Accelerating research towards a new generation of lightweight tough steels

Triggered by environmental issues, the market has an interest in product development of lightweight heavy gauge steels (t ≥ 5 mm), mainly for other than automotive applications. In view of the huge screening to be done, OCAS teamed up with several partners to submit a European RFCS project proposal to use novel high-throughput methodologies to accelerate this alloy design.
The "LIGHTOUGH" proposal was accepted and a first wave of results have become available.

The European funded RFCS project LIGHTOUGH aims at a profound assessment of the quaternary Fe-Mn-Al-C system to form the basis for lightweight, heavy gauge steel development.

Therefore, the material properties toughness, density, hardness/strength need to be investigated as a function of chemical composition and processing parameters.

Alloy compositions with interesting properties and their respective thermo-mechanical processing parameters are systematically identified and refined following an iterative combinatorial approach. In parallel innovative methodologies are fine-tuned and applied for thermodynamic modelling as well as for efficient high-throughput sample generation, processing and testing. The targeted outcome is twofold:

  1. Property and microstructure “maps” as a function of chemical composition and processing parameters provide the basis for future product development
  2. Innovative high-throughput methodologies enable to accelerate future steel alloy design


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Specific complimentary expertise and skills are needed to successfully address the objectives of this proposal, of which the project partners are leading experts in Europe: Alloy production by high-throughput processing and market knowledge (OCAS, Belgium), high-throughput characterisation (Flamac, Belgium), innovative materials design and understanding (MPIE, Germany) and thermodynamic modelling (KTH, Sweden).

Over a period of 9 months, 90 compositions were screened on small scale on density, toughness, hardness, and phase composition and fraction.

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“The successful completion of the first iteration resulted in the identification of several hot spots, which will be the focus of future iterations for: composition optimization, evaluation of heat treatment effects, and comparison of experimental data with calculated phase balance from thermodynamic calculations.”

Xavier Veys, Research engineer metallurgy, OCAS