(Novel Strategies for Designing Alloyed Metals; University of Sheffield)

Metallic alloys have been developed for centuries, if not millennia. Some have been discovered by chance, while others have been formulated by design.

The NoStraDAMUS project will develop a systematic and theoretical approach to discovering new alloy systems which will be of practical significance to a broad range of industries.

The NoStraDAMUS Project

The project is run by Dr Russell Goodall, and relates to his Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

One of Dr Goodall's research interests is the development of High Entropy Alloys, to which the NoStraDAMUS project will contribute greatly.

Microstructure of a high entropy alloy Plasma melting inside Arcast arc melter Graphic showing the solubility of elements in each other
Microstructure of a high entropy alloy Plasma melting inside Arcast arc melter

The approach is based on the ability of different element combinations to mix, and highlights 'hot-spots' where the miscibility of the elements show a strong possibility of forming a binary alloys. Avoiding regions where miscibility is limited or does not occur in the binary case in the design of a more complex alloy greatly reduces the number of combinations that might be considered for further investigation.

Taking just the first 83 elements in the Periodic Table, with just one selected ratio of elements, researchers would be faced with nearly 7,000 alloy combinations. When you look at differing the proportions, this number increases vastly. Then, considering the possibilities of ternary, quaternary and quinary alloy systems and the number of combinations becomes mind boggling.

A wide range of these alloy systems have been well researched and are in common use. But many are not, and have never been attempted. The purpose of the NoStraDAMUS project is to develop a process whereby untested alloy systems can be identified and further researched.

Why are new alloy systems important?

The drive to identify new alloy systems is the possibility of discovering a step-change in performance. While experimenting with existing alloy may bring about the potential for iterative improvements, we are walking into the unknown when it comes to untested alloys. We should be able to predict the types of properties (strength, ductility, corrosion resistance, etc) we would expect, but until we try, we will not know for certain.

Having got into a position where potential alloy systems have been identified, a team of researchers within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering using computational modelling to simulate alloy development. Using data gleaned from theory and practice, alloy formulations are modelled to determine a theoretical outcome. This is the work of several days, so the researchers have to be somewhat selective over which systems are studied.

Any promising alloy systems can then be prototyped to examine physical and mechanical properties and determine the accuracy of the modelling process.

Work of the Fellowship and future research activities will look at beyond physical prototype alloy development, to working with industrial partners to investigate applications where the alloy could be used to address issues that they face within their industry.

This work has already attracted interest from organisations within the aerospace, automotive, energy and precision engineering sectors, with work underway with specific partners to look at alternatives to the high-performance materials that are in general use today.