The Senate of the German Research Foundation recently announced the approval of a second funding period for the Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 1368 "Oxygen-free production - processes and active zones in an oxygen-free atmosphere for the development of sustainable production techniques and manufacturing processes".
Prof. Hans Jürgen Maier, Director of the Institute of Materials Science and spokesperson for the CRC: "Over the last four years, we have opened up a completely new field of research with oxygen-free production and shown that we can expand existing production processes with new possibilities, significantly increase the performance of the products produced and also enable completely new processes."
Today, production processes in the metalworking industry are carried out almost exclusively in the presence of oxygen. The oxidation of the metal surfaces that inevitably takes place in this process is predominantly a disruptive factor in production. Production in an oxygen-free atmosphere, on the other hand, has the potential to achieve enormous progress in technical, economic and resource-saving terms.
In the first funding period, the researchers in the Collaborative Research Center specifically investigated the fundamental effects of the complete absence of oxygen in various production processes. It turned out that in the vast majority of the processes examined, the effects of the absence of oxygen not only bring about small improvements, but actually the hoped-for major technological leaps. In the evaluation by the 13-member review group, the SFB was also attested a high disruptive potential for this globally unique and new research idea.
Based on this excellent starting position, the research program will now be systematically developed further in the second funding period. Among other things, the aim is to further exploit the potential demonstrated by the many major effects. This will lay further foundations in order to gain a holistic understanding of the processes involved in oxygen-free production at the end of the overall term and thus pave the way for transfer to industrial practice.
Clausthal University of Technology is involved in 6 of a total of 20 sub-projects. Prof. Wolfgang Maus-Friedrichs, Prof. Alfred Weber, Dr. René Gustus, Dr. Lienhard Wegewitz and Dr. Henning Wiche are involved as project leaders at the Clausthal Centre of Materials Technology (CZM). Another project is headed by Prof. Nina Merkert from the Clausthal-Göttingen Simulation Science Center (SWZ).
The topics of the sub-projects concern the plasma-assisted deoxidation of semi-finished products and powders in the form of technical materials such as practical steels through to alloyed materials for additive manufacturing. The aim of oxide-free production is to achieve advantages in the processing behavior of the starting materials with other manufacturing processes as well as improved recycling potential. The range of usable, cost-effective additives (copper instead of gold or silver) is also to be increased in the production of electrically conductive adhesive compounds with a view to reducing surface oxides. Other projects concern molecular dynamics simulations for material joining simulation at solid-liquid phase boundaries under oxygen-free conditions, e.g. as an application for composite casting, as well as the entire central analytics for the SFB, including the introduction of newly developed measurement techniques such as the so-called Scanning Oxide Spectroscope (SOS). In addition, the CRC also includes an initial transfer project, which is intended to transfer the knowledge gained into practical industrial applications. It concerns the use of non-thermal plasma jets for in-situ oxide reduction during longitudinal high-frequency welding. The high-performance process for the production of steel pipes (e.g. as line pipes for hydrogen transportation) should thus become even more efficient. The industrial partner is Salzgitter AG.