A Comprehensive Review on Metal Matrix Composites for Railway Applications


  • Mohit Hemanth Kumar Department of Mechanical Engineering, Alliance College of Engineering and Design, Alliance University, Karnataka, India
  • Sanjay Mavinkere Rangappa Natural Composites Research Group Lab, Department of Materials and Production Engineering, The Sirindhorn International Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering, King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Suchart Siengchin Natural Composites Research Group Lab, Department of Materials and Production Engineering, The Sirindhorn International Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering, King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand




Aluminum metal composites, Fabrication techniques, Life cycle assessment, Railway components, Sustainability


The railways produce the backbone of all passengers, transporting goods and economies. Railway compartments play a critical role in safety and track performance in rail transportation. Composite-based sleeper is developed into an adequate substitute for recovering the existing steel, concrete, and specifically timber sleeper in heavyhaul rail and mainline networks. Composite sleeper methodologies are earlier abundant, but they have captured restricted acceptance from the railway industry. Presently, the composite sleeper methodologies are significant, ranging from sleepers created with recycled components initiating from construction waste, rubber, and plastic. While these recycled components based sleepers are lower price, the primary issues of utilizing this these kinds of sleepers are their limited dynamics, stiffness, strength characteristics that, in most conditions, are incompatible with those of conventional timber, steel, or concrete sleepers. The essential for novel material with standard features have paved the path to developing and emerging components from metal matrix composites. Parts that acquire prescribed characteristics, like including strength, good toughness, higher resistance from corrosion, and wear in their fibrous medium are favorably reinforced with fundamental metal to fabricate metal matric composites. In this review paper, the components of railway systems, different types of fabricating metal matrix composites, issues while conducting experiments, sustainability, life cycle assessment, and waste management are explored together with the present complexities opposing their whole market avenue.


Download data is not yet available.


H. R. Hawkins, B. Singh, G. Majeau-Bettez, and A. H. Stromman, “Comparative environmental life cycle assessment of conventional and electric vehicles,” Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol. 13, pp. 53–64, Feb. 2013.

R. L. Milford and J. M. Allwood, “Assessing the CO2 impact of current and future rail track in the UK,” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, vol. 15, pp. 61–72, Mar. 2010.

M. Meinhausen, L. Jeffery, J. Guetschow, Y. R. du Pont, J. Rogelj, M. Schaeffer, N. Höhne, M. den Elzen, S. Oberthür, and N. Meinshausen, “National post-2020 greenhouse gas targets and diversity-aware leadership,” Nature Climate Change, vol. 5, pp. 1098–1166, Oct. 2015.

S. Yeh, G. S. Mishra, L. Fulton, P. Kyle, D. L. McCollum, J. Miller, P. Cazzola, and J. Teter, “Detailed assessment of global transport-energy models' structures and projections,” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, vol. 55, pp. 294–309, Aug. 2017.

A. Damm, J. Köberl, F. Prettenthaler, N. Rogler, and C. Töglhofer, “Impacts of +2 °C global warming on electricity demand in Europe,” Climate Services, vol. 7, pp. 12–30, Aug. 2017.

K. Sakdirat and L. Qiang, “Digital twin aided sustainability-based lifecycle management for railway turnout systems,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 228, pp. 1537–1551, Aug. 2019.

W. Sihan, M. Reza, B. Janet, and B. R. George, “Tensile strength and water absorption behavior of recycled jute-epoxy composites,” Journal of Renewable Materials, vol. 4, pp. 279–288, Nov. 2013.

A. Manalo, T. Aravinthan, W. Karunasena, and A. Ticoalu, “A review of alternative materials for replacing existing timber sleepers,” Composite Structures, vol. 92, pp. 603–611, Feb 2010.

W. Ferdous, A. Manalo, G. V. Erp, T. Aravinthan, S. Kaewunruen, and A. Remennikov, “Composite railway sleepers – Recent developments, challenges and future prospects,” Composite Structures, vol. 134, pp. 158–168, Dec. 2015.

R. Ford, “Transport mass: Weight saving and structural integrity of rail vehicles,” Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Derby, UK, 2007.

J. P. Loubinoux and L. Lochman, “Moving towards sustainable mobility: A strategy for 2030 and beyond for the European railway sector,” Paris, France: International Union of Railways (UIC); 2012.

J. J. Carruthers, M. Calomfirescu, and P. Ghys, J. Prockat, “The application of a systematic approach to material selection for the lightweighting of metro vehicles,” Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part F, vol. 223, pp. 427– 437, Jun. 2009.

P. J. Mistry, M. S. Johnson, S. Li, S. Bruni, and A. Bernasconi, “Parametric sizing study for the design of a lightweight composite railway axle,” Composite Structures, vol. 267, Jul. 2021, Art. no. 113851.

I. Sinclair and P. J. Gregson, “Structural performance of discontinuous metal matrix composites,” Materials Science and Technology, vol. 13, pp. 709–726, Jul. 2013.

D. L. McDanels, “Analysis of stress-strain, fracture, and ductility behavior of aluminum matrix composites containing discontinuous silicon carbide reinforcement,” Metallic Transactions A, vol. 16, pp. 1105–1115, Jun. 1985.

J. E. Allison and G. S. Cole, “Metal-matrix composites in the automotive industry: Opportunities and challenges,” Journal of Materials, vol. 45, pp. 19–24, Jan. 1993.

M. K. Surappa, “Aluminium matrix composites: Challenges and opportunities,” Sadhana, vol. 28, pp. 319–334, Feb. 2003.

K. S. R. Kumar, C. Ratnam, and B. Nagababu, “Fabrication and mechanical behavior of Al 2024–B4C MMCs and Al 2024– B4C-Gr hybrid MMCs through powder metallurgy technique,” Materials Today: Proceedings, vol. 18, pp. 219– 229, Oct. 2019.

S. J. Harris, “AGARD lectures series no. 174,” in New Light Alloys. Neuilly sur Seine, France: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 1990.

B. C. Kandpal, J. Kumar, and H. Singh, “Manufacturing and technological challenges in stir casting of metal matrix composites - A review,” Materials Today: Proceedings, vol. 5, pp. 5–10, Feb. 2018.

Y. Waku and T. Nagasawa, “Future trends and recent developments of fabrication technology for advanced metal matrix composites,” Materials and Manufuring Process, vol. 9, pp. 937–963, Apr. 2007.

M. Rosso, “Ceramic and metal matrix composites: Routes and properties,” Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 175, pp. 364–375, Jun. 2006.

A. Manna, H. S. Bains, and P. B. Mahapatra, “Experimental study on fabrication of Al— Al2O3/Grp metal matrix composites,” Journal of Composite Materials, vol. 45, pp. 2003–2010, Jan. 2011.

E. Ghasali, A. Pakseresht, F. Safari-Kooshali, M. Agheli, and T. Ebadzadeh, “Investigation on microstructure and mechanical behavior of Al–ZrB2 composite prepared by microwave and spark plasma sintering,” Materials Science and Engineering A, vol. 627, pp. 27–30, Feb. 2015.

J. Bowyer, S. Bratkovich, K. Fernholz, M. Frank, H. Groot, J. Howe, and E. Pepke, Understanding Steel Recovery and Recycling Rates and Limitations to Recycling. MN: Dovetail Partners, 2015, pp. 1–12.

R. Silva and S. Kaewunruen, “Recycling of rolling stocks,” Environment, vol. 4, p. 39, May. 2017.

S. Kaewunruen and P. Liao, “Sustainability and recyclability of composite materials for railway turnout systems,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 285, Feb. 2021, Art. no. 124890.

B. Indaratna, M. A. Shahin, and W. Salim, “Use of geosynthetics for stabilizing recycled ballast in railway track substructures,” Engineering, pp. 1–15, 2005, Art. no. 13735.

A. Bracciali and G. Megna, “Inside frame bogies & air wheelset a winning marriage,” presented at the 10th International Conference on Railway Bogies and Running Gears, Budapest, Hungary, Sep. 12–15, 2016.

Railway Applications. Wheelsets and Bogies, Part 1: Design Method for Axles with External Journals; CSN EN 13103-1:2017, 2017.

U. Zerbst, S. Beretta, G. Köhler, A. Lawton, M. Vormwald, H. Beier, C. Klinger, I. Cern, J. Rudlin, T. Heckel, and D. Klingbell, “Safe life and damage tolerance aspects of railway axles– A review,” Engineering Fracture Mechanics, vol. 98, pp. 214–271, Jan. 2013.

Railway applications. Rolling stock equipment. Shock and Vibration Tests, BS EN 61373:2010, 2010.

Railway applications. Environmental Conditions for Equipment, Part 1: Rolling Stock and On- Board Equipment, BS EN 50125-1:2014, 2014.

Railway Applications. Fire Protection on Railway Vehicles, Requirements for Fire Behaviour of Materials and Components, BS EN 45545- 2:2013+A1:2015, 2013.

S. Cervello and D. Sala, “LURSAK: Development of innovative anti impact coating return from experience,” presented at the 17th International Wheelset Congress, Kiev, Ukraine, Sep. 22–27, 2013.

P. J. Mistry, M. S. Johnson, C. A. McRobie, and I. A. Jones, “Design of a lightweight multifunctional composite railway axle utilising coaxial skins,” Journal of Composite Science, vol. 5, p. 77, Mar. 2021.

M. K. Akbari, S. Rajabi, K. Shirvanimoghaddam, and H. R. Baharvandi, “Wear and friction behavior of nanosized TiB2 and TiO2 particle-reinforced casting A356 aluminum nanocomposites: A comparative study focusing on particle capture in matrix,” Journal of Composite Materials, vol. 49, pp. 3665–3681, Jan. 2015.

Y. Dou, Y. Liu, Y. Liu, Z. Xiong, and Q. Xia, “Friction and wear behaviors of B4C/6061Al composite,” Materials and Design, vol. 60, pp. 669–677, Aug. 2014.

V. Auradi, G. Rajesh, and S. Kori, “Preparation, characterization and evaluation of mechanical properties of 6061Al-reinforced B4C particulate composites via two-stage melt stirring,” Materials and Manufacturing Processes, vol. 29, pp. 194–200, Sep. 2014.

S. Das, M. Chandrasekaran, S. Samanta, P. Karyoganam, and J. P. Davim, “Fabrication and tribological study of AA6061 hybrid metal matrix composites reinforced with SiC/B4C nanoparticles,” Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, vol. 71, pp. 83–93, Oct. 2019.

K. Padmavathi and R. Ramakrishnan, “Tribological behaviour of aluminium hybrid metal matrix composite,” Procedia Engineering, vol. 97, pp. 660–667, Dec. 2014.

Y. Zhou, Y. N. Zan, S. J. Zhang, Q. Z. Wang, B. L. Xiao, X. L. Ma, and Z. Y. Ma, “Distribution of the microalloying element Cu in B4C-reinforced 6061Al composites,” Journal of Alloys and Compounds, vol. 728, pp. 112–117, Dec. 2017.

P. Balamurugan and M. Uthayakumar, “Influence of process parameters on Cu–Fly ash composite by powder metallurgy technique,” Materials and Manufacturing Processes, vol. 30, pp. 313–319, Jan. 2015.

Y. Zan, Q. Zhang, Y. T. Zhou, Q. Z. Wang, B. L. Xiao, and Z. Y. Ma, “Enhancing high-temperature strength of B4C–6061Al neutron absorber material by in-situ Mg (Al) B2,” Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol. 526, p. 151788, Dec. 2019.

M. Akbarpour, H. M. Mirabad, and S. Alipour, “Microstructural and mechanical characteristics of hybrid SiC/Cu composites with nano-and micro-sized SiC particles,” Ceramic International, vol. 45, pp. 3276–3283, Feb. 2019.

N. Al-Aqeeli, K. Mohammad, T. Laoui, and N. Saheb, “The effect of variable binder content and sintering temperature on the mechanical properties of WC–Co–VC/Cr3C2 nanocomposites,” Materials and Manufacturing Processes, vol. 30, pp. 327–334, Dec. 2014.

J. D. R. Selvam, I. Dinaharan, S. V. Philip, and P. M. Mashinini, “Microstructure and mechanical characterization of in situ synthesized AA6061/(TiB2 + Al2O3) hybrid aluminum matrix composites,” Journal of Alloys and Compounds, vol. 740, pp. 529–535, Apr. 2018.

J. D. R. Selvam, I. Dinaharan, R. S. Rai, and P. M. Mashinini, “Role of zirconium diboride particles on microstructure and wear behaviour of AA7075 in situ aluminium matrix composites at elevated temperature,” Tribological Materials and Surface Interfaces, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 1–9, Sep. 2019.

D. K. Sharma, M. Sharma, and G. Upadhyay, “Boron carbide (B4C) reinforced aluminum matrix composites (AMCs),” International Journal of Innovative Technology and Exploring Engineering, vol. 9, pp. 2194–2203, Nov. 2019.

A. Simchi and H. Pohl, “Direct laser sintering of irongraphite powder mixture,” Materials Science and Engineering A, vol. 383, pp. 191–200, Oct. 2004.

Q. Jia and D. Gu, “Selective laser melting additive manufacturing of Inconel 718 superalloy parts: Densification, microstructure and properties,” Journal of Alloys and Compounds, vol. 585, pp. 713–721, Feb. 2014.

J. M. Wilson and Y. C. Shin, “Microstructure and wear properties of laser-deposited functionally graded Inconel 690 reinforced with TiC,” Surface Coating and Technology, vol. 207, pp. 517–522, Aug. 2012.

C. Cui, Z. Guo, H. Wang, and J. Hu, “In situ TiC particles reinforced grey cast iron composite fabricated by laser cladding of Ni-Ti-C system,” Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 183, pp. 380–385, Mar. 2007.

B. Zheng, T. Topping, J. E. Smugeresky, Y. Zhou, A. Biswas, D. Baker, and E. J. Lavernia, “The influence of Ni-coated TiC on laser-deposited IN625 metal matrix composites,” Metallic Materials Transactions A, vol. 41, pp. 568–573, Jan. 2010.

Y. Wang and J. Shi, “Effect of post heat treatment the microstructure and tensile properties of nano TiC particulate reinforced Inconel 718 by selective laser melting,” Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, vol. 142, Mar. 2020, Art. no. 051004.

T. Rong, D. Gu, Q. Shi, S. Cao, and M. Xia, “Effects of tailored gradient interface on wear properties of WC/Inconel 718 composites using selective laser melting,” Surface Coating Technology, vol. 307, pp. 418–427, Dec. 2016.

D. Lin, C. R. Liu, G. J. Cheng, Q. Nian, R. Xu, M. Saei, F. Chen, C. Chen, M. Zhang, H. Guo, and J. Xu, “Laser sintered single layer graphene oxide reinforced titanium matrix nanocomposites,” Composites Part B: Engineering, vol. 93, pp. 352–359, May. 2016.

Y. Wang, J. Shi, S. Lu, and Y. Wang, “Selective laser melting of graphene-reinforced Inconel 718 superalloy: Evaluation of microstructure and tensile performance,” Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, vol. 139, Apr. 2017, Art. no. 041005,

W. Xiao, S. Lu, Y. Wang, and S. H. I. Jing, “Mechanical and tribological behaviors of graphene/Inconel 718 composites,” Transactions of Nonferrous Metal Society of China, vol. 28, pp. 1958–1969, Oct. 2018.

Y. Wang and J. Shi, “Microstructure and tensile performance of graphene-reinforced Inconel 718 alloy via selective laser melting and post-treatments,” Journal of Micro and Nano Manufacturing, vol. 8, Mar. 2020, Art. no. 011005.

H. Attar, S. Ehtemam-Haghighi, D. Kent, and M. S. Dargusch, “Recent developments and opportunities in additive manufacturing of titanium-based matrix composites: A review,” International Journal of Machine Tools and Manufacturing, vol. 133, pp. 85–102, Oct. 2018.

D. Gu, Z. Wang, and Y. Shen, “In-situ TiC particle reinforced Ti-Al matrix composites: Powder preparation by mechanical alloying and selective laser melting behavior,” Applied Surface Science, vol. 255, pp. 9230–9240, Aug. 2009.

Y. Zhang, J. Sun, and R. Vilar, “Characterization of (TiB + TiC)/TC4 in situ titanium matrix composites prepared by laser direct deposition,” Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 211, pp. 597–601, Apr. 2011.

D. Gu, Y. C. Hagedorn, W. Meiners, K. Wissenbach, and R. Poprawe, “Selective laser melting of in situ TiC/Ti5Si3 composites with novel reinforcement architecture and elevated performance,” Surface Coating Technology, vol. 205, pp. 3285–3292, Feb. 2011.

D. E. Cooper, N. Blundell, S. Maggs, and G. J. Gibbons, “Additive layer manufacture of Inconel 625 metal matrix composites, reinforcement material evaluation,” Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 213, pp. 2191–2200, Dec. 2013.

C. Hong, D. Gu, and D. Dai, “High-temperature oxidation performance and its mechanism of TiC/ Inconel 625 composites prepared by laser metal deposition additive manufacturing,” Journal of Laser Applications, vol. 27, Dec. 2014, Art. no. S17005.

G. Bi, C. N. Sun, M. L. Nai, and J. Wei, “Microstructure and mechanical properties of nano-TiC reinforced Inconel 625 deposited using LAAM,” Physics Proceedings, vol. 41, pp. 828–834, Dec. 2013.

D. Gu, Y. Shen, and Z. Lu, “Microstructural characteristics and formation mechanism of direct laser-sintered Cu-based alloys reinforced with Ni particles,” Materials and Designs, vol. 30, pp. 2099–2107, Jun. 2009.

L. Lu, J. Y. H. Fuh, Z. D. Chen, C. C. Leong, and Y. S. Wong, “In situ formation of TiC composite using selective laser melting,” Materials Research Bulletin, vol. 35, pp. 1555–1561, Jul. 2000.

C. C. Leong, L. Lu, J. Y. H. Fuh, and Y. S. Wong, “In-situ formation of copper matrix composites by laser sintering,” Materials Science and Engineering A, vol. 338, pp. 81–88, Dec. 2002.

M. Rahimian, N. Ehsani, N. Parvin, H. Baharvandi, and H. Reza, “The effect of particle size, sintering temperature and sintering time on the properties of Al-Al2O3 composites, made by powder metallurgy,” Journal of Materials Processing Technology, vol. 209, pp. 5387–5393, Jul. 2009.

Y. Flom and R. J. Arsenault, “Effect of particle size on fracture toughness of SiC/Al composite material,” Acta Metallurgica, vol. 37, pp. 2413– 2423, Sep. 1989.

S. M. Uddin, T. Mahmud, and C. Wolf, “Effect of size and shape of metal particles to improve hardness and electrical properties of carbon nanotube reinforced copper and copper alloy composites,” Composites Science and Technology, vol. 70, pp. 2253–2257, Dec. 2010.

P. V. Reddy, G. S. Kumar, D. M. Krishnudu, and H. R. Rao, “Mechanical and wear performances of aluminium-based metal matrix composites: A review,” Journal of Bio and Tribo Corrosion, vol. 6, p. 83, Jun. 2020.

G. V. Erp and M. Mckay, “Recent Australian developments in fiber composite railway sleepers,” Electronic Journal of Structural Engineering, vol. 13, pp. 62–66, Jan. 2013.

G. V. Erp and D. Rogers, “A highly sustainable fiber composite building panel,” in Proceedings of the International Workshop on Fiber Composites in Civil Infrastructure-Past, Present, and Future, 2008, pp. 1–2.

K. Hydes and L. Creech, “Reducing mechanical equipment cost: The economics of green design,” Building Research and Information, vol. 28, pp. 403–407, 2000.

L. Zhou and D. J. Lowe, “Economic challenges of sustainable construction,” in Proceedings of the RICS Construction and Building Research Conference, 2003, pp. 113–126.

S. Lele', “The concept of sustainability,” in Natural Resources Modelling and Analysis: Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Conference Held at St, 1993, pp. 46–48.

S. M. Lele, “Sustainable development: A critical review,” World Development, vol. 19, pp. 607– 621, Jun. 1991.

M. Dauguet, O. Mantaux, N. Perry, and Y. F. Zhao, “Recycling of CFRP for high value applications: Effect of sizing removal and environmental analysis of the super critical fluid solvolysis,” Procedia CIRP, vol. 29, pp. 734–739, 2015.

S. Kaewunruen, P. Rungskunroch, and D. V. Jennings, “A through-life evaluation of end-oflife rolling stocks considering asset recycling, energy recovering, and financial benefit,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 212, 1008–1024, Mar. 2019.

L. Serrano, T. Lewandrowski, P. Liu, and S. Kaewunruen, “Environmental risks and uncertainty with respect to the utilization of recycled rolling stocks,” Environment, vol. 4, p. 62, Sep. 2017.

B. Vandermeulen, W. Dewulf, J. Duflou, A. Ander, and T. Zimmermann, “The use of performance indicators for environmental assessment within the railway business: The RAVEL workbench prototype, a web-based tool,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 11, pp. 779–785, Nov. 2003.

S. Kaewunruen, J. Sresakoolchai, and S. Yu, “Global warming potentials due to railway tunnel construction and maintenance,” Applied Science, vol. 10, Sep. 2020, Art. no. 6459.

S. Krezo, O. Mirza, S. Kaewunruen, and J. M. Sussman, “Evaluation of CO2 emissions from railway resurfacing maintenance activities,” Transportation Research Part D, vol. 65, pp. 458– 465, 2018.

C. K. Lee, J. Y. Lee, Y. H. Choi, and K. M. Lee, “Application of the integrated ecodesign method using the GHG emission as a single indicator and its GHG recyclability,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 112, pp. 1692–1699, Jan. 2016.

S. Kaewunruen and Q. Lian, “Digital twin aided sustainability-based lifecycle management for railway turnout systems,” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 228, pp. 1537–1551, Aug. 2019.

S. Rawlinson and D. Weight, “Sustainability: Embodied carbon,” Building Magazine, vol. 12, pp. 88–91, 2007.






Review Articles