March 27, 2001
Purdue Calumet professor helping forge
HAMMOND, Ind. Slaying dragons by sword may be the stuff of Dark Ages folklore. But in 21st
century America, a Purdue University Calumet engineering professor is doing his part to take the art of "dragon slaying" to a new level.
Sometime this spring, Harvey Abramowitz of Chicago, a metallurgist and associate professor of mechanical engineering, intends to draw from the world of outer space to contribute to the creation of the strongest, toughest broadsword ever made: "The Dragonslayer."
Working with colleagues from Northwestern University, Abramowitz' role is to refine iron from a meteorite in a Purdue Calumet metallurgy laboratory for "The Dragonslayer" blade.
"It will be made out of a new metal alloy that will be stronger than any other sword blade," Abramowitz, a New York City native, said about the one-of-a-kind sword. "The idea is to create "The Dragonslayer" in such a way that it is stronger than either a Samurai sword or a Damascus sword and give it dragon-slaying mythical properties."
Extracting iron from a meteorite to create the blade is intended to enhance the mystical dimension of the sword thereby increasing the sword's appeal among collectors, said Abramowitz. The plan is to create just one Dragonslayer and auction it off.
"Sword collectors would pay handsomely for such an artifact," said Abramowitz, a 14-year faculty member, who came to Purdue Calumet after having served as a research engineer at Inland Steel.
Beyond the sword's mythical nature, the project has scholarly significance.
"The team that I worked with was able to demonstrate, using a tensile testing machine, that the new alloy could cut through a hunting knife equivalent to a Samurai sword," Abramowitz said. "Finite element analysis computer modeling of the new alloy blade, done as a senior design project, had predicted this. So (our) team validated the model."
Abramowitz became involved in the project when he spent a sabbatical leave last spring working with Northwestern colleague Greg Olson, who also is chief science officer of QuesTek Innovations, a company actively involved in the computer design and marketing of new alloys.
Abramowitz, whose specialty research fields include materials engineering and extractive/chemical metallurgy, said he became interested in working with Olson. "I read an article in a metallurgical journal about him and thought I would like to work with Greg on some of his projects," he said.
As part of a Steel Research Group headed by Olson, Abramowitz did just that. Among other projects in which he participated were:
production of a self-healing alloy composite in which thin memory shape alloy wires are imbedded in tin alloys. If the system is placed in tension, eventually the tin alloy will crack. By heating the material, the shape memory alloy filaments, which also had been stretched, return to their original positions, effectively closing the crack. To fully heal the material, it is heated enough so that liquid beads of tin form around the crack. Upon cooling, the tin structure is void of all previously formed cracks;
completion of a prototype for the redesign of a rolling catalog case; and
design of collapsible roller blades.
Abramowitz teaches courses in materials engineering, engineering design and environmental engineering. He also is an industrial consultant.
Purdue University Calumet is a 9,000-student, comprehensive regional institution within the Purdue University system. Offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in approximately 100 fields of study, Purdue Calumet is located in northwest Indiana, 20 miles southeast of Chicago.
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