05. June 2022

#DiversityInScience - In Pursuit of Tomorrow’s Materials

When it comes to reducing the energy consumption of cars, aircraft or ships one variable has always been crucial: weight. In mobility, lightweight construction is a key factor in sustainability. But at the same time as efforts are being made to improve climate protection, requirements regarding the safety and user-friendliness of components – in other words, their functionality – are also becoming stricter. In this connection, lightweight construction is seen as a performance enhancer and powerful innovation driver.

It is on such key technologies for tomorrow’s mobility that researchers at LKR Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen, a subsidiary of AIT, the Austrian Institute of Technology, are working. The nearly 60-strong LKR team is examining the topic in all its facets, from materials to process technology to material-related structural design. LKR scientist and authorised signatory Dr Carina Schlögl heads the forming technology research division and is coordinator of the AMALFI and Data-T-Rex research projects, among others, which are co-funded by the government of Upper Austria.

“The light metals aluminium and magnesium are particularly interesting for mobility owing to their low weight and great stability,” she says. “But aside from these properties, materials must also be suitable for welding, casting or forming in order to fully meet the strict requirements. In cooperation with partners from science and industry – including many leading companies in Upper Austria – innovative alloys are being developed and new approaches in lightweight construction adopted. Our aim is to adapt the individual process steps along the production route perfectly to the materials used – vital for significantly reducing energy consumption and consequently the carbon emissions that are so harmful to the environment.”
DR CARINA SCHLÖGL, Senior Research Engineer

Along from weight reduction, material efficiency is also important for achieving greater sustainability – especially in the aerospace industry. Dr Angela Harrison is an expert in die casting and is coordinating the EU project SUSTAINair which aims to make the principles of the circular economy part of aerospace (“circular aviation”).

“Aircraft construction currently generates large amounts of waste: the proportion of material actually used in the aircraft is often only around 15 to 20 per cent. In this connection, the term ‘high buy-to-fly ratio’ is used. The aim is to achieve a ratio of almost 1:1. When the components are manufactured their size, mass and shape should be as close as possible to that of the finished product. We aim to achieve this by using recently developed nanoeutectic aluminium alloys in combination with advanced optimizations of die casting processes. The technology adapted and materials developed as part of SUSTAINair will make the production of aerospace components faster, more efficient and cleaner.”
DR ANGELA HARRISON, Senior Research Engineer

For more insights into the many different aspects of research within the UAR Innovation Network, visit www.uar.at/insights