Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (July 2020)

This a short description of research projects which are presently under progress in iMMC.
Hereunder, you may select one research direction or choose to apply another filter:

Biomedical engineering

Computational science

Civil and environmental engineering

Dynamical and electromechanical systems


Fluid mechanics

Processing and characterisation of materials

Chemical engineering

Solid mechanics

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List of projects related to: metallurgy

Development of high-toughness cryogenic alloys
Researcher: Alvise Miotti Bettanini
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

Materials that can perform at extremely low temperatures are in great demand. Applications span from tanks and pressure vessels for LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) carriers to structural materials in extreme conditions, like the upcoming exploration of Mars. In this context, it is critical to ensure very high toughness, which measures the resistance to crack propagation, at cryogenic temperatures. In this project, the experimental development of Fe-based superalloys is guided by a CALPHAD-based methodology, which allows the calculation of phase stability and phase transformation with computational models in order to reduce the experimental effort and hasten the development cycle of new materials.

Researcher: Valentin Marchal-Marchant
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

obtained his degree in engineering in materials science from the Université catholique de Louvain in 2011. Then, he accomplished his PhD under the supervision of prof. Pascal Jacques, on the study of Physical Vapor Deposition of thick copper films on steel.

His research is now focused on the development of thermoelectric materials and thermoelectric generators for energy harvesting and passive electromechanical systems. It aims at using common and non-toxic materials to generate electrical power from thermal gradients. Nowadays, attention is put on large scale applications owing to more than 7 years of research about thermoelectric materials leaded in IMAP.

The big challenge of this topic is the development of new tools and equipments for material production and assembly, and specific characterization methods. Such a wide range of different tasks can only be achieved thanks to the versatility of technical and scientific expertises of the IMAP team members as well as Lacami support.

Researcher: Thaneshan Sapanathan
Supervisor(s): Aude Simar

completed a mechanical engineering degree and a PhD at Monash University (Australia) in 2010 and 2014, respectively. His thesis was entitled “Fabrication of axi-symmetric hybrid materials using combination of shear and pressure”. During his PhD, he worked on architectured hybrid materials fabrication using severe plastic deformation (SPD) processes. Two novel axi-symmetric SPD techniques were investigated to fabricate hybrid materials with concurrent grain refinements. After that, he started a research project at University of Technology of Compiègne (France) in which he investigated the weldability window for similar and dissimilar material combinations using numerical simulations for magnetic pulse welding. He also studied the interfacial phenomena, behavior of material under high strain rate deformation, modeling and simulation of the magnetic pulse welding/forming. Then, I was working as a postdoctoral research fellow at UCL on the topic of characterizations of aluminium to steel welds made by friction stir welds and friction melt bonding. At present, I am working as a FNRS reserch officer (Chargé de recherche) and investigating intermetallic induced residual stresses and mitigation of hot tear in innovative dissimilar joints.

Influence of defects on the life of biomedical implants
Researcher: Maïté Croonenborghs
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques, Thomas Pardoen

Implants are devices aiming to support, help or even correct biological structures. However, with time, some of these implants show aging problems. The roots of these problems can have numerous explanations. In some cases, the body reacts to the presence of a foreign body, and this can lead to health risks. Sometimes, the material can show, with time, signs of weakness. Later on, these defects can lead to the failure of the implant.
In the case of permanent stent implants, the presence of a foreign body in the blood vessels can lead to restenosis or late thrombosis. This is why bioresorbable stents are nowadays developed. These stents should support the vessels during their healing period and dissolve in an inoffensive way afterwards. Iron-based alloys are investigated for their appropriate mechanical properties but their degradation rate is too low. One investigated solution is to increase surface roughness to dissolve faster the implant. The effect of this roughness on the expansion process has not been analyzed for now.
The case of growth rods shows that the material itself can lead to implant failure. These rods are placed, during a surgery, along the spine of scoliotic children. They aim to support the spine and help it to straighten back. However, fracture events occur in 36% of the patients. During the surgery, the rods are bent to fit to the natural shape of the spine. The tools employed for this process can introduce some indentation marks on the surface of the rods and decrease their fatigue lifetime.
From these case studies, it is observed that the completion of an implant (i.e. stent implantation process) or its lifetime (i.e. growth rod failure) can be affected by its surface state. This research will therefore focus on the imperfection sensitiveness of such devices. Various kinds of defects are introduced at the sample surface. To understand the influence of these defects on the mechanical properties, these samples are tested and compared.

Fracture toughness of high entropy alloys
Researcher: Antoine Hilhorst
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques, Thomas Pardoen

High entropy alloys (HEAs) are a new family of metallic alloys. In contrast to conventional alloys, HEAs have multiple principal elements e.g. the equiatomic "Cantor" alloy CrMnFeCoNi. Alloys in this range of chemical composition have gathered attention only recently. From what was observed in conventional alloys, it was expected that HEAs microstructure be composed of several intermetallic phases but some systems are surprisingly single phase solid solution. Moreover, such single-phase alloys have excellent mechanical properties. For instance, CrMnFeCoNi possess a large fracture toughness, which increases with decreasing temperature, putting this alloy on par with the current best alloys used for cryogenic applications. As such, the objective of the thesis is to understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the observed macroscopic behavior of such alloys.

The thesis aims to answer several questions such as: What are the mechanisms responsible for the increase in ductility, strength, and fracture toughness with decreasing temperature? What high-throughput methodology would be able to screen the vast range of possible chemical composition of HEAs for high performance alloys?

To understand the deformation mechanisms, several HEAs will be fully characterized from casting to mechanical testing. For the fracture toughness measurements, the essential work of fracture method will be employed as it is best suited for ductile thin sheets than compact tests. Diffusion multiples will be explored as a possible high-throughput method, as the presence of composition gradients allows the simultaneous characterization of a range of composition by techniques such as EDX, EBSD and nano-indentation.

Optimisation of the corrosion rate of iron-based alloys for bioresorbable stent applications
Researcher: Sarah Reuter
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

The purpose of this PhD thesis is to optimise the metallic surface of iron-based alloys that are good candidates for bioresorbable stents but which corrosion properties are still insufficient. I will thus be working on these alloys by improving their surface properties, by acidifying the surface. Indeed, the corrosion products and salt compounds get deposited due to a neutral/basic environment in the close vicinity of the metal surface. These compounds act as a barrier for further corrosion. By acidifying the metallic surface, this would inhibit, or at least diminish, the deposition of these compounds. The corrosion properties of these metals will be studied by the use of electrochemical tests as well as immersion tests. The surface will be acidified by the presence of protons. This will be done by adding hydrogen in the metal. Nevertheless, the presence of hydrogen is known to weaken the metal. In order to avoid this weakening, the hydrogen will be trapped inside the steel.
This project englobes different disciplines and is made alive thanks to close collaboration with different entities of the UCL.