Properties and Production Technology of Nickel-based Superalloys

US President recently decided to invoke a Cold War-era defense law to encourage domestic production of minerals needed to make batteries for electric cars.

This order, issued under the Defense Production Act (DPA), is expected to help miners secure government funding for feasibility studies for new projects to refine lithium, nickel, and other metals for electric vehicles, or to increase productivity at existing facilities.

The funds will not be used to dig new mines or buy minerals for government stocks, and the DPA does not allow the mining industry to evade regulatory or licensing standards. It is unclear how much money could be allocated.

Talon Metals Corp said this decision signaled the US would support responsible domestic mining, processing, and recycling of battery materials, and see it as a matter of national importance. The company has a supply agreement with Tesla to supply materials from a Minnesota nickel mine they are developing.

This move could cause volatility in the prices of metals and other commodities like the Inconel718 powder.

Nickel-based superalloys are the most widely used. The main reason is that, one is that more alloying elements can be dissolved in the nickel-based alloy, and it can maintain good structural stability; the other is that it can form a coherent and ordered A3B-type intermetallic compound γ[Ni3(Al, Ti)] As a strengthening phase, the alloy can be effectively strengthened and obtain higher high temperature strength than iron-based superalloys and cobalt-based superalloys; thirdly, nickel-based alloys containing chromium have better oxidation and resistance than iron-based superalloys. 

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Nickel-based alloys contain more than ten elements, of which Cr mainly plays an anti-oxidation and anti-corrosion role, and other elements mainly play a strengthening role. According to their strengthening action mode, they can be divided into: solid solution strengthening elements such as tungsten, molybdenum, cobalt, chromium and vanadium; precipitation strengthening elements such as aluminum, titanium, niobium and tantalum; grain boundary strengthening elements such as boron, zirconium, Magnesium and rare earth elements, etc.

Production Process

In terms of smelting: in order to obtain more pure molten steel, reduce gas content and harmful element content; at the same time, due to the presence of easily oxidizable elements such as Al and Ti in some alloys, it is difficult to control non-vacuum smelting; it is also to obtain better thermoplasticity , Nickel-based heat-resistant alloys are usually smelted in a vacuum induction furnace, and even produced by vacuum induction smelting plus vacuum consumable furnace or electroslag furnace remelting.

In terms of deformation: forging and rolling processes are used. For alloys with poor thermoplasticity, they are even rolled after extrusion and billeting or are directly extruded with mild steel (or stainless steel) sheathing. The purpose of deformation is to break the casting structure and optimize the microstructure.

Casting: usually use a vacuum induction furnace to smelt the master alloy to ensure the composition and control the gas and impurity content, and use the vacuum remelting-precision casting method to make parts.

Heat treatment: Wrought alloy and some cast alloys need to be heat treated, including solution treatment, intermediate treatment and aging treatment. Take Udmet 500 alloy as an example. Its heat treatment system is divided into four stages: solution treatment, 1175℃, 2 hours, Air cooling; intermediate treatment, 1080°C, 4 hours, air cooling; primary aging treatment, 843°C, 24 hours, air cooling; secondary aging treatment, 760°C, 16 hours, air cooling. In order to obtain the required organizational state and good overall performance.


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Europe has been facing the gas shortage problem since the second half of 2021. The worsening situation in Russia and Ukraine has reduced Russian gas shipments to Europe, leading to a doubling of European gas prices. Energy shortages have sent electricity prices soaring. For these reasons, it is predicted that the price of the Inconel718 powder will continue to increase.

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