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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X025454/1
Title: Advanced Research into Crystallographic Anisotropy & Nucleation Effects in single crystals (ARCANE)
Principal Investigator: Green, Professor NR
Other Investigators:
Tarleton, Professor E Kao, Dr A Reed, Professor RC
Withey, Professor P Warnken, Dr N Styles, Professor IB
Bowen, Professor P Tino, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Rolls-Royce Plc (UK) University of Birmingham University of Greenwich
University of Oxford
Department: Metallurgy and Materials
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 June 2023 Ends: 31 May 2028 Value (£): 4,496,423
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Nov 2022 Prosperity Partnership Round 5 Full Proposal Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The rapidly evolving landscape for aviation propulsion - shaped by FlightPath 2050 objectives, commercial pressures, likely legislation, and crucially, a changing public demand - means that Rolls-Royce's grand challenge is now the electrification of flight. Miniaturised turbine-driven electrical generating systems will be required to power steady-state electric flight, enabling aircraft to vastly exceed the fuel economies of today. This necessitates both scaling and enhancing existing engine designs and the components within them or radically new designs.

The principal determinant of aero engine efficiency is the temperature of operation of the turbine, in which much of the energy in the hot gas from the combustor is used to drive the front end of the engine, both the compressor to sustain combustion and the fan to create and amplify thrust. The components of the hottest part of the turbine are manufactured from nickel superalloys using casting technology developed and refined over decades to produce single crystals. Single crystal (SX) castings are each comprised of more than 10^24 (1 with 24 following zeros) atoms arranged in common alignment to a unit cell - the atomic scale 'building block'. This imbues them with astonishing strengths but also mechanical properties under load that vary with direction relative to the unit cell.

Furnace technologies to make SX superalloy castings are highly advanced, being designed to avoid breakdown of the solidification front that moves slowly through the casting allowing atoms to be added to the prior solid. However, sometimes a secondary misoriented grain is formed, within which the atoms are aligned to a unit cell of different orientation; in the boundary there are missing atoms and bonds, as well as different structures - the "bicrystal". A large proportion of castings that contain bicrystals cannot be used as their function is considered to result in excessive decrease in component life. Criteria for their rejection favour safety in service. The mechanisms of bicrystal formation are not at all well understood.

Physical and process metallurgy remains a cornerstone of engineering and manufacturing. Only by having a sufficiently detailed mechanistic understanding and models to predict how materials behave can their performance in service under ever more demanding conditions be predicted with confidence. Their safe use demands that limits of capability are understood and in turn mechanistic understanding stimulates the development of improved materials and processes for future applications. New or improved alloys and technologies often provide economic impact through increased commercial competitiveness.

The strategic goal of this Prosperity Partnership for Advanced Research into Crystallographic Anisotropy & Nucleation Effects in single crystals (ARCANE) is to understand the nucleation of defects in the anisotropic world of single crystal casting. Our aim is to achieve the world's first high fidelity simulation of the nucleation and growth of bicrystals in the solid, semi solid and liquid regimes of the casting process. We aim to understand the associated materials properties of the anisotropic superalloy single crystals, as well as the properties associated with bicrystals formed during casting. This level of simulation will require breakthroughs at all levels, including physical models, numerical solvers and novel algorithms. We will use state of the art casting experimentation and materials evaluation to verify the models that we develop during the research. Furthermore, we will use the vast store of Rolls-Royce manufacturing and in engine data to ensure that our modelling and physical experimentation is targeted specifically for improvements

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