Scope of the Research Fields
The consortium dedicates its research efforts to the following key topics:
Advanced bio-, and nanocomposites
Exceptional mechanical properties, low density, multifunctional ability, formability and possibility to tailor desired properties for particular applications and service conditions, have strongly increased the use of composites. For example, polymer composites are widely used in aircraft but also in medical, naval, space, sports, and automotive applications. The need to develop greener, safer and more competitive transport has been recognised as being of critical societal and commercial importance for Europe. The proposed research in composite materials is highly interdisciplinary. It addresses the needs of the wider community for highly-trained personnel, with hands-on experience on state-of-the-art techniques and concepts, in both academia and industry. It also addresses significant issues related to producing environmentally friendly materials using renewable raw materials and a path forward to drift away from our dependence on oil and oil-based products.
High-performance metals represent the dominant group of structural and functional materials worldwide, faced with numerous scientific challenges. Some of the prominent topics to be developed lie in understanding and developing the fundamentals of lightweight structural materials and design solutions, failure-tolerant materials systems, and materials for ground and aerospace transportation. Research will be mainly focused on some key fundamental areas such as: a) Interface science and microstructure design; b) Thermodynamics and kinetics; c) Synthesis and processing; d) Mechanical and functional properties. Doctoral candidates shall make use of novel experimental tools and/or advanced combinations of them, exploiting observation methods that have not yet matured to their full potential (nanomechanical property characterisation in conjunction with nanoscopic analytical and orientation characterisation; 3D atom probe methods, etc.) and will be further developed in this programme.
Surfaces and interfaces are the places where energy is consumed, but also performance and lifetime of devices are defined. The fast developing research activities in nanometre structures and miniaturised devices (e.g. based on thin film technologies) further emphasise the demand for novel functionalisation methods to design surface properties. This research encompasses new materials for large-scale displays and lighting, more efficient cutting tools, new integrated circuit technologies for electronic devices, innovative wear-resistant and low-friction surfaces, low-cost sensors, new catalysts, etc.
3D Microstructure characterisation in micro, nano, and atomic scales
3D Analysis of parts and structures down to the micro scale with the help of X-ray computer tomography has been in use for many years now. Recent developments have led to significant increases in resolution, nowadays being about 1 µm. Moreover, the use of synchrotron tomography allows for the characterisation of materials with a resolution even below 1µm. However, features in the nanoscale remain undetectable. In the last ten years, the development of focused ion beam tomography has opened new interesting possibilities for 3D characterisation with a resolution as good as 5 nm, but having a relevant volume up to some tens of µm3. It is exactly at these scales that relevant materials features like grain structure, micro and nanopores, precipitates, and eutectic structures can be found. By using different contrasts known from scanning electron microscopy, almost all aspects of microstructures become visible. Moreover, we can go one step further by analysing materials in 3D even at an atomic scale: atom probe tomography. This technique has matured significantly in the last years, achieving a development degree which renders it deployable for many tasks, including industrial applications such as the development of aluminium alloys for lighter motor blocks.