As the technological developments around the world continuously evolve, the challenges global warming presents must be increasingly acknowledged in the creation of sustainable technologies and materials.

Steel holds an impressive number of properties that make it easier to adapt to environmental requirements and considerations of the modern world. For instance, the transport sector heavily relies on steel, so effective R&D can generate thinner sheets that maintain the structural integrity while reducing the weight of cars and the subsequent CO2 emissions.

With that in mind, researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW)’s School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering and Electron Microscopy Centre (EMC) are performing research to both positively impact the steel industry and ensure environmental benefits to the innovations within it. The Director of EMC, Professor Elena Pereloma, is one of the world’s leading professors in steel research.

“Steel is still – and will be for at least the next decade – the dominant structural material for the transport sector, both for its range of properties and cost competiveness,” Elena Pereloma

Developing advanced high-strength steels

Pereloma is working on the development of the so-called third generation of advanced high-strength steels, particularly in the area of transformation-induced (TRIP)/twinning-induced (TWIP) plasticity steels. These have the potential to significantly reduce the weight of the material’s components and improve their structural integrity under crash conditions.

Pereloma also designs the processing schedules for strip casting, a process that provides improvements to more conventional methods of steel sheet manufacturing. “The production of strips currently has a high-energy cost, but thin strip casting – 2-4 mm thickness – offers an energy saving of up to 90 per cent for the processing of liquid steel into the final strip,” explains Pereloma. “In addition, the unique opportunities to change the mechanical properties and utilise the impurity elements for strength are offered by extremely high cooling rates during solidification.”

Thus far, the team at UOW has demonstrated the feasibility of dual-phase steel production using strip casting, and suggested the processing window to achieve the properties comparable to conventional dual-phase steels.

Experimental techniques with a practical outcome

Pereloma’s research necessitates the use of advanced experimental techniques to gain full insight into the behaviour of materials at atomic, micro and macro scales. One example of this is in her team’s use of synchrotron and neutron diffraction techniques to study in-situ mechanical behaviour and phase transformations in TRIP, TWIP and TRIP/TWIP steels under tensile and cyclic loading, or during heating. Through these methods, the researchers were able to elucidate the operating deformation mechanisms and bearing capacities of each phase and load transfer between them. However, while this gave them information at the macroscopic level, it did not provide details on the microstructure. To address this, they have employed techniques such as scanning and transmission electron microscopy and electron back-scattering diffraction.

Ultimately, Pereloma’s involvement in so many investigations contributes to maintaining the competitiveness of Australia’s steel manufacturers. Furthermore, her findings have the potential to positively impact on the environment which, in a world increasingly subjected to the effects of global warming, is absolutely vital to the development of future technologies.

Article courtesy of International Innovation – a leading scientific dissemination service.