Steel, sturdier yet lighter - Besu discovery a boon for armed forces

Read more below

By PRASUN BHATTACHARYA
  • Published 16.03.07
  •  

A special kind of steel, developed by the Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu), is all set to catch the fancy of the men in uniform as it promises to reduce the weight of guns.

The ultra-high-strength steel — called microalloyed steel — has elements like niobium, titanium and valadium, which increase the strength and flexibility of the metal without increasing its weight.

“If used in guns, this steel will lessen the weight of the weapons without compromising on their power,” explained Subrata Chatterjee, who heads the metallurgy and materials engineering department in the state’s oldest engineering college.

Research on microalloyed steel started on the Shibpur campus in 1982. Chatterjee and his researchers are trying to make their discovery popular so that steel majors start producing it commercially.

Metal and Steel Factory, Ishapore, has already joined hands with Besu to develop microalloyed steel in its laboratory. “The Rs 20-lakh project started a year ago… Not only assault rifles, we can also use the metal in making automobiles and barrels of high-power guns,” said P. S. Bandyopadhyay, joint general manager, Metal and Steel Factory, Ishapore.

The Ishapore facility supplies metal to its sister organisation, Ishapore Gun and Shell Factory, that produces a wide array of guns — from Insas to revolvers — used by the armed forces.

“The new steel can withstand very low temperature. So guns made of it will perform very well at high-altitude areas,” added Chatterjee.

Not just the armed forces. Some of the big corporate houses, too, are showing interest in microalloyed steel.

Representatives of Tata Steel attended a Besu seminar, where the researchers highlighted the salient features of microalloyed steel and its benefits. Around 250 delegates from India and abroad took part in the seminar.

“We are interested in collaborating with Besu. Microalloyed steel they are working on promises to be lightweight, flexible and strong, and will also cut steel production cost. It can be used in lightweight and low-cost vehicles,” said Debashish Bhattacharjee, chief of research and development, Tata Steel.