Ongoing research projects


Ongoing research projects in iMMC (September 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 ongoing projects in the division: IMAP

Vortex Chamber Spray Dryer
Researcher: Thomas Tourneur
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde

High-G operations in vortex chamber allow to intensify transfer of mass, heat and momentum. This technology can be applied for treating particles (solid powder or liquid droplets in a precursor state) with, preferably, a rotating fluidized bed in various industrial fields like coating, granulation or spray drying. In the presented work, a first pilot unit is designed with the objective to create a multi-zone environment with axial separation in order to fed air into the reactor at different temperatures to improve the process of drying. Numerical simulations are run simultaneously to validate the model used and once accepted to predict new design effect without going through the experimental study. Different designs for the vortex chamber are tested to study their effect on the vortex flow pattern.

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.

Characterization and physics based modeling of plasticity and fracture of Dual-Phase steels towards ultratough materials by microstructure optimization
Researcher: Karim Ismail
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen, Pascal Jacques

The research work, in collaboration with company ArcelorMittal, is about the plasticity, the damage and the crack propagation resistance of dual-phase steels, which are commonly used in the automotive industry. A minimum level of fracture toughness is required to prevent the propagation during forming operations of small edge damage or cracked zones induced by cutting. Therefore, unravelling the relationship between fracture toughness, microstructure and damage mechanisms is essential to develop advanced steels with superior forming ability. Furthermore, reaching superior fracture toughness could open to other potential applications.
Experimental works as well as computational modeling are used to study the behavior of such steels. A model for the plastic behavior and for the damage mechanisms related to the microstructure has been developed. A finite element based unit cell approach is used to address the plastic behavior, locally as well as at the macroscopic scale. A particular focus is put on the effect of particle morphology and orientation that have not been much investigated and that considerably affect local mechanical fields, and hence damage and fracture behavior. A two-stage void coalescence process is suggested in elongated microstructures. The data extracted from the elastoplastic analysis are fed into a cellular automaton approach of the damage evolution. This model introduces a statistical description of the material while using relatively simple damage evolution laws. Furthermore, the essential work of fracture method is used to quantify the resistance to the propagation of a crack on thin sheets. Martensite morphology in the form of platelets seems to be a means to reach a high fracture toughness. Finally, damage mechanisms are observed post-mortem and hole expansion ratio tests will be performed.

CeraMAX / Aerostream
Researcher: Matthieu Marteleur
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

I am currently working on the processing and characterisation of a particular type of ceramics called MAX phases. They present an intermediate behavior between a ceramic and a metal at high temperature, providing a unique combination of functional properties.
My research projects also include Additive Manufacturing on metallic materials, particularly Al and Ti alloys. I am studying the relationship between the process parameters and the resulting microstructure and properties.

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.

Study of the hardening properties, damage resistance and toughness of a new family of beta metastables titanium alloys
Researcher: Laurine Choisez
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

The association of different plastic deformation modes (TRIP, TWIP) induces unmatched levels of mechanical properties in a new beta metastables titanium alloys family. A hardening beyond the theoretical limit is especially noticed, together with a uniform deformation 3 to 4 times higher than the one in a classic TA6V alloy and a yield stress superior of 30 percent to the one in a
TWIP alloy. A positive synergy is thought to exist between a high hardening and the damage resistance and toughness of such materials. My thesis will consist in the study of the damage resistance and the toughness of several beta metastables titanium alloys with different prevailing plastic deformation mechanisms in order to highlight the mechanism responsible of the post-necking deformation properties.

Coupled mechanical-electrical effects in highly strained Ge thin films
Researcher: Marie-Stéphane Colla
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

Graduated in chemical and materials science engineering at the Université catholique de Louvain in 2009 (Belgium). Then, under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Pardoen (iMMC) and Prof. Jean-Pierre Raskin (ICTEAM), she accomplished a PhD on the study of the mechanical properties of thin films, more specifically on the plasticity and creep of freestanding nanocrystalline Pd films. The lab-on-chip technique developed previously at the UCL was adapted to deform Pd thin films. After the PhD, she worked for more than two years at the CRM Group in Liège on the development of industrially viable thin film solar cells on steel. From June 2016 to September 2018, she is back at the UCL as a research engineer involved in projects dealing with the understanding of fracture behaviour of high strength steels under a wide range of strain rates.​ In 2018, she received a 'Chargée de recherches - FNRS grant' and is now working on coupled mechanical-electrical effects in highly strained germanium thin films. Germanium is a promising material for optoelectronic device owing to its compatibility with the standard complementary metal-oxyde-semiconductor (CMOS) technology and to the possibility to convert it into a direct bandgap semiconductor by straining it.

Surface mechanical treatment by friction stir processing of additive manufactured aluminium alloy parts to improve mechanical behaviour
Researcher: Juan Guillermo Santos Macias
Supervisor(s): Aude Simar, Pascal Jacques

This research project aims at improving the mechanical behaviour of additive manufactured parts through a friction stir processing (FSP) surface mechanical treatment. This post-processing method significantly enhances ductility and is expected to also enhance fatigue resistance. Fatigue is a critical phenomenon in many applications, e.g. structural parts in the aerospace industry. More specifically, this research is focused on studying the effect of FSP on the microstructure (porosity and second phase size and spatial distribution) and mechanical behaviour (residual stresses and fatigue) of selective laser melting AlSi10Mg parts. Furthermore, in order to define an adequate FSP patterning strategy, the project will also feature an analysis of the influence of processing parameters through a chained thermal and microstructural model.

Researcher: Geoffrey Roy
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques

Geoffrey holds a Master in Mechatronic Engineering (2010) and a PhD in Engineering (2015) from the Université catholique de Louvain where he works as a senior researcher at the Institute of Mechanics, Materials and Civil Engineering (iMMC).
Within the Division of Materials and Process Engineering (IMAP), his research is focused on the development of new thermoelectric materials and systems for a range of applications going from industrial waste heat recovery to autonomous powering of smart sensors. In his research, he pays particular attention to the development of new solutions that present improved both technical and economical profiles in order to facilitate the emergence of these solutions out of the lab.
This research is followed by several companies such as: Drever International, AGC Glass Europe, Carmeuse or Engie.

Aerostream and IAWATHA (additive manufacturing), LOCOTED (thermoelectrics)
Researcher: Camille van der Rest
Supervisor(s): Pascal Jacques, Aude Simar

Camille van der Rest completed her PhD thesis on the optimisation of Heusler Fe2VAl-based thermoelectric compounds through innovative metallurgical processing in 2015. It was under the joint supervision of Prof. Pascal Jacques and Prof. Aude Simar. Her research topics now concern thermoelectric materials, additive manufacturing and friction stir processing technologies. Concerning thermoelectrics, the main objective is the development of low-cost, non-toxic, and powerful materials that could be used in large-scale industrial applications of heat recovery. In addition, she studies some fundamental aspects in order to improve the performances of such materials, i.e. ordering phenomena in off-stoichiometric Fe2VAl-based Heusler compounds. It is essential to make the link between (innovative) manufacturing processes, microstructures and the functional properties of these TE materials. Concerning additive manufacturing, the main contributions are on the characterisation and optimisation of the microstructures and the mechanical behaviour of Al parts obtained by Selective Laser Melting and the developpment of new materials for additive manufacturing. Again, the link between the process parameters and the final microstructure/properties is a key issue. Finally, Camille developed, together with Prof. Aude Simar and Prof. Pascal Jacques, a novel Friction Melt Bonding (FMB) process in order to weld aluminium alloys and steels. This process is still under development thanks to the collaboration with other researchers of IMAP.

Researcher: Pierre Bollen
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

graduated as engineer in chemistry and materials science at Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium) in 2010. In 2015, he obtained at UCL his PhD thesis entitled hierarchical hybrid materials combining wideband electromagnetic absorption and mechanical performance, funded by a FRIA grant. After working one year as a support engineer in the field of extended finite element modeling, he came back at the UCL as a senior researcher involved in applied research projects in collaboration with industry. He is currently dealing with erosion coating on CFRP as well as thermal and electromagnetic management in electrical power converter.

Researcher: Vincent Destoop
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

made his PhD on the adhesion of tooth-filling materials to the dentine. He’s now working on composite materials to replace metals in aircraft applications. He takes part to projects studying the mechanical behavior of composite materials (mainly polymer matrix reinforced with long fibers) which are new candidate materials for modern planes. His investigations focus on their bulk, cracking, impact and adhesion properties.

Researcher: Audrey Favache
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

obtained a PhD degree in the domain of process control in 2009 at Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), after having graduated there as chemical engineer in 2005. Since then, she is working as a "senior" researcher on several applied research projects in collaboration with the industry in the domain of mechanics of materials. More particularly, she is interested in the link between the mechanical properties of the individual components of a complex system and the global mechanical response of this system. She applied this approach to the framework of tribology and contact mechanics for understanding the scratch resistance of coatings and multilayered systems. Her work covers both experimental aspects and finite element simulations.

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.

Renforcement des capacités de RDI des organismes de recherche dans les domaines utiles aux PME
Researcher: Michaël Coulombier
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

graduated as a material science engineer from UCL in 2006. He finished his PhD in 2012 under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Pardoen (iMMC) and Prof. Jean-Pierre Raskin (ICTEAM) developing a lab on-chip technique for nano-mechanical characterisation of thin films. Since then he has been a research assistant in iMMC involved in various projects dealing with material science, nanomechanical testing and tribology.

Researcher: Quentin de Radiguès de Chennevières
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

is working in the field of the energy transition. In order to increase the share of renewable energies, new ways of storing electricity have to be developed. Hydrogen has the advantage to be able to store energy over a long time while it can be used as fuel for vehicles. In his Ph.D. thesis on Process Intensification in electrochemical reactors defended in december 2016, he has developed a new technology to reduced the cost of alcaline water electrolysis for hydrogen production. He is now applying this technology on a pilot plant scale.

DNS of reacting particle flows for mesoscale modeling
Researcher: Baptiste Hardy
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde, Grégoire Winckelmans

Gas-solid flows are encountered in many natural and industrial phenomena. Fluidized beds are the most well known application of gas-solid reactors in the chemical industry (catalytic cracking, biomass conversion,...).
However, the simulation of such equipments at large scale is still an issue due to the tracking of billions of particles carrying the reaction while interacting with the gas flow. Eulerian-Eulerian models are currently very popular because they describe the solid phase as a continuum, hence drastically lowering the computational cost. Though, these models require closure relations for momentum, heat and mass transfer, often obtained on empirical bases.
The goal of this research is to extract closure laws from Direct Numerical Simulations at particle scale using the Immersed Boundary Method in order to provide new mesoscale models built on physical grounds.

Friction stir processing based local damage mitigation and healing in aluminium alloys
Researcher: Matthieu Baudouin Lezaack
Supervisor(s): Aude Simar

Al 7XXX alloys will be characterized before and after friction stir process (FSP) in order to identify the damage mechanisms. The performances of FSPed alloys will be studied by macromechanical testing. Up to now, a 150% increase in ductility was reached by FSP + heat treatments compared to the base 7475 Al material. Then a numerical model will catch the 7XXX aluminium behavior in a close future.

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 afterward. 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 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 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.

On a chip fracture mechanics test method
Researcher: Sahar Jaddi
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

The aim of this research is to develop a new testing method based on an-on-chip concept to measure the fracture toughness of freestanding submicron films. This device consists of two major components, a notched specimen and two actuators. When the test structure is released by etching the sacrificial layer, the two actuators contract, this in turn loads the specimen in traction. In order to define the stress intensity factor expression, which is given by this new model, analytical analysis and finite element simulations must be performed in addition to the experimental part, which is based on the microfabrication techniques. Silicon nitride, silicon oxide and metallic glass thin films will be studied during this work. The major goal of this model is to extract fracture toughness of 2D materials like graphene.

Electromechanical properties of thin films
Researcher: Farzaneh Bahrami
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

The production of Graphene/h-BN heterostructures and the investiong of their microelectromechanical properties, the production of origami and kirigami stacks of Graphene and h-BN, the raman spectroscopy, SEM, TEM AFM and nanoindentation will be used

Development and qualification of irradiation tolerant tungsten and novel toughness-enhanced composites for fusion applications
Researcher: Chao Yin
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

This research aims at investigation of the radiation damage and post-irradiation mechanical-thermal behavior of tungsten. Tungsten selected as the first wall armor and Tungsten-based composites for structural applications in DEMO are expected to receive doses up to 20 dpa (Fe) (for the EARLY DEMO) or even higher (full power DEMO) [1]. Under these conditions, the mechanical properties of the materials are known to degrade radically due to (i) neutron irradiation, (ii) heat transients, (iii) plasma gas uptake and (iv) nuclear transmutation. Thus, this investigation is called by the need to validate the performance of novel and baseline garde tungsten. This project will include the experiemental study of reference and irradiated materials carried out by mechanical test and microstructure investigation.

Multi-scale modeling of a structured catalytic reactor for steam methane reforming
Researcher: Florent Minette
Supervisor(s): Juray De Wilde

Methane reforming is the most widely practiced process for the production of hydrogen and syngas. The process is however strongly limited by heat transfer between the furnace and the process gas, pressure drop and intra-particle diffusion limitations. Structured catalytic reactors are promising in order to intensify the process and deal with the limitations encountered in conventional reformers.
The multi-scale modeling of ZoneFlow structured catalytic reactors is addressed. The intrinsic reaction kinetics is experimentally studied in a micro-packed bed reactor. The Langmuir-Hinshelwood-Hougen-Watson-type rate equations are derived and non-linear regression is applied to estimate the rate parameters. A pseudo-continuum approach description of the catalyst coating is used to account for intra-catalyst diffusion limitations. The complex flow pattern is described by means of a CFD model. To bridge the scales of turbulence, the RANS approach is adopted and the k-epsilon turbulence model is applied. Thermal conduction and radiative heat transfer are included. The reactor model is validated using specific experiments including cold flow pressure drop, inert heat transfer and pilot plant tests under reactive conditions.
The developed model is then used to study and optimize the performance of ZoneFlow reactors under commercial operating conditions.

Improving the properties of glass fiber reinforced acrylic thermoplastic resin based composites
Researcher: Sarah Gayot
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

For the manufacturing of continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRTP), certain monomers can be infused through glass fabric and then polymerized in situ, in order to make a thermoplastic composite part. However, defects - e.g. porosity - can occur in the material, due to the thickness of the laminates and the shrinkage of the resin matrix during polymerization. Such phenomena must be understood, as well as their effects on the mechanical properties of the final composite part.

The originality of this work lies in the very nature of the polymeric matrix used for manufacturing the composite parts, which is thermoplastic instead of thermoset. Little is known about the behaviour of such thermoplastic composites, especially at a microscopic scale. During this PhD, we will try to understand how defects occurring in the material can influence the structural properties of the CFRTP, and we will try to mitigate (or at least control) the incidence of such defects. This will imply a better knowledge of how usual characterisation techniques can be applied from thin to thick composite parts. In particular, digital simulation will be used so as to predict the properties of thick composite parts from those of thinner samples.

High performance membranes for CO2 capture involving advance materials and biomimicking Nature
Researcher: Cristhian Molina Fernandez
Supervisor(s): Patricia Luis Alconero

Global warming is a major problem of our current society. Since our energy demand is continuously increasing it is still expected to rely on fossil fuel supply in the following years. That is why much effort has been dedicated to find industrially feasible solutions to recover the CO2 present in flue gases. This research project aims to provide more and better solutions for CO2 capture and reutilization using membrane technology involving advance materials and biomimicking Nature.

Deformation and failure of polymeric and metallic glasses
Researcher: Frederik Van Loock
Supervisor(s): Thomas Pardoen

My research work is focused on the deformation and fracture of (glassy) polymeric materials and polymer-based hybrid material concepts such as polymeric foams, adhesive joints, and fibre-reinforced polymer composites. Some current research topics include:
i) The development of a mesoscale constitutive finite element model based on the concept of shear transformation zones (STZs) for glassy materials (polymers and metals). The STZ model allows to predict the complex large deformation response of glassy polymers, including post-yield softening and non-linear unloading behaviour, by calibration of a few parameters via experiments on the polymer of interest. The model also sheds light on the interactions between discrete and elementary distortion mechanisms (and their collective organisation) during plastic deformation of polymeric glasses. Ongoing research with the STZ model includes ageing (and mechanical rejuvenation) of polymers, viscoelastic effects, and the effect of confinement due to the presence of fibres on the constitutive response of glassy polymers. The STZ modelling approach is also being used to study deformation and fracture of confined layers of metallic glasses.
ii) Fracture problems in polymers and fibre-reinforced polymer composites.
iii) The development of a thermochemical model for the in-situ polymerization of a thermoplastic matrix in a fibre-reinforced polymer composite (PhD work of Sarah Gayot).
iii) Fracture problems in solder joints subjected to thermal cycling (PhD work of Vincent Voet).

Researcher: Renaud Delmelle
Supervisor(s): Joris Proost

My current research revolves around alkaline water eletrolysis, with pulsed electrical power and forced electrolyte flow. Focus is made on the development of 3D electrodes, both on laboratory scale and on pilot plant level. I am notably working on the development of 3D printed Ni electrodes.