Developing Materials and Methods for Lightweight Engineering, Energy and Environmental Protection
New materials and technologies conserve natural resources
The global demand for energy and raw materials is increasing rapidly though the necessary resources are limited. It is therefore particularly important today and in the future to effectively utilise these resources while also protecting the environment.
An ultra-lightweight vehicle made of magnesium and polymer composite materials, operated with renewable, clean energy resources and built using an energy-conserving process: this is the future of automotive and aerospace manufacturing. While this scenario might still be in part science fiction, material scientists are working on making this fiction a reality.
In addition to their commitment to lightweight engineering, material scientists develop membranes for use in environmental protection and study new storage technologies for utilising hydrogen as an energy carrier.
- New Materials for Lightweight Engineering
- Joining Technologies for Lightweight Engineering
- Hydrogen Energy
- Membranes for the Environment
New Materials for Lightweight Engineering
Lightweight engineering with magnesium Lightweight engineering with titanium aluminide
Lightweight engineering with magnesium
Magnesium is lighter than aluminium by one-third while equally as stable. This metal can therefore help us build lighter vehicles and aircraft and in doing so, reduce fuel consumption: fuel consumption is reduced by approximately one litre per 100 kilometres when the weight of an automobile is reduced by 300 kilograms.
Microscopic image of a magnesium alloy.
Magnesium is already used in steering wheels, instruments and seats today. But how can even more efficient components and sheet metal be manufactured using magnesium? What can be done to prevent possible corrosion? Future magnesium technologies are intensively studied in Geesthacht. New recyclable alloys are developed as are optimised manufacturing and processing methods.
Deutschlandfunk Interview Kainer - Getunter Werkstoff
Magnesium sheet metals can be produced with the institute’s own casting-rolling unit (“RollMag”) and can subsequently undergo scientific study. We are thus moving closer to the economic application of magnesium sheet metals.
The Institutes & Departments
|Institut||Institute of Materials Research|
Magnesium Processing: Metallurgical production of magnesium materials. Production of wrought magnesium and casting alloys as well as further processing in the melting and semi-solid states. |
Wrought Magnesium Alloys: Development of competitive alloys as well as process design adaptation for the new alloys, including texture modifications for the production of semi-finished magnesium products.
Corrosion and Surface Technology: Development of anti-corrosion coatings for magnesium components.
Lightweight engineering with titanium aluminide
New alloy development: a novel metallic alloy made of titanium and aluminium (titanium aluminide) is used as a lightweight material in aircraft turbines and motors because it is extremely heat-resistant. Light materials, such as the high-tech titanium aluminide, offer a competitive advantage in the aviation industry: every kilogram saved in weight means lower fuel consumption. In a development project spanning decades, Geesthacht researchers studied titanium aluminide, an alloy which is intended to be used in aircraft turbine blades manufactured by Rolls-Royce Germany.
A new alloy is tested.
For more on this topic, please refer to the 2008 Annual Report.
The Institutes & Departments
|Institut||Institute of Materials Research|
Powder Technology: Application and further development of metal injection moulding (MIM) for near net shape production of small and intricately formed components. Research focus lies in special methods for processing titanium materials |
Metal Physics: Development of new titanium aluminide lightweight construction materials (TiAl) for high temperature applications in aircraft turbines and automotive engines.
Joining Technologies for Lightweight Engineering
The fuselage of a modern aircraft consists of a mix of aluminium and fibre composite structures, which are often lighter and more durable than pure metallic structures.
Conventional joining processes, such as sheet metal riveting, are not optimal for these new engineering methods. These processes can be replaced by special, weight-reducing welding methods such as laser or friction stir welding, both examples of successful technology transfer from Geesthacht.
Scientists at the HZG developed and patented new procedures, with which aluminium, magnesium and fibre-reinforced plastics can be welded to one another. This can be achieved entirely without melting, sparking or fumes – the materials are firmly bound by friction.
To precisely predict the mechanical properties of lightweight structures under extreme loads, the scientists, with the aid of experiments and computer simulations, study the basic principles of deformation, damage and fracture of new materials and their joined structures.
How do new welding methods look deep inside the materials and to which tensions are those materials exposed – HZG scientists use neutrons to study these questions, or especially intense X-rays, known as synchrotron radiation. Microtomography and nanotomography images allow us to examine properties contained within components and materials.
From the local microstructure to the joints and the complex component prototypes – materials researchers in Geesthacht cover the entire spectrum, from foundation to application.
|Institut||Institute of Materials Research|
Solid State Joining Processes: Friction stir welding and related processes are core areas in which the HZG occupies a leading international role. These methods allow a high degree of freedom in modifying and coating raw and processed materials as well as joining similar or dissimilar materials should other methods and procedures prove unsuitable. |
Joining and Assessment: Laser material processing of metallic lightweight engineering materials and their mechanical as well as metallographic characterisation with a focus on improving and optimising damage tolerance behaviour.
Hydrogen Energy – When sunlight becomes a constant source of electricity
We must develop technologies to make renewable resources, such as sun and wind, steady energy suppliers. However, because solar and wind energy are not continuously available, science develops solutions that enable us to store energy from these sources.
Metal hydrides from Geesthacht
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht research storage of hydrogen in what are known as metal hydrides.
One method is to utilise electricity from these sources for producing hydrogen, to efficiently store the hydrogen and then continually re-use this resource to generate power in fuel cells or gas turbines. However, only if suitable energy-efficient, economical and space/weight-saving storage concepts exist will this clean hydrogen technology prevail.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht study hydrogen storage in what are known as metal hydrides, develop suitable storage tank prototypes and optimise the materials for use in mobile and stationary applications.
Within the storage systems developed at the HZG, light metals such as sodium, aluminium, or magnesium and some non-metals such as boron or nitrogen bind to form what are known as light metal hydrides during the reaction with hydrogen. The unique aspect here is that the gaseous hydrogen binds reversibly to the finely milled metallic powders.
With their low weight and volume, owing to their special structure, the metal hydride pellets used by the HZG scientists store considerable amounts of hydrogen at low pressure and moderate temperatures. This makes the tanks lighter and smaller and offers crucial advantages over today’s high pressure storage at 350 or 700 bar, or liquid storage at -253°C. Not only the contents of the tank, but also the optimal tank design is under development by Geesthacht scientists, who also explore questions of the tanks’ efficiency in various applications.
Faster and more effective: From 600 minutes down to 10 minutes
Modern fuel cells require high capacity storage that releases hydrogen at suitable working temperatures. It is frequently very time consuming to load and unload light metal hydride hydrogen tanks. When refuelling a car, however, or during sudden high hydrogen availability for example, due to strong winds, the tanks must be able to react quickly.
This is where the Helmholtz scientists come in. The result of their research is that with the assistance of improved catalysts and optimised tank designs, the loading times can be reduced from more than ten hours with certain storage materials to under ten minutes. This provides storage with very brief reaction times that even approach the loading times desired by the automotive industry.
It is essential, however, in utilising effective storage technology to first produce the hydrogen economically and sustainably. It will no longer be possible in the future to produce hydrogen from natural gas as it is done today because fossil fuels are linked to CO2 production. A method is sought for producing economical and “green” hydrogen.
The scientists at Geesthacht therefore develop processes that are commercially favourable and can be carried out using simple methods to produce hydrogen directly from water and sunlight (photo catalytic) or to “divert” it during the processing of industrial process gases.
|Institut||Institut für Werkstoffforschung|
Sustainable Energy Technology: Direct solar hydrogen production by means of photo-induced water splitting. |
Nanotechnology: Development of nanostructured materials such as light metal hydrides for hydrogen storage.
Membranes for the Environment
Life in its current form would be inconceivable without membranes. Every biological cell is surrounded by a separating membrane layer. Membranes protectively envelop the cell interior, establishing a border from the outside environment and determine, with the help of pores, whether liquids, substrates or gases can enter or leave the cell.
A new membrane is developed in the Geesthacht polymer research laboratory.
Polymer researchers from Geesthacht have used this universal principle of substance separation very successfully for more than three decades to develop the most diverse array of membranes.
The Perfect Polymer
The Fotostory from the Institute for Polymer Research shows the search for the perfect polymer:
Clean drinking water, energy production from osmotic power or petrol vapour recovery – these are only a few examples of how the results of basic research transformed into economic application. The HZG scientists study individual polymer molecules on the nano-scale in their work and later test their developments in pilot plants for industrial use.
Please note that the video is only available in German.
In cooperation with partners, the scientists from the Institute of Polymer Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht have recently discovered a way, with the help of membranes, to reduce the nitrogen oxide content from shipping vessel emissions. The Geesthacht membranes help in reducing nitrogen oxides by 80% during combustion in the engine.
For their scientific work, the researchers utilise the most modern facilities and methods for the synthesis, characterisation and processing of polymers as well as for membrane production, module development and separation process modelling.
|Institut||Institute of Polymer Research|
Instrumental Structure Analytics: Morphologically as well as spatially resolved chemical analysis of materials produced by the Institute of Polymer Research as well as by collaborators. |
Material Characterisation and Processing: Development and characterisation of nanostructured materials for membrane use as well as for membrane production.
Polymer Synthesis: Synthesis and characterisation of custom-made polymers.
Process Engineering: Scientific engineering aspects of membrane technology. Our core competencies lie in implementing new flat-sheet membranes for gas and liquid separation.