The effectiveness of a close-coupled gas atomisation process largely depends on the operational and the geometric variables. In this study, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques are used to model and simulate the gas flow in the melt nozzle area for a convergent-divergent, close-coupled gas atomiser in the absence of the melt stream. Firstly, a reference case, in which the atomisation gas is nitrogen at 50 bar and a supersonic gas nozzle with a throat width of L0 has been modelled, is presented. Then, the influence of both the inlet gas pressure and this design parameter are investigated, comparing the numerical results provided by simulations varying the inlet pressure from 5 to 80 bar and modelling different convergent-divergent gas nozzles with throat widths of 0.29¿Lo, 0.5¿Lo, 0.77¿Lo and 2¿Lo respectively. The simulation results show how similarly these two parameters modify gas mass flow rates, gas velocity fields, aspiration pressures in the melt delivery tube or the size of the recirculation zones below the melt nozzle. Therefore, it can be stated that this geometric variable of the gas nozzle may be as relevant as the inlet pressure in the atomisation process. The most important novelty of this study is related to experimental validation of the numerical results using the Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) technique and through direct measurements of gas mass flow rates, with a clear correlation between simulated and measured data. Moreover, some results obtained with experimental atomisations using copper and nitrogen are also presented. The experimental results show that finer powders are produced by increasing the atomising pressure or the throat width of the supersonic gas nozzle, which can be directly related to the gas flow dynamics calculated numerically.
MATERIALS & DESIGN
The effect of several operational and geometric variables on the particle size distribution of powders produced by close-coupled gas atomisation is analysed from a total of 66 experiments. Powders of three pure metals (copper, tin and iron) and two alloys (bronze Cu-15 wt% Sn and stainless steel SS 316 L) have been produced. Nitrogen, argon and helium were used as atomising gases. It is shown that the gas-to-metal ratio of volume flow rates (GMRV) is more relevant than the ratio of mass flow rates (GMR) in order to analyse the effect of atomisation variables on the particle size. Kishidaka's equation, originally proposed for water atomisation, is modified to predict the median particle size in gas atomisation. The accuracy of the new equation is compared with that of Lubanska, and Rao and Mehrotra. Kishidaka's modified empirical correlation is the most accurate in predicting the median particle size of the powders produced in this work. The morphology of the produced powders is studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and it is observed that the melt superheat can play an important role in the aggregation of fine particles (< 10 mu m), which increases the fraction of large particles (> 100 mu m). (C) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).