Research strategy and development of the Institute for years 2016-2020
Present state of the Institue field in the national and international contexts
It is obvious that new materials with improved properties and novel or adapted manufacturing technologies are attractive topics from both national and international point of view. They fully correspond with the priorities of European innovation programme Horizon 2020 and also with national Research and Innovation Smart Specialise Strategy (RIS3), where development of novel materials is the first of 5 research priorities.
European Horizon 2020 programme has not foreseen the development of novel materials as a specific independent topic nevertheless the particular calls frequently address this challenge.
The competency of the Institute may answer the needs in following priorities of Horizon 2020:
- Excellent science – development of key enabling technologies (development of technologies for manufacturing of smart materials, technologies for flexible manufacturing of large size lightweight structures, manipulations with material structure in nanoscale, etc.)
- Competitive industry – development of techniques for additive manufacturing, cost efficient manufacturing technologies for novel materials such as composites, foams, powder based materials, efficient use of multi material combinations, etc.
- Societal needs – here, the Institute can contribute in many areas such as materials for green cars (novel batteries, lightweight structural parts, materials for energy storage and recuperation, materials for thermal management, etc.), energy efficient buildings and low carbon economy (energy efficient heating and cooling solutions via aluminium foam panels, heat storage using PCM composites, lightweight energy efficient structures, etc), even in health priority (new medical implants, biodegradable materials)
Slovakia with almost 25% GDP created by industry belongs to strong industrial countries. Most of the industrial output is produced by automotive and electronic sector and associated suppliers. Therefore the development of these two sectors was selected as strategic priority in RIS3.
Large car makers (VW in Bratislava, PSA Pegueot Citroen in Trnava and Kia in Žilina) transferred their most progressive and demanding assemblies into Slovakia. Volkswagen started here unique production of multimaterial car body structures with large portion of lightweight aluminium parts (Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and expected Touareg). Jaguar Land Rover is the newest member of the family aiming to produce aluminium body SUV in Nitra. Aluminium body production becomes very interesting topic in Slovakia and this is why development of lightweight metallic materials with particular attention paid to aluminium and magnesium was listed under perspective strategic priorities in RIS3.
Actually there is not as much experience with mass production of aluminium cars worldwide and the presence of these car makers brings the opportunity to rearrange the network of local suppliers from steel to aluminium. The Institute traditionally belongs to the primary Slovakian developers of novel aluminium based applications and possess all necessary competence. Of course, there is strong interest of the Institute to develop it further and contribute to the development of Slovakia into an internationally recognized industrial country with strong competency in the products manufactured from aluminium. Therefore the lightweight structural materials remain as the first priority in the Institutes´s strategy.
However, the Institue's strategy includes more than materials for cars. The Institute wants to further enhance its knowledge also in the fields of metal matrix composites in order to be prepared for further improvements when current technologies and materials will have to be replaced with more performing ones.
Finally, aluminium will be more and more replaced with magnesium what requires further substantial update of technology and material development. It is quite important for the Institute to be prepared for this near future and gain the necessary experience.
Materials for energy production, conversion and storage represent one of crucial topics worldwide (and are frequently addressed also in Horizon 2020). These include materials that due to improved properties at elevated temperatures make the energy production more efficient. On the other hand, better understanding of their degradation process and more precise inspection of energy generating devices and facilities can increase their lifetime making the energy production cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
More and more important role plays energy from renewable sources. These are typically time dependent (wind, solar) and not very suitable for supply on demand. This energy therefore needs to be stored to be available when needed. Here the storage materials offer new opportunities that need to be explored and developed.
It is our common mission to contribute to the development of earth into a better place for life. The Institute will contribute to this goal by application of its knowledge in medicine and safety of road traffic.
Research strategy of the institute in the national and international contexts
The basic philosophy of the Institute is to perform research and development yielding recognizable and unquestionable benefits to the society. This is for the Institute a suitable way how to repair and strengthen the position of science in the general public. Coming out from this philosophy, the Institute will focus its research strategy in following fields:
A) Lightweight structural materials aimed mostly for structural application in machine construction with the main interest in automotive industry
– addressing pillar 2 in HORIZON 2020. Several ways will be followed:
B) Materials for energy production, conversion and storage
- Development of HITEMAL (high temperature aluminium) which is an proprietary ultrafine-grained or fine-grained Al–Al2O3 composite prepared by compaction of fine gas as-atomized Al powders of commercial purity. Based on the studies revealing the mechanism of interfacial bonding formation other common engineering metal powders will be investigated in order to get composites stabilised by the continuous network of their native oxide with sufficient strength and ductility. These materials will find their use in new generation of engine parts (piston, connecting rods, pins, transmission gears etc.), in piping registers of high temperature solar collectors (APVV project since 07/2015), or in containers for storage of use nuclear fuel (industrial cooperation)
- The nitridation reaction in in-situ Al-AlN composites with enhanced Young´s modulus and high-temperature strength will be studied in order to ensure the controllability and reproducibility of nitridation process of Al powders also in industrial scale (the material is expected for use cases typical for well established Hitemal, nevertheless with enhanced stiffness to weight ratio)
- Proper consolidation technology for the production of nanostructured Al materials will be developed
- Novel Al matrix composites reinforced with ceramic particles will be developed for containers for storage of radioactive waste (cooperation with large French company since 2015)
- New Al alloys powder with an aim to be used as feedstock for 3D printing (laser sintering) will be prepared by proprietary gas atomization technique recently established at the Institute
- Unique casting technology based on patented FACT process (foaming asssited casting) allowing easy casting of large lightweight structural parts, such as car body monocoques, will be further developed to achieve industrial maturity (strategic cooperation with car body suppliers)
- Novel magnesium composites for ultralight structural components will be further optimised (ESA PECS contract since 05/2016)
- addressing pillar 2 and 3 in HORIZON 2020 (secure clean and safe energy, smart, green and integrated transport). Several ways will be followed:
C) Human welfare
- The research of light weight TiAl-based alloys will be focused on in-situ composites with lamellar matrix consisting of γ(TiAl) and α2(Ti3Al) lamellae, where the particles of MAX-phase (Ti3AlC or Ti2AlC) will be distributed. Our design of the in-situ composites will be focused on the in-situ composites with Al content between 40 and 47 at.%, Nb content from 3 to 7 at.% and content of C and N will vary to achieve up to 30 vol.% of MAX-phase. The relationships between in-situ alloying of the selected melts by the TiC and TiN particles and morphology (size, shape and distribution), volume fraction and the chemical composition of Ti2Al(C,N) phases will be studied. The understanding of the basic principles of the structure formation during the gravity and centrifugal casting of simple shape castings and prototype turbocharger wheels will be accomplished.
- Future development of high entropy alloys will be focused on FeCoCrNiX, AlCoCrFeX and CrNbTiZrX systems prepared by melting and casting techniques. The research will be focused on fundamental aspects of formation of anisotropic columnar grain and single crystalline structures prepared by directional solidification, identification of solidification path, columnar to equiaxed transition, phase transformations and microstructure characterisation. Advanced testing techniques of mechanical properties will be supported by numerical macro-, meso- and micro-scale modeling of deformation behavior. Mechanisms controlling room and high temperature deformation will be analyzed.
- Composites for electrodes of power plasma generating devices will be developed. These will be prepared by gas pressure infiltration of W or ceramics (ZrB2) preforms with Cu. Cu-W composites prepared by proprietary patented technique have proved their appropriateness for this purpose. However larger and larger electrodes being able to transport increasing power outputs are requested by waste incinerator producers or for machining purposes.
- Proprietary heating/cooling panels impregnated with phase change materials have grown up and are now able to provide complex solution for green houses. Their application in construction industry allows the heat accumulation exhibiting cooling effect as well as heat radiation with heating effect. The proposed concept will be tested using our well equipped “SmartGrid” – testing laboratory for production, storage and consumption of energy gained from renewable sources.
- Magnesium is an attractive material for hydrogen storage; the effect of composition of the Mg melt, cooling rate, gas pressure and size of Mg particles on the amount of hydrogen absorbed in the solid powder will be studied. In addition, the ability of such powder to absorb and desorb hydrogen repeatedly without excessive creation of passive layer on the particle surfaces will be determined. The ways of further use of powder after exhausting its ability to effectively bind hydrogen will be examined. The successful results could revolutionary help in the storage of energy from clean and renewable sources, thus contributing to the formation of sustainably clean environment.(APVV project since 07/2015)
- Increasing research activities are devoted to the development of PCM/Al foam composites for improved heat management (battery packages, power electronics breaking systems, machine housings, building interiors) or as heat storage tanks (new Horizon 2020 project Everlast, industrial cooperation).
- adressing pillar 3 in HORIZON 2020 (health and wellbeing). Several ways will be followed:
D) Additional R&D activities
- Novel approach for the application of magnesium in biodegradable medical implants with satisfactory mechanical properties (close to the properties of natural bone), biocompatibility and controllable degradation rate will be examined. The approach is based on the use of ultrafine Mg or Mg-alloy powders for manufacturing of degradable implants, whereas mechanical properties of the compacted powder will be tailored via (i) grain size of powder particles, (ii) alloying with suitable biocompatible element (Zn, Ca, Mn) and (iii) via amount of surface oxides or nitrides formed on the surface of powder particles before compaction. These native oxides or nitrides will also serve as diffusion barriers for the control of the degradation rate (JRP SAV – TUBITAK project since 12/2014).
- The patented Ti-Mg composites for dental implants prepared by powder metallurgical routes will be tested and optimized in terms of mechanical properties and biocompatibility. As-prepared composites will be subjected to in-vivo tests in order to examine the ability of MgO layer to control the rate of Mg dissolution in animal body.
- In the field of machine mechanics the research will cover the analysis of vibration in a road-vehicle-driver system. The research effort will be focused on providing unique in-situ measurements of road roughness and whole-body vibration for various types of vehicles, vehicle velocities, and road categories; the correlation among current indicators of longitudinal road unevenness and measured whole body vibration based on ISO 2631-1 in a vehicle will be determined. Relationship among the parameters of road elevation spectrum (unevenness index and waviness) and whole body vibration based on measured profiles will be derived.
- adressing pillar 2 in HORIZON 2020
Infrastructure and human resources
- Advanced hard ceramic protective coatings possessing high hardness in combination with enhanced toughness will be developed. It means reducing the elastic modulus while maintaining high values of hardness. Suitable way seems to be alloying of well-known brittle ternary transition metal nitrides with nitrides of pentavalent VB group elements. Expected results should be better resistance against thermal shock during machining of hardly machinable materials, longer lifetime of cutting tools, etc.
- Amorphous hard coatings for protective applications at higher temperatures up to 2000°C in aggressive oxidic atmosphere will be prepared. Material design of amorphous nitride/oxide-based composite coatings with absence of grains preventing to direct contact of external atmosphere with substrate through boundaries surrounding grains, for example protective coatings for ɣ-TiAl blades in turbines, aircraft and space applications, etc.
- New technological approaches for high-rate reactive deposition of oxide coatings with deposition rate exceeding 10 000 nm/min will be investigated. Development of dual-magnetron systems in combination with AC/DC pulsed power supplies.
- Highly ionized deposition technologies to obtain a large quantity of ionized sputtered particles for better structure control of growing films with desired properties will be developed. The formation of high-temperature phases in coatings produced at temperatures less than 500°C, the nanocrystallization of amorphous materials at temperatures of about or less than 100°C for flexible electronics, etc. will be examined.
Recently, making use of resources of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Institute has improved its infrastructure including the infrastructure of its workplaces in the regions of Trnava and Žiar nad Hronom. At present, the Institute has built up the basic infrastructure necessary for its strategic activities.
In the next period, the Institute has to acquire sufficient resources for highly qualified scientific personnel. The Institute's budget from state is approximately the same for more than 10 years and it covers only part of the salaries. Therefore hiring new personnel requires additional external funds from projects or cooperations. These circumstances imply the Institute strategy in the upcoming years. The plan is to employ about 20 new researchers and let them work for EU SF project money. At the end of Programming Period 2014-2020 they should be already skilled enough to be able to earn the requested resources without the need of Structural Funds.
At the end of 2020 due to the quality of the Institute's personnel and infrastructure, the goal of the Institute is a more sovereign position making it less dependent on financial resources form state budget than it is at present.