March 05, 2023

Publish or be damned?

Publishing is the lifeblood of academia and a main metric on how academic output is measured. Therefore it is critical to publish regularly and often, while avoiding pitfalls such as salami slicing, too much information and show don't tell.

Alongside this is the fact that the process of publication is as important as the publication itself. Currently this group is working on a selection of papers on RSB synthesis. These papers will cover every aspect of sintering from gas evolution, solid state sintering, microstructure and solid state properties including hardnesss and sintered density. The first paper will cover the early part of sintering and this includes a considerable amount of archive data from DTA/TGA and mass-spectrometry. This work was crucial in establishing the early sintering ramps which enabled the development of dense RSB materials.

All well and good although RSB processsing is still a long way from being fully optimized. It is unclear as to what the exact variables are but on writing the first paper it is apparent that some of the early gas-evolution data has been misinterpreted. In short, some of the issues from sintering such as large cavities near the surface of sintered bodies could be attributed to the fact that on closer examination the de-binding (organic binder removal) section was incomplete. While the current recipes focus on removing the bulk of the binder at low (~330C) temperature the part of the cycle at T > 330C was being neglected. This would mean that while most of the binder is removed not all the reactions have completed and this can lead to poor reproducibilty due to outgassing at higher temperatures. This would be consistent if there is excessive carbon present in a volatile form. Had this paper been started sooner it would have been possible to better optimised sintering before hand.

So this is a cautionary tale in making sure that processed data is scrutinized with a view to publication even if not immediate.

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