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The Metallurgical Nutcracker: Probing at the Nanoscale the Structure and Properties of Hard Second Phases in Alloys and Composites

Objective

Our ambition is to probe the strength of “second” phases in multiphase metal alloys and composites, meaning of hard particles added to strengthen a metal, or alternatively of brittle inclusions that weaken it. Such phases are ubiquitous in structural metals; yet not much is known of the microstructural features that govern their strength.
The underlying hypothesis of this project is that defects that limit the strength of such hard second phases can be identified and then altered by processing. Motivations for this enquiry stem from our previous research on metal composites, coupled with the fact that modern methods of nanoscale mechanical characterization now make such a quest feasible.
Operationally, we plan to apply and extend nanomechanical testing to probe the strength of micrometric, irregularly shaped, hard particles currently used to strengthen metals. We aim to test such particles whole, and also for their local internal properties. Testing will rely on focused ion beam machining and adapted mechanical nanoprobing. These techniques will be combined to probe, using nanoindentation and original testing procedures, local and global strength values for hard second phase particles. Materials systems to be investigated are: (i) ceramic particles for the reinforcement of metal composites; (ii) silicon in aluminium, (iii) cementite and MC carbides in steel. Defects limiting the strength of these hard brittle phases suggested by nanoscopic mechanical testing will be identified using in-depth microstructural characterization, by electron microscopy notably, of both virgin and tested particles. The data will be supplemented by mechanical testing of macroscopic samples containing the hard particles in question. Processing routes will be explored, towards identification of strategies by which the strength of such second phases can be improved to improve, in turn, the performance of several important engineering materials.

Field of science

  • /engineering and technology/materials engineering/composites
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/metals
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/optics/microscopy/electron microscopy

Call for proposal

ERC-2011-ADG_20110209
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant

Host institution

ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FEDERALE DE LAUSANNE
Address
Batiment Ce 3316 Station 1
1015 Lausanne
Switzerland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 496 000
Principal investigator
Andreas Mortensen (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Caroline Vandevyver (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (1)

ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FEDERALE DE LAUSANNE
Switzerland
EU contribution
€ 2 496 000
Address
Batiment Ce 3316 Station 1
1015 Lausanne
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Andreas Mortensen (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Caroline Vandevyver (Ms.)