Cool Metals with Hot Patterns

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


Development of new technologies for studying material behaviour in-situ and at elevated temperatures. This new development would not only allow scientists to carry out innovative research, but would also enhance existing research and promote the development of new skills with benefits in areas such as precision manufacturing and control engineering. This project will enable the UK to maintain an international lead in in-situ mechanical testing, promoting the expansion of industrial activity in this area, both in the further development of the end-user market and the manufacturing capability. This will enable UK based companies involved with this project to expand and prosper in a growing international market.

The principle aim of this project is to design, build, test and optimise a novel system for in-situ mechanical testing and simultaneous imaging at elevated temperatures within confined spaces (e.g. the chamber of an electron microscope) and under extreme environments. The stage will then be used to address fundamental aspects of the structure-property-composition relationship and its evolution in a variety of advanced materials systems for applications, such as aerospace. These will include novel alloys, lightweight ceramic and metal matrix composites, for which understanding their performance in-situ and elevated temperatures is extremely important in industrial design, manufacturing and material development.

Novelty of Research: Due to the nature of developing a new technology that facilitates the studying of material behaviour in-situ at elevated temperatures, the project provides scope to undertake research on materials that has not previously been possible.

Year 1 - Preliminary designs of stage work closely with Deben UK Ltd to gain an understanding of current manufacturing technologies and the scientific background of the project.
Year 2 - Manufacturing of stage in collaboration with Deben and initial in-house testing.
Year 3 - Modification and optimisations of the stage. Testing of a range of materials at elevated temperature in-situ.
Year 4 - Further modifications of the stage and work on technology transfer activities.

The project is anticipated to include spending some time at Deben's unique manufacturing facility in Suffolk in order to gain experience in an active industrial environment.

This project falls within EPSRC Pillar 1 focus area - Measurement Science and Technology research area.

Deben UK Ltd is a precision engineering company and the leading manufacturer of in-situ mechanical testing equipment. The industrial project lead will be Mr Gary Edwards, who is the Managing Director and co-founder of the company and has over 20 years' experience in developing in-situ materials testing systems, motion control and specimen imagine for Microscopy applications. Deben will provide expertise and guidance on the stage development and will be involved in the design and manufacturing of key mechanical and electrical components. Through their extensive partners' network, they will also provide access to other experts for the success of the project, as well as end users, both from Academia and Industry, which will undoubtedly enhance the impact of this new development and will expand its range of applications.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R512333/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
1939581 Studentship EP/R512333/1 01/10/2017 01/10/2021 Rhiannon Heard
Description The development of a new heat stage that can be used within a commercial Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), without the need for shielding or detector modification owing to the stage geometry, has facilitated Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) and Secondary Electron (SE) imaging at temperatures up to 920 °C.This new equipment development enables observation of phase and micro-structural changes at temperature as well as demonstrating the effects of magnetism, surface roughness and oxidation on the ability to track microstructural changes at these temperatures in-situ. These unique observations document unusual grain growth patterns of Fe-based alloys and provide in-sight into the microstructural changes that occur during phase transformations. Thus, the data enhances the understanding of the heat treatment process of Fe-based alloys whilst highlighting the benefit of in-situ high temperature testing for providing information on grain boundaries, orientations and phase changes as well as demonstrating the success of this new heat stage.
Exploitation Route The new heat stage has facilitated the development of a commercial version with Deben UK Ltd that will be available for others to use.
The findings published will contribute to the scientific communities knowledge of how to achieve good quality images at high temperatures as well as fundamental understanding of heat treatment processes of Steels.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

Description By working with Deben UK Ltd, the findings with the prototype stand alone heating stage have been used to develop a new, commercial heating stage. Findings have also facilitated development towards a new combined heating and tensile stage. This will benefit Deben UK Ltd as a company as well as other research facilities who go on to use the new commercial stages.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic