Material sciences

Why does glass break, metal become dented and ceramics become brittle?

 Composite of Titanium and ceramic fibres
zum Bild Composite of Titanium and ceramic fibres

How might we feel when flying on a plane with wings that weren’t reliable in critical situations? Would we want to be on the top floor of a skyscraper that may or may not be able to withstand the severity of high altitude winds? Researching, understanding and optimising the characteristics of modern materials can be vital for our safety!

With the help of a drop apparatus we determine the hardness, deformability/plasticity, ability for solidification, damage tolerance and the behaviour at rupture of different materials. We compare the different textures of different materials and their behaviour under various physical conditions.

 Quality inspection of aircraft body casing
zum Bild Quality inspection of aircraft body casing


Why do modern aeroplanes fly faster, carry more people and use less fuel?

“Better makes good look bad” – this motto drives scientists on their quest for materials that are even harder, lighter or more heat resistant. One way of optimising different materials is by combining them. It is thanks to the invention of composite materials that body and wings of aeroplanes can be built to be much lighter than they used to be. Protective layers made of ceramics in aircraft engines might soon enable higher temperatures and with that higher velocities with less fuel consumption. This in turn would lower the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. The Space Shuttle used ceramics to protect the craft from the high temperatures during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Are there such things as good or bad materials? How can we learn about their characteristics and use them to our advantage?

 Drop apparatus for testing material properties
zum Bild Drop apparatus for testing material properties

“How can I find out how hard steel is? Hit it with a hammer or drop a sample to the ground? What is even harder than steel and what can I use to handle steel? The best sort of material would be one that neither breaks nor scratches. But can such a thing be developed?”

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