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

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.

“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.”

Aniruddha Dutta, Research Engineer Metallurgy, OCAS