Computational Metallurgy Laboratory
Around 3,000 years have passed since human beings used alloys of iron. It is reasonable therefore, to call iron a classical material. There are numerous reasons why we have used iron in one form or another, but its adaptability and endless evolution has to be a major attraction.
In our research group, we engineer the continued evolution of iron and steel by combining mathematical modelling, quantitative experimental analysis, and aspects of technology transfer.
The effort falls into two categories. One aspect is the creation of novel alloys of iron. Modern technology is diverse with many materials such as steel operating at their known limits. We wish to push this limit to previously unknown levels. This requires a combination of imagination, sophisticated models, intuition, and an ability to recognise novelty. The mathematical modelling might in some cases lead to the exploration of domains previously inaccessible. One example of the latter is how ab initio calculations predicted the role of tungsten in creating very stable arrays of precipitates in steel, a discovery which is now being developed for next step. However, models are not a panacea – they have dramatic limitations when it comes to dealing with the real complexity of iron. But when used in combination with a deep understanding of physical metallurgy, they can reduce the resources (both time and money), required to achieve valorisation.
The other aspect of research activity is the degradation of iron alloys in non-friendly environments. A quantitative understanding on the degradation of iron alloys is of importance issue because it affects not only the quality of products but also the reliability in service life. This is now a major area of our research with enormous potential for exploitation. The surface quality of steel, its ability to be coated, and the interaction of exposed surfaces to the environment is a fertile field for both mathematical modelling and the critical experiments that follow.
The introduction emphasised iron as a classical material with a tremendous history. The word classical (or even traditional) is often misconstrued to mean `past it’. But we do not lose much sleep on this subject; there is a passion we have for iron that is hard to suppress, and which has since 2005 created new science, applicable technologies, and a highly trained output of human resources. We are the evolutionists of iron alloys, and continue our quest to unveil all the secrets of iron and its alloys.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin
Evolutionists of iron alloys