Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. T. John Balk

Second Advisor

Dr. I. S. Jawahir


Porous tungsten is used to manufacture dispenser cathodes due to it refractory properties. Surface porosity is critical to functional performance of dispenser cathodes because it allows for an impregnated ceramic compound to migrate to the emitting surface, lowering its work function. Likewise, surface roughness is important because it is necessary to ensure uniform wetting of the molten impregnate during high temperature service. Current industry practice to achieve surface roughness and surface porosity requirements involves the use of a plastic infiltrant during machining. After machining, the infiltrant is baked and the cathode pellet is impregnated. In this context, cryogenic machining is investigated as a substitutionary process for the current plastic infiltration process. Along with significant reductions in cycle time and resource use, surface quality of cryogenically machined un-infiltrated (as-sintered) porous tungsten has been shown to significantly outperform dry machining. The present study is focused on examining the relationship between machining parameters and cooling condition on the as-machined surface integrity of porous tungsten. The effects of cryogenic pre-cooling, rake angle, cutting speed, depth of cut and feed are all taken into consideration with respect to machining-induced surface morphology. Cermet and Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) cutting tools are used to develop high performance cryogenic machining of porous tungsten. Dry and pre-heated machining were investigated as a means to allow for ductile mode machining, yet severe tool-wear and undesirable smearing limited the feasibility of these approaches. By using modified PCD cutting tools, high speed machining of porous tungsten at cutting speeds up to 400 m/min is achieved for the first time. Beyond a critical speed, brittle fracture and built-up edge are eliminated as the result of a brittle to ductile transition. A model of critical chip thickness (hc) effects based on cutting force, temperature and surface roughness data is developed and used to study the deformation mechanisms of porous tungsten under different machining conditions. It is found that when hmax = hc, ductile mode machining of otherwise highly brittle porous tungsten is possible. The value of hc is approximately the same as the average ligament size of the 80% density porous tungsten workpiece.