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NEWS
Welders Can Breathe Easier With Less Toxic Fume Risk
March 1, 2011

A new alloy promises to lessen welders’ risk of breathing toxic fumes on the job.

The alloy is a welding “consumable” – the material that melts under the welder’s torch to fill the gap between parts that are being joined.

More expensive comparatively, the cost is justified in situations where adequate ventilation is a problem.

That’s why two Ohio State University engineers invented the alloy – specifically to aid military and commercial welders working in tight spaces.

In tests, welds made with the new consumable proved just as strong and corrosion-resistant as welds made with commercial stainless steel consumables. When melted, however, the new alloy does not produce fumes of hexavalent chromium, a toxic form of the element chromium.

All stainless steels contain chromium, but Gerald Frankel and John Lippold, both professors of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, determined that the consumable alloy that joins stainless steel parts together doesn’t have to contain the metal.

The university has three issued US patents and a pending European patent application covering a series of alloys – based on nickel and copper but with no chromium – all of which can be used with standard welding equipment and plans to license the alloy and its applications for commercial development.

Prof. Frankel said that the high cost of the alloy, five to 10 times more than standard welding consumables depending on metal prices, would be justified in situations where ample ventilation may be impossible.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets limits on workers’ exposure to hexavalent chromium in welding fumes, which affect welders themselves and their surrounding coworkers. Reduced exposure to such toxic fumes requires either extreme ventilation or use of a chromium-free consumable.

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program – a partnership of the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy – funded this research.


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