The Calling to Forge Science

The significance of metallurgical industry is huge: we can’t imagine modern world without products made of metal – starting with a paper clip and finishing with space ship. Our country and our region have well-developed metallurgy. However, without adequate and scientifically grounded approach, efficient operation of enterprises becomes impossible. Among well-known scientists in the sphere of metallurgy is Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Professor, senior research fellow of the SUSU Department of Computer Modeling and Nanotechnology, Dzhalal Mirzaev. His works are extremely in-demand in science (both in Russia and abroad) and in various branches of industry.

For example, one of the topics which Professor Mirzaev was working on back in the Soviet’s time was the problems of ultrafast cooling of iron and other polymorhous metals and their alloys in solid state. The goal of this huge work carried out by D.A. Mirzaev, O.P. Morozov and T.N. Ponomareva was to determine how the structure, phase-transition points and properties of alloys change under increasing cooling speed up to a million degrees per second. Another massive series of works conducted in cooperation with S.V. Ruschits is related to the Theory of X-ray diffraction on planar defects of crystals. There are many such defects in martensitic and deformed crystals; they can be studied only by diffractogram pikes. The developed theory determined works of Japanese and American scientists for 3-5 years. Results of these works still excite interest of foreign specialists and get frequently cited in literature. By the results of these works, S.V. Ruschits first defended his candidate’s dissertation (at the MSU), and then his Doctor dissertation. Then he performed inventions of high-nitrogen steels, technological alloys of precious metals, and created a kinetic theory of martensitic and bainitic transformations. Four monographs were published by the results of his work.

D.A. Mirzaev is teaching the following courses: “Solid state physics”, “Fundamentals of physical durability”, “Physics of real crystals”.

From the history of metallurgy

“Metallurgy originated in ancient times. Blacksmiths had always tried to have creative approach to forging so that the quality of produced weapon was higher compared to their opponents: it determined the possibility to defeat enemies, i.e. the survival of the settlement, nation, and the country. Competition among the first masters in metallurgy – blacksmiths – has always existed,” says Dzhalal Aminulovich. “By accumulating experience during centuries, metallurgists of the past reached the top of craftsmanship – recall the Damascus or Russian steel. Such phenomenon as hardening has long since been discovered: if white-hot steel is put into water or oil, it will become very hard and strong but fragile at the same time. If the metal is cooled not fast enough, high durability won’t be provided, but the metal will be softer. This process is used when strength and durability are not crucially important, for example, when producing flatware. Further heating of hardened steel can change its plasticity. Hardening is one of the most important technological processes mastered by people, which allowed for producing powerful weapons, labor tools, etc. Without these things, development of civilization would be impossible.”

“For a long time, however, people couldn’t scientifically explain why, when adding some substance, the properties of steel are changing one way and not another, therefore experimental results were unpredictable. They moved forward ‘by the feel’, by trying various additives and temperature regimes. Experienced blacksmiths could determine heating temperature by the color of heated metal.”

“Development of metallurgy as a science only started with the existence of corresponding equipment. Such as, for example, optical microscope and thermocouple – thermal electric converter which is used for measuring temperature. It became possible to determine the exact temperature for steel hardening in order to obtain the necessary result. If a sample of steel gets polished and pickle with acid, very beautiful patterns can be seen on the surface using the microscope; the patterns reflect the type of the structure formed while hardening and cooling of metal. More powerful electronic microscopes allow for detaching defects at the atomic level. Even though the science of metallurgy goes forward with small steps, these steps are unfaltering. I emphasize: the humanity hasn’t yet invented anything that would be able to replace metal. While, for example, carcasses of boats and air frames or body plates of vehicles are produced from glass-reinforced plastic, carcasses of rockets are still made and will be made in the nearest future out of metal alloys.”

Science teaches saving

Dzhalal Aminulovich Mirzaev is one of skillful experts in his area; representatives of industrial enterprises often ask for his help.

“I often happened to consult specialists of various industrial branches,” tells the scientist. “Sometimes I had to brainstorm problems which seemed to arise out of nowhere, but eventually it turned out that the issue was in failing to comply with manufacturing technology.”

“Scientific research brings a lot of use, including a sufficient economic effect. One of the works was conducted upon an order from Mechel, in cooperation with Oleg Tokov. The problem was in flakes – the hydrogen cracks in forged pieces. The thing is, all air melting is carried out in the atmosphere including the presence of water vapors which at high temperature decompose into oxygen and hydrogen, the last one being absorbed by liquid steel. Concentration of hydrogen can become sufficiently big, and its solvability in steel decreases rapidly during cooling of forged pieces. Excess of hydrogen can’t diffuse to the atmosphere due to the time, so it fills any, even the tiniest cavity inside the metal. Having got there, it creates huge pressure which often results in appearance of cracks. These are the flakes. It is impossible to get rid of them; the only solution is to melt the metal once again. Therefore, all the efforts, time, and fuel – everything goes for nothing. How do we fight this? In order to prevent the appearance of flakes, the casting before cooling is kept in a furnace for about one hundred hours at a temperature of around seven hundred degrees. This is very expensive: furnace is occupied which means, a queue is forming – the next lots of metal are waiting when the furnace is free so a lot of energy gets consumed as sometimes forged pieces can be several meters long and half a meter in diameter.”

“Oleg Kirillovich and I completed three projects. First, using the diffusion equation for hydrogen, we calculated accurate time of its emanation at various temperatures and determined the precise time for equalizing the forged pieces of various cross-sections. Within the second project we took part in developing a technology for eliminating hydrogen in ladles by its vacuuming. This rapidly decreased the concentration of hydrogen but didn’t allow eliminating it completely. In the third project, we proposed to conduct complete elimination of hydrogen in special cooling boxes where the required temperature is maintained for the necessary period of time. Mechel built them according to our project and as far as I know they are still in use. It turned out that all three projects provided a huge economic effect – about 220 million rubles a year! Of course the bonus that we received was not big but still it feels nice that we did something good, important and useful for the enterprise.”

‘Good’ doesn’t always means ‘expensive’

“It’s no secret that in 1990s there was difficult economic situation in the country and many plants terminated their operation because of lack of funds,” continues Dzhalal Aminulovich. “Science didn’t receive enough financing as well. Scientists were raising money the best they could – commercial agreements with enterprises were of great help. I remember the following case: production stopped at the Chelyabinsk Road-Construction Machines Plant named after Kolyuschenko which produces bulldozers, scrapers and motorized road graders. The reason was simple: the foundry didn’t operate because of shortage of nickel and molybdenum. And without these quite expensive elements, it was impossible to produce the specific-for-the-factory steel for rippers and bulldozer blades. The plant had no money to buy the steel so the manufacturing stopped. Head of the foundry was Valeriy Papshev, a graduate of the CPI, by the way. He asked me if it was possible to replace that steel with another, the cheaper one. I asked to give me a week to think about it and started thoroughly study hardening capacity and structural heredity of the ‘old’ steel. I realized that, when developing this type of steel, metallurgists were extra cautious and used excess alloying, just like for tank armor. Having considered this, I decided that it is possible to replace expensive elements when producing thin-shell blades and rippers. This is how 23Г2СРФЛ mould steel mark came into existence: 0,23% of carbon, 2% of manganese, 1,5% of silicon, 0,005% of boracium, and 0,15% of vanadium. I brought this ‘recipe’ to Valeriy Aleksandrovich. He was happy as he had the elements necessary for this steel. Right away we made an agreement with the plant’s chief engineer for organizing a trial casting. I couldn’t sleep the entire night. In the morning I came to the plant. Valeriy Alexandrovich was disappointed and moody. It was clear that the casting didn’t go well. Still we thoroughly studied the just-cast bulldozer blade. It turned out that the casting mould in which steel was cast were wet. They weren’t dried before the casting. As a result, a hydrogen layer got formed according to the same mechanism as flakes, which I already talked about. This must not happen during casting. Of course those to blame were scolded. Casting molds were heated as required, and a new casting was made. And this time the steel’ properties complied with all requirements. So the proposed by me 23Г2СРФЛ mark found its use at the plant and has been used till this year. Today, perhaps, this case might seem funny, but back then there was nothing funny in this for us. Here is a demonstrative example of the fact that in machine building and metallurgy it is important to adhere to technologies of production, use the types of steel that are corresponding with their purpose. And, of course, there are no small cases for a scientist – sometimes it takes to be very scrupulous to figure out what is wrong.”

Science for defense

“In 1990s, there was one more interesting case; back then the matter concerned maintaining the country’s defensive ability,” recalls the researcher. “It is known that rockets in service are placed underground and are not moved for many years. Their plating, made of aluminum alloy, is reinforced by cold deforming. Of course, at the plant the rockets are checked for their durability right after their manufacturing. But in time materials gradually loosed their strength until it drops below the allowable level – and then rockets get decommissioned and disposed. But new rockets are required in exchange. So I and Yuriy Koryagin – back then an Associate Professor, and nowadays Professor of the SUSU Department of Material Science and Physical Chemistry of Materials – were asked by the State Rocket Center named after Academician V.P.Makeev to perform calculations to determine how long such rockets’ plating can serve. We developed a theory, obtained a necessary formula which helped to forecast the plating’s strength in several years. We carried out necessary theoretical calculations and determined that plating of rockets can preserve its strength characteristics for not less than ten years. We checked accuracy of the calculations on samples of the rockets’ plating – they turned out to be correct. So the need to dispose strategic rockets became unnecessary, and the army could maintain its military efficiency by having though not new but still powerful weapon. For that we were given honorary certificates.”

About teachers and students

“I don’t consider myself a founder of the scientific school,” notes the Professor. “There is the Ural School of Metallurgists whose founder is a genius metallurgist and academician, Vissarion Dmitrievich Sadovskiy. Working in Zlatoust, together with Konstantin Malyshev and Sergey Shteinberg, he laid foundations of the theory of thermal treating of steel. At some extent, I am trying to keep the ball rolling. The Ural School of Metallurgy includes scientists from the Institute of Metal Physics of Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, UrFU, our SUSU, Perm National Research Polytechnic University, and Magnitogorsk State Technical University named after G.I. Nosov. I had and still have many students and postgraduates. About ten of my students became candidates of sciences and doctors of sciences. I would especially note two Doctors of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Sergey Vadimovich Ruschits and Konstantin Yuryevich Okishev, who are both working at the Department of Material Science and Physical Chemistry of Materials. So I hope in the future we will have those to forge science.

Ivan Zagrebin
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