates and raising the limits on mass transfer and catalytic combustion of emissions. As such, it also offers the potential for smaller and more effective NOx reduction components, meeting both the environmental and cost concerns of its customers.


AI: Now that CVRD and Inco have merged, have your automotive capabilities been ramped up and how?

CVRD Inco has built its automotive capabilities over many years and, within certain applications areas, has developed an expert knowledge. The use of new, groundbreaking, emission control materials in the rapidly growing diesel exhaust treatment segment has required a focusing of established materials technology platforms and the development of new skills in emission controls. We have worked hard to identify and recruit innovative and open minded automotive engineers and managers who bring a detailed understanding of the application segment and can lead our customer development and support efforts. In addition, we continue to build our relationships with key partners in the supply chain which play a critical role in our business strategy.


AI: What are some of CVRD Inco’s future focus areas?

In the emissions control area CVRD Inco’s future focus is on DeNOx applications where the high surface area and good mass transfer properties of the foam can bring volume and system cost reduction benefits to selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and NOx adsorption (e.g. LNT) technologies. With appropriate modification to the alloy composition to suit the different operating conditions, gasoline 3-way catalyst substrates also offer potential for the future.


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