The design of advanced high strength and damage tolerant metallic materials for energy, mobility, and health applications forms the engineering and manufacturing backbone of Europe's industry. Examples are creep-resistant Ni-alloys in power plants and plane turbines; ultrahigh strength steels, Al- and Mg-alloys for light-weight mobility and aerospace design; or Ti-implants in aging societies.
Since the Bronze Age the design of metallic alloys rooted in trial and error, owing to the complexity of the physical and chemical mechanisms involved and the engineering conditions imposed during manufacturing. This traditional approach has two shortcomings. First, current alloys are not developed via systematic design rules but via empirical methods. This approach is time consuming and inefficient. Second, the increase in strength via traditional hardening mechanisms always causes a dramatic decrease in ductility, i.e. making the material brittle and susceptible to failure.
SMARTMET aims at solving this inverse strength-ductility problem: The joint use of advanced synthesis and atomic characterization (expertise of PI) together with ab initio modeling (expertise of Co-PI) opens a new path to the design of next generation metallic alloys. The objective is to use these methods to identify and utilize strengthening mechanisms that allow to overcome the inverse relationship between strength and ductility. The key idea is to incorporate phases into alloys that are close or beyond their mechanical and thermodynamic stability limit. They undergo transformations under load acting as self-organized repair mechanism. SMARTMET contains risks and gains: (i) Mechanical stability through unstable phases includes the risk of material weakening but it may break the inverse strength-ductility principle. (ii) New metallurgical alloys (PI) designed via quantum mechanics (Co-PI) is risky owing to the complexity of metallic nanostructures but allows alloy tailoring based on first principles.
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