These days, lightweight design is among the key technologies in many industries, from mechanical engineering to vehicle construction, through to aerospace. After all, in addition to the use of lighter materials, lightweight products also score points with their optimised design, increased recycling quotas, the reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions as well as their improved functionality. In September 2015, the joint project on Synthesis, Characterisation and Technological Manufacturing Approaches for Lightweight Design – n2m (nano to macro) for short, was launched by Landshut University of Applied Sciences (Competence Centre for Lightweight Design, LLK) and Paris Lodron University Salzburg (PLUS). The newly created cross-border Research and Development Centre for Lightweight Design is the crowning achievement of this project.
The project total was 3.1 million euros, 85 % of which was funded by the EU with around 2.6 million euros. “This kind of cooperation in the border region between Bavaria and Austria is unique to date, and sustainably supports the further expansion of these regions’ leading position in the field of lightweight design”, agree the two people responsible for the project, Prof. Dr. Nicola Hüsing and Prof. Dr. Otto Huber. Hüsing is Vice Rector for Research and Sustainability at the University of Salzburg. She was responsible for the overall project management of “n2m”. Huber is the Director of the Competence Centre for Lightweight Design at Landshut University of Applied Sciences and was in charge of the project for Landshut.
Bundling of knowledge and interests
With its focus on encouraging cross-border teaching and research, the project combined the application-oriented research of the LLK with the basic scientific research at the PLUS. “In a variety of different problems, as a team, we faced the challenges of combining interdisciplinary approaches to thinking and research in the fields of materials chemistry, production engineering, mechanics, materials engineering and analysis” says Huber, explaining the approach. The goal was to create innovative lightweight structures and to develop the appropriate production and processing technologies. This also entailed the acquisition and operation of a laser welding system, a heating press, a vibration polisher and a heat treatment furnace for the Landshut University of Applied Sciences as well as a transmission electron microscope for the PLUS. With this equipment, the two institutions are significantly expanding their research and training opportunities, also beyond the duration of the project, while enabling cutting-edge research and long-term cooperation in the field of lightweight design at the same time. “We coordinated our purchases and are able to make shared use of them. In this way, we increase both the scientific added value and the innovation potential of the region”, adds Hüsing.
Increasingly attractive to students and researchers
The Bavarian-Austrian Research and Development Centre makes the two university locations of Landshut and Salzburg more attractive for students and researchers. Project work and theses, internships, workshops and cooperative doctorates are possible across borders. And this cross-border partnership is already bearing fruit.
A doctorate carried out in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Oliver Diwald (supervisor on the part of the University of Salzburg) dealt with the characterisation and modelling of the mechanical behaviour of magnesium in order to be able to use it in industry. "Magnesium is one of the lightest metallic construction materials, which poses great challenges to product development and manufacturing due to its complex microstructure (hexagonal close packed lattice structure). By characterising and modelling the fatigue strength behaviour, the material becomes calculable, a basic prerequisite for being able to use the high lightweight design potential of magnesium industrially", explains Huber (supervisor on the part of Landshut University of Applied Sciences).
Also successfully completed within the scope of the n2m project was a dissertation supervised by Prof. Dr. Holger Saage, professor at the LLK of Landshut University of Applied Sciences, and Prof. Dr. Mathias Göken, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. This dealt with the corrosive and thermo-mechanical behaviour of intermetallic titanium-aluminium compounds. Compounds that are very light and suitable for use at high temperatures and thus find application in turbine blades, for example.
Furthermore, a third doctoral thesis, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Hubert Klaus, also a professor at LLK, and Prof. Dr. Nicola Hüsing, University of Salzburg, is currently working on a recyclable thermoplastic material composite. Innovative sandwich structures with a core made of a polyamide 6 matrix structure and embedded foam granules made of recycled glass as well as glass fibre reinforced cover layers promise a variety of possible applications, such as in skateboards or vehicle bodies. At the same time, it should be possible to separate and reuse them by melting the matrix material.
Additional incentives for science and business
At the same time, for partners from science and industry, too, the successful conclusion of n2m offers incentives for future innovative cooperation projects. For example, another seven universities and research institutions are already involved in the research and development centre for lightweight design. Moreover, cross-border conferences and workshops are being held for the public, research institutions and companies. At the same time, several follow-up projects have already been approved and granted within the scope of joint research proposals from Landshut University of Applied Sciences and the University of Salzburg. Recently, a joint D-A-CH project on “Mechanisms of plastification in multiaxially loaded textured magnesium” was approved by the Austrian Science Fund FWF and the German Research Foundation (DFG). “For me, this is a clear sign that cross-border research and teaching will continue to play an important role in the topic of lightweight design in the future,” Huber says, with confidence.
About the project
The “n2m (nano to macro) – Synthesis, Characterisation and Technological Manufacturing Approaches for Lightweight Design” project, which was completed after four years of research and development, is a joint project between the Competence Centre for Lightweight Design (LLK) at Landshut University of Applied Sciences and the Department of Chemistry and Physics of Materials at Paris Lodron University Salzburg (PLUS). The project management at Landshut University of Applied Sciences was in the lead of Prof. Dr. Otto Huber, while Prof. Dr. Nicola Hüsing of PLUS was responsible for the overall project management. The project was funded by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund, ERDF) within the scope of the INTERREG Austria-Bavaria funding programme. The total funding amount was 3.1 million euros, which was divided equally between the two project partners.
Photos: Landshut University of Applied Sciences
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