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Helmholtz International Fellow Award goes to Professor Xiang Zhang

Prof. Zhang is an internationally renowned expert in the field of structural integrity of aircraft structures

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Visiting the Institute of Materials Research: Prof. Xiang Zhang (1st row, 4 from left) and the head of the division "Materials Mechanics", Prof. Norbert Huber (1st row 3rd from right). [Photo: HZG/Heidrun Hillen]

"We are very pleased that Professor Zhang has received this award and is here for a research visit now", says the head of the Institute of Materials Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Norbert Huber. "The prize recognizes an excellent researcher personality and at the same time strengthens the connection with the materials researchers at our centre."

For more than ten years, Prof. Xiang Zhang has been actively involved in joint projects with scientists from the HZG-Program Advanced Engineering Materials (AEM). During this time she became a mentor for doctoral students at HZG. The materials and aircraft construction expert Prof Zhang is currently visiting Geesthacht from 5. to 8. December.

Prof. Xiang Zhang is particularly interested in the damage tolerance of light-weight structures made of high-strength light-weight and fiber composite materials. In January 2015, she was appointed to a professorship of Structural Integrity at the University of Coventry (UK).

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The aim of the research is the development of new joining processes for the aircraft industry, such as laser welding [Photo: HZG / Christian Schmid]

During her one-week stay at the HZG, she exchanges with the scientists about advanced joining processes and innovative materials and components for the aviation industry. She also takes some time to talk about career paths and opportunities with young scientists in the field of structural design.

Modern materials and, in particular, high-performance materials are expected to have a long life under extreme conditions. Researchers are looking for a material that is very light but at the same time resistant to the formation of fatigue cracks. A major goal for aircraft fuselage structures is to develop materials which have high tolerance against small defects, e.g. against microcracks inside or scratches on the surface.

Such defects are typical starting points of fatigue cracks that can affect the life and safety. The resistance of the aircraft body can be increased, for example, by the use of fiber composite materials or by local reinforcements.The defined strength and stability of the sheat as a whole is referred to as structural integrity. Professor Zhang is one of the best experts in this field.

The researchers in Geesthacht mainly work on metallic fuselage structures for the next generation of aircraft as well as on the connection of metallic structures with fiber composite structures. The aim of their work is the replacement of the conventional riveting process with high-quality joining processes such as friction stir and spot welding and laser welding.

They also work on local modification methods to increase the lifetime by decelerating the crack propagation in the materials by introducing local reinforcements or compressive stresses.

About the Helmholtz International Fellow Award:

The Helmholtz International Fellow Award has been awarded since 2012 by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. This year, the award, endowed with 20,000 euros, received five researchers from different fields. The award is aimed at scientists as well as science managers who work abroad and who have profiled their research in Helmholtz-relevant topics. The most important criterion for the award is the quality of scientific performance; The selection of award winners is made by the Helmholtz executive committee.

About the HZG-Program Advanced Engineering Materials (AEM):


New process: friction spot welding [Photo: HZG/Christian Schmid]

The Institute for Materials Research at the Helmholtz Center in Geesthacht is involved in the Helmholtz program "Functional Material Systems" (English: Advanced Engineering Materials, AEM). AEM focuses on the development of selected materials and technologies, from fundamental understanding to technological application. Major challenges are the realization of low weight, high mechanical performance, and the implementation of multifunctional properties. To achieve these goals, continuous work along the full spectrum of basic research in materials development, modelling and characterization as well as in the process technologies for the up-scaling to application-relevant standards is necessary. Research is conducted in a unique combination of metal research, mechanics and polymer research.


Head of the division "Materials Mechanics"

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Norbert Huber

Institute of Materials Research

Phone: +49 (0)4152 87-2500

E-mail contact

Contact for the media:

Heidrun Hillen

Press relations

Max-Planck-Str. 1
21502 Geesthacht

Phone: +49 4152 87 1648

E-mail contact