MERL Expands its Work in Materials for Extreme Environments

MERL is one of 38 European companies involved in a new European Union Project on Extreme Materials Integrated Project (ExtreMat). The project targets the creation of new multifunctional materials that would otherwise be beyond reach using only conventional incremental materials development. Based on an integrated approach, ExtreMat will dramatically push forward the limits in materials technology and will provide and industrialize new knowledge-based materials and compounds for both top-end and new applications in extreme environments. This area is seen as a key enabling technology internationally.

In high-end applications materials often have to fulfil complex functions in extreme environments, which set limits to their performance and leads to their rapid degradation. As there is a diversity of extreme environments there is also a diversity of the required functionalities and of the type of materials which could fulfil them. Typically it is not only one factor, but combinations of several, which lead to extreme and complex loading conditions of the materials. The loading of materials may consist of up to four components:

  • very high heat fluxes and temperatures
  • physico-chemically aggressive media
  • complex mechanical loads
  • highly energetic radiation fields

The technological objective of the ExtreMat project is to develop new materials and the corresponding crosscutting processing technologies and to demonstrate the component fabrication from these materials. Research comprises:

  • ultra-low erosion protection materials with integrated barrier functions;
  • new heat sink materials;
  • nano-composited refractory metals as radiation resistant high temperature materials;
  • design, engineering and production of multi-functional compounds and components from these materials for new or enhanced operational regimes.

The resulting radical multi-sectorial innovations will cover:

  • efficiency and lifetime enhancement of energy generation systems
  • safe and reusable space components (protection, thrusters)
  • compact 3-d multi-chip devices with optimum thermal management
  • long lifetime, low-waste components in new neutron-based systems, e.g. spallation, ADS, VHTRs
  • the harnessing of fusion as inexhaustible energy source
  • spin-offs to other sectors and applications, like new brake systems, furnaces, chemical processes etc.

MERL is responsible for spin off activities of these new materials regarding their use in new braking systems. MERL will use its friction test facilities to characterise and assess these new materials against current leading brake materials, particularly those for use in high temperature/energy applications, such as on aircraft, racing and railway vehicles.

For more details contact Ric Seddon or visit the project web site

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