Materials Design and Surface Engineering

Materials Design and Surface Engineering

The first interaction of the environment with a material occurs at the surface, irrespective of whether this interaction is mechanical, chemical or biological. Improvement of materials performance with respect to corrosion, wear and fatigue is often realized by modifying the surface level.

Also, surface engineering is used to accomplish purpose-designed combinations of surface properties. Surface engineering is the major materials synthesis activity in the section.

Research in and development of electrochemical surface engineering is largely conducted in combination with the design of special surface properties for enhanced functionality. Among the functional surfaces of current interest are anodized layers on aluminium for decorative optical appearance including glossy white, hydrophilic and self-cleaning surfaces using photocatalytic TiO2. Another focus of development of functional surface research is bioinspired, biomimetic surfaces, with an ultimate aim to apply as biomaterials in implants or medical devices. Specific interests are lubricity and biocompatibility in aqueous or biological, physiological environment. Synthetic polymers mimicking the structure and composition of mucins are designed and studied.

(Electro-)catalytic materials for heterogeneous catalysis are designed and synthesized with (electro-) deposition techniques. The research in electro-catalytic materials for power to gas (P2G) applications for storage of excess wind energy has led to the development of materials with an unprecedented efficiency of 95 % and a durability of 6000+ hours at a laboratory scale. These materials are currently tested at MW scale.

Among the generic research activities are chrome-free conversion coatings based on high temperature steam, enhancing the corrosion performance of the anodized layer on aluminium and white anodized aluminium surfaces.  Another challenging research theme of strategic importance is electro-deposition of coatings and coating systems for replacing nickel and hexavalent chromium for wear, corrosion and decorative applications.

Research in and development of thermochemical surface engineering has focused on low temperature gaseous surface hardening of stainless steel. The research activities in this field are internationally leading. The research has evolved towards thermodynamic and kinetic modelling including the role of stress, application to other alloys than austenitic stainless steels and attempts to design optimized alloy compositions to fully exploit the potential of this class of surface treatments. Research and innovation was initiated in thermo-reactive deposition and diffusion (TRD) by pack cementation. Furthermore, thermochemical synthesis of porous metals as precursors for magnetic materials, catalysts and scaffolds was started up. Our latest activities in the field concern the surface hardening of titanium and its alloys, both for application of forged and cast as well as 3D printed components.
21 OCTOBER 2020