A cryogenic treatment is the process of treating workpieces to cryogenic temperatures (i.e. below −190 °C (−310 °F)) in order to remove residual stresses and improve wear resistance in steels and other metal alloys, such as aluminum. In addition to seeking enhanced stress relief and stabilization, or wear resistance, cryogenic treatment is also sought for its ability to improve corrosion resistance by precipitating micro-fine eta carbides, which can be measured before and after in a part using a quantimet.
The process has a wide range of applications from industrial tooling to the improvement of musical signal transmission. Some of the benefits of cryogenic treatment include longer part life, less failure due to cracking, improved thermal properties, better electrical properties including less electrical resistance, reduced coefficient of friction, less creep and walk, improved flatness, and easier machining.
Cryogenic hardening is a cryogenic treatment process where the material is slowly cooled to very low temperatures. By using liquid nitrogen, the temperature can go as low as −196 °C. It can have a profound effect on the mechanical properties of certain materials, such as steels or tungsten carbide. In tungsten carbide (WC-Co), the crystal structure of cobalt is transformed from softer FCC to harder HCP phase whereas the hard tungsten carbide particle is unaffected by the treatment.
Cryogenic machining is a machining process where the traditional flood lubro-cooling liquid (an emulsion of oil into water) is replaced by a jet of either liquid nitrogen (LN2) or pre-compressed carbon dioxide (CO2). Cryogenic machining is useful in rough machining operations, in order to increase the tool life. It can also be useful to preserve the integrity and quality of the machined surfaces in finish machining operations. Cryogenic machining tests have been performed by researchers since several decades, but the actual commercial applications are still limited to very few companies. Both cryogenic machining by turning and milling are possible.
Cryogenic rolling or cryorolling, is one of the potential techniques to produce nanostructured bulk materials from its bulk counterpart at cryogenic temperatures. It can be defined as rolling that is carried out at cryogenic temperatures. Nanostructured materials are produced chiefly by severe plastic deformation processes. The majority of these methods require large plastic deformations (strains much larger than unity). In case of cryorolling, the deformation in the strain hardened metals is preserved as a result of the suppression of the dynamic recovery. Hence large strains can be maintained and after subsequent annealing, ultra-fine-grained structure can be produced.
Comparison of cryorolling and rolling at room temperature: