Scientists at Dana Corp., Toledo, Ohio (www.dana.com), developed a way to harness microwave energy for heat treating and coating of metal and ceramic parts.

Metals ordinarily don't absorb microwaves. They reflect the radiation back, potentially damaging the microwave source. Dana scientists solved this by surrounding the metal with microwave-absorbing plasma at atmospheric pressure.

Microwave plasma technology is said to reduce processing times, cut costs, and improve part quality over conventional techniques. It also works with metal-processing applications such as sintering, brazing, carburizing, annealing, and coating.

“Although the initial focus is on metal processing and coating, Dana is also exploring a variety of nontraditional applications for its technology, such as exhaust treatment; surface engineering, including decrystallization; formation of carbon nanostructures; and hydrogen production,” says Mike Laisure, president of Dana's automotive systems group.