Having been around for a few centuries, steel is what is known as a “mature technology” and the basic process of heat-treating has remained largely unchanged in the modern age.
So when self-taught metallurgist Gary Cola approached engineers at Ohio State University claiming to have found a way to increase the strength of steel by seven percent, they were justifiably skeptical. However, after the engineers tested steel produced using the new method, Cole’s claims were borne out and the engineers set about understanding what was happening.
Although the temperature and length of time for hardening steel will vary by industry, with some treatments taking days, most steels are heat-treated at around 900 °C (1,652 °F) for a few hours. Cola’s process, which is run at his proprietary lab setup at SFP Works, LLC., in Detroit, involves steel sheets being carried by rollers through flames as hot as 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,012 °F), before they are deposited into a cooling liquid bath. Cola’s entire process takes less than 10 seconds.
Cola said his steel, which he has trademarked as Flash Bainite, is seven percent stronger than martensitic advanced high-strength steel. Additionally, Cola claimed his steel could be thinned and lengthened 30 percent more than martensitic steels without losing its enhanced strength.
After testing a few samples and discovering that everything that Cola said was true, Ohio State University researchers set about revealing the physics behind Cola’s process.