Functional Material Systems
New materials and procedures for lightweight construction, energy and environmental protection
Photo: Getty Images/Vetta/Sava Alexandru
Materials form the basis of practically every technology – starting with products from the simple ceramic coffee cup to highly-complex high-tech devices such as computers, cars and aircraft. Sophisticated and improved materials are always needed in order to develop or redevelop future technologies. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht works on such innovative materials: its scientists are researching a new generation of lightweight construction materials for cars and aircraft, optimised membranes for separating liquids or gases, and highly-efficient concepts for generating and storing hydrogen, a promising energy carrier of the future.
New materials can help to protect resources and the climate. The lighter a car, the less fuel it consumes – one of the important measures needed in order to be able to reach the two-degree target agreed at the Paris Climate Summit.
Light, sturdy and economical
Car chassis are currently mainly made from steel, and the fuselage and wings of aircraft of aluminium. HZG experts are researching how to replace part of these materials with a much lighter material – magnesium. To make this light metal fit for use, they are developing and testing new alloys and optimised manufacturing procedures. Also important are new joining techniques that can be used to connect a wide range of materials to larger components, such as a vehicle body. The aim: ultra-light structural materials, which are simultaneously strong, durable and economical.
In addition, there is a focus on materials that can carry out occasionally intelligent functions suited to the situation: membranes made from polymers that work as molecular sieves and can clean germ-infested drinking water, for example, or filter out CO2 from bio-gas; sophisticated nano-materials that monitor the mechanical stresses in an aircraft fuselage or that heal themselves should fractures form. Or tanks for climateneutral cars that can safely and efficiently store regenerated hydrogen.