News Listing

November 2008

Eleventh International Symposium on Superalloys

Seven Springs Mountain Resort Champion, PA
September 14-18, 2008

Conference Report Overview

The Eleventh International Symposium on Superalloys was held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort from September 14th-18th. The conference has been held every four years at Seven Springs since 1968. This year set a record for attendance with over 461 registrants from countries around the world. I have attached the list of attendees for reference in Appendix I. There were ~ 110 papers presented at the conference and published in the proceedings on CD (PDF files) and in a book of 1000 + pages.

The conference was organized into six main topical sessions, 1) Alloy Development, 2) Advances in Processing, 3) Micro-deformation and Macroscopic Properties, 4) Coatings and Environmental Effects, 5) High Temperature Behavior and 6) Modeling, Simulation and Validation. The conference organizing committee selected 45 papers for 25 minute oral presentations. The remaining papers were available for discussion during interactive poster sessions and are included in the proceedings as full technical papers.

The Conference Organizers and their affiliations are:

Conference General Chair Secretary Treasurer Program Chair

Ken Green of RR-Indy; Jacqui Wahl – Cannon-Muskegon (PCC) Gern Maurer – Carpenter Technology Roger Reed – University of Birmingham

The Eleventh International Symposium for Superalloys was dedicated to Dr. Raymond F. Decker, for his substantial and pioneering contributions to the Superalloys field. Ray’s career spans over 58 years and was highlighted by his technology leadership at INCO (Corporate Vice President of R&D), Michigan Tech, the Univ of Michigan and as a co founder of Thixomat. He is noted for his fundamental work on trace element effects and strengthening mechanisms in superalloys. His more recent activities at Thixomat have led to the discovery of nanostructured Mg sheet alloys for autos, aerospace, military armor, batteries, fuel cells and biomedical implants.

I picked up a great deal of information from discussions with colleagues, poster session interactions and in the technical presentations. In the section following my general observations, I will summarize some of the papers and presentations I thought were among the most significant. I’ve focused on GT hot section airfoil material and coating developments and will not address the topic of disk alloys. I have tried to highlight significant points from these papers and have included the paper abstract and in some cases figures from the paper as well. I have organized the papers and my comments by the lead author’s affiliation. The general observations are compiled from a variety of sources and serve to provide additional background or context …

General Observations

Rhenium, Ruthenium & Platinum Market Price Volatility

The topic of Re and Ru market pricing volatility and in some cases inability to maintain adequate supply to produce alloys (Re) generated substantial speculation at the conference about the direction the industry would be taking over the next four years. This year the papers discussing next generation alloys focused primarily on increased levels of Re and Ru emblematic of the 4th & 5th generation SX alloys. Juxtaposed with this trend was GE’s keynote address – they are the first OEM to publicly announce new low Re or no Re alloys for their (flight) engines. Purportedly all of the OEM’s are actively assessing their options for alternative alloy approaches, generating a substantial amount of alloy development activity behind the scenes. Additionally Rhenium and Ruthenium are being utilized to increase the temperature capability of current and next generation MCrAlY overlay coatings used as TBC bond coats and stand alone environmental protection coatings. Siemens in particular is committed to Re coating systems. They claimed a 40 – 60 C benefit with their SiCoat 2464 (Ni-17CR-10Al-1.5Re-0.3Y) in their paper (Subramanian IGTI paper GT2008-51532). Ruthenium levels up to 1 w/o are disclosed as a further improvement (see US6924046: “Rhenium-containing protective layer for protecting a component against corrosion and oxidation at high temperatures” assigned to Siemens)…

To provide some context for these concerns, the charts below show the pricing trends for Re and Ru for the last 5 to years. Note that Re is shown in $/Kg and Ru and Pt are priced in $/Toz ($11,000 / Kg equates to $340 / Toz).

Rhenium pricing has not fallen recently, unlike Ru or Pt. Since it isn’t tied to the automotive industry it has remained unaffected by the current economic downturn. A few quotes help put this in perspective:

“The airline industry's fight for survival in the face of soaring oil prices has triggered a massive jump in the price of a number of obscure and scarce metals that are used to improve the fuel economy of jet engines. Traders said demand for minor metals such as rhenium, chromium, cobalt and titanium was booming as Rolls-Royce, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney bought them for new super-alloys that helped cut aircraft fuel consumption.”

“The jump in the price of rhenium - an extremely rare metal that was the last naturally occurring chemical element to be discovered - is the most striking example of the new environment. The rhenium price yesterday surged to a record of $11,250 a kilogramme, more than double last year's level and up from about $1,000 in early 2006, traders said. "At current prices it is more a semiprecious metal than an industry metal," one trader commented. At current rates, rhenium is only a little less than half the price of gold - a boon to Chile and Kazakhstan, the largest miners of the metal.”

By Javier Blas in London -Published: June 18 2008- Sextant Capital

“Whichever way you look at it, this is still a metal with not more than 45 mt of new supply each year (excluding scrap & revert) and demand in the order of 65 mt. Credit crunch or not, any fall in prices can only therefore be pounced upon by long term buyers grateful for the chance to build inventory for known future demands. And those demands are building up rather nicely, $390 bln worth of new aeroplanes for China by 2027 according to Boeing, or as much as 15 mt of Rhenium needed for every new GTL (gas to liquid hydrocarbon catalysts – scrubbing S & Hg) plant, or just simply an average of about 25 kgs for every new jet engine. One mind-blowing calculation is that if you take Boeing`s estimate of almost 30 000 new aeroplanes by 2027 and multiply by a low of 20 kgs Re per engine, the aeroindustry needs on average 60 mt of Rhenium a year for next two decades.”

“With the top three consumers GE, Pratt & Whitney and Cannon Muskegon alone consuming 45 mtpy it is not difficult to see where the problem lies. Important as those three parties are to the market, they are not the only ones needing Rhenium. While all three are thought to be covered via long term renewable contracts with producers in Chile and USA, others are not so blessed.”

Rhenium Defies Downturn 2008-03-08 Lipmann Walton & Co

Platinum has also shown pricing volatility as illustrated in the five year monthly average pricing chart from Johnson-Matthey. Platinum is used for TBC bond coatings on aero engines for GE, RR & Honeywell among others. Platinum is also used extensively in the superalloy casting process to help position ceramic cores relative to the ceramic shell, maintaining airfoil wall. GE announced their next generation NiAlCrZr bond coating (flight engines) at the conference. In addition to improved TBC life, lower cost was also considered to be a strong driver when Pt hit its peak of $2276 in March. With the dramatic fall in auto sales and overall economic downturn the Pt price is likely to remain in the trading range $700-900 / Toz or lower.

Please contact me regarding additional information or for a copy of the complete report (34 pages) summarizing my observations and commentary from the Superalloys 2008 Conference.

Material Processing Technology, LLC
1965 Forest Park Road; Norton Shores, MI 49441
Phone 231-780-1265; e-mail

Copyright 2008