Solar Atmospheres donates equipment to support metallurgy teaching and research
"Many of our students go on to work in facilities where they use heat-treat furnaces for materials," says Laura Moyer (pictured with Wojiech Misiolek, left, and Tim Steber, center.)

New to Whitaker Lab: a $300,000 commercial-grade vacuum heat treating and brazing furnace donated by thermal processing company Solar Atmospheres and its CEO and founder, William R. Jones.

“This is a very powerful, advanced piece of equipment that will allow us to conduct important experiments in our metallurgy teaching and research, especially around additive manufacturing, which is a hot topic these days,” explains Wojciech Misiolek, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The furnace’s chamber holds up to 250 pounds, with a hot zone that can reach a maximum temperature of 2800⁰F. Heat treating metals improves and/or tailors their properties — hardness, strength, ductility, and so on—by changing the microstructure of the materials.

Although Jones has been developing vacuum furnace and processing technology for more than 40 years—with facilities just 25 miles from Lehigh’s campus—he was connected to the Rossin College only recently through local chapters of ASM International, of which he and Misiolek are both Fellows.

“Bill was thoroughly impressed during his tour of the metallurgical labs,” says Tim Steber, a regional sales manager for Solar Atmospheres and past chair of ASM Philadelphia Liberty Bell Chapter. “He saw an opportunity to advance Lehigh’s capabilities and launch them into another area.”

In June, Laura Moyer, manager of metallography, light optical, microscopy, and X-ray diffraction labs and chair of the Lehigh Valley chapter of ASM International, oversaw installation of the furnace, including a transformer and a specially designed water-cooling system.

“Lehigh’s educational system is known for being very hands-on,” says Misiolek. “Having industry-grade equipment increases opportunities for our students and helps them hit the ground running when they go into industry.”