Narrator: This is Science Today. Extending the life of train wheels would not only save millions of dollars, but may also lead to better safety standards. Dan Thoma (TOE-Ma) of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is working with the Department of Energy to come up with a better mixture of metals which would prevent spalling, or wide cracks on the wheels.
Thoma: The main problem with spallation is during skidding on a rail system. The skidding on the wheels causes a rapid heat up and cool down of the surface layer of the wheel of the railroad cars.
Narrator: This causes the wheels to degrade faster, so there's more fuel consumption, more risk of derailment and more money spent to replace the wheels.
Thoma: Basically, we're looking at developing slight modifications of the existing alloys that is cost-effective, that will increase the life of the wheels due to the spallation for the railroad industry. Minor changes can mean millions of dollars of savings to the railroad industry per year.
Narrator: The railroad industry currently spends 70 million dollars a year to replace about 75 thousand wheels. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.