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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R041768/1
Title: Renaissance of alloys: nanocrystalline bimetals
Principal Investigator: Polcar, Professor T
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 April 2018 Ends: 30 September 2020 Value (£): 223,099
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
We propose the simulation-based design of a novel class of lightweight alloys with unrivaled mechanical properties and thermal stability. Our ambition is to combine just two metals with the oldest metallurgical concept (grain boundary control of mechanical properties) to beat the most modern superalloys in their high temperature use. Unlike many existing nanostructured alloys, our solution has a remarkable feature - it eliminates grain coarsening almost up to melting point.

Recent thermodynamic analysis of nc-metal alloys indicates that minority species tend to segregate at grain boundaries, which allows a decrease of the grain boundary (GB) energy, and thus a reduction of the grain boundary mobility. Under such conditions, nc-metal alloys with a positive enthalpy of grain boundary segregation minimize the Gibbs free energy at a certain grain size, and attain a thermodynamically stable nanostructure. Recent work on binary systems has shown that thermodynamically stable nanocrystalline alloys generally require a large enthalpy of grain boundary segregation relative to enthalpy of mixing, or, otherwise, a reasonably negative grain boundary interaction energy.

To screen stability of nanocrystalline alloys, we will use recently developed thermodynamic methodologies aimed at identifying elements and relative chemical compositions allowing a nanocrystalline state to occupy a relative minimum of the Gibbs free energy. In this project, we will focus only on promising combination of lighter elements (e.g. Ti, Mg, Al, Zr, Nb). First objective is thus to identify the most promising alloy based on simulation. Then, we will prepare such alloy and test it. We will use magnetron sputtering, which allows extending the solid solubility limit and refining the grain size down to the nanometre range. A combinatorial sputtering approach (i.e. chemical gradient in horizontal axis) speeds up the evaluation of structure, thermal stability and mechanical properties. Standard pre and post-annealing structural analysis (particularly elemental distribution across grain boundaries by EDX/EELS) will be coupled with in-situ observation of doping element segregation at grain boundaries in transmission electron microscope. The latter approach sheds light on initial diffusion, which will in turn be used to improve input into simulations. Mechanical properties and creep will be evaluated by nanoindentation including in-situ high temperature testing in a protective atmosphere at temperatures up to 800C.

The main result should be identification of possible alloys by model and validation of their preparation route and functional performance.

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Organisation Website: http://www.soton.ac.uk