There have been many major breakthroughs in the recent development of construction materials. The new frontier, however, is metallic foams. They are lightweight and can be developed with different individual properties.
While this is an exciting new direction, the industrial production of these new materials, which can revolutionise lightweight construction in particular, is not yet possible. A new research project “Innovative Foam Structures for Efficient Lightweight Construction”, which begins in March 2017, will involve the universities of Karlsruhe, Pforzheim and Reutlingen, working together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the NMI – the scientific and medical institute at the University of Tübingen, as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Pfinztal.
A major concern across many industries is resource efficiency and energy saving. Here, lightweight construction can play a central role. In addition to classic lightweight and fibre composite materials, the so-called hybrid materials are being considered as an innovative future tool. With these, different substances are combined into one material. Foam structures, which alone often do not provide sufficient strength, will be used as the basis for load-bearing components in vehicle construction, for example. They can be combined with other substances and thus receive the required application-specific stability.
Such innovative foam structures already have significantly lower weight due to their structure. By combining them with other materials, unique materials can be developed whose characteristics and behaviour can be tailored to a particular application. The potential of these new materials is great, but their development is still at an early stage and industrial production is still some way off. Supported by the federal state of Baden-Württemberg and the European Union’s Structural Fund (ERDF), researchers will devote themselves to these questions.
The wide range of possibilities for these new foam-based composites leads to a new material class or category of materials. From the vehicle industry to mechanical engineering to the aerospace industry, many applications are thus conceivable.
At the same time, the industry potential for these substances has, thus far, not been verified. In Baden-Württemberg, lightweight construction offers excellent market opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, as research facilities and companies have a broad and deep expertise in research, development and application.
Part of the research project will involve researchers developing the market potential and production possibilities for the new materials together with Indutherm Erwärmungsanlagen GmbH from Walzbachtal, Tinnit GmbH and BTE GmbH from Karlsruhe, Mayser GmbH in Lindenberg and cirp GmbH from Heimsheim.
The continuous exchange between theory and practice is also supported by the Landesagentur Leichtbau, as well as by the industrial and commercial chambers of Nordschwarzwald and Karlsruhe.