Public Release: 

£6m to develop new class of light alloys

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester has been awarded £5.98m to develop a new class of light alloy solutions that will transform the way aircraft, trains and automobiles are built.

The grant, which will span a five year period, has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under the Portfolio Partnership Scheme.

Research into improving the performance of light alloys will be carried out in conjunction with Alcan, Novelis, BAE Systems, Airbus, MEL and Jaguar.

The project, entitled: "Light Alloys for Environmentally Sustainable Transport," will be the largest of its kind in the UK with plans for over fifty research staff over the next five years.

It will focus on developing new methods for the processing, forming, joining and surface engineering of aluminium, titanium and magnesium. The aim is to develop new engineering processes which will enable aircraft and car manufacturers to design and build lighter, more environmentally-friendly vehicles using these materials.

Professor George Thompson, Head of the Corrosion and Protection Centre in the School of Materials, who is leading the project, said: "These materials are exceptionally difficult to form into complex shapes or weld, which dramatically limits their use in the design and manufacture of air, land and sea vessels.

"This is a major issue for the automotive and aerospace industries that are under increasing pressure to save fuel and reduce pollution. If we can improve processes such as the welding of aluminium panels then they will be able to build much lighter aircraft and cars, saving on fuel and emissions."

£2m has been earmarked for cutting edge equipment to aid the research. This will include state of the art characterisation facilities, advanced welding apparatus and laser surface treatment equipment.

Research will focus on four main areas of joining, forming, microstructure and surface modification, and will address major issues such as the use of anti-corrosive chromate coatings in the aerospace industry which have a significant impact on the environment.

Professor Philip Prangnell from the School of Materials, said: "These processing methods will enable components to be manufactured more cheaply and with much less waste material than that associated with current methods. Ultimately, we hope our research will see stronger, lighter, more environmentally-compliant materials incorporated into the next generation of aircraft, cars and ships."

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For further information:

Simon Hunter, Media Relations Officer, telephone: 0161 2758387 or email: simon.hunter@manchester.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

A launch event will be held at The University of Manchester on December 16th. Please contact Simon Hunter if you wish to attend. For more information visit: http://www.eps.manchester.ac.uk/portfolio/

Pictures of George Thompson and Philip Prangnell are available on request.

Professor George Thompson is Head of the Corrosion and Protection Centre, and Deputy Head of the University of Manchester's School of Materials which is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Professor Philip Prangnell is Professor of Materials Engineering in Physical Metallurgy within the University of Manchester's School of Materials which is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Portfolio Partnerships provide long-term support to top researchteams with a proven track record of achievement and sustained support from EPSRC. Stable funding allows teams to innovate, explore new directions in research, and establish collaborations with industry and other users. Partnerships facilitate multidisciplinary and cross-institutional collaborations as well as outreach to international collaborators and the public. More information: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/ResearchFunding/FundingOpportunities/PortfolioPartnerships/PortfolioPartnerships.htm

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