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New Collaborative Research Centre "Oxygen-Free Production" Approved

New Collaborative Research Centre "Oxygen-Free Production" Approved

Press release from
Team of the Collaborative Research Centre "Oxygen-Free Production" Team of the Collaborative Research Centre "Oxygen-Free Production" Team of the Collaborative Research Centre "Oxygen-Free Production"
© Maximilian Weiß

German Research Foundation provides 9.5 million euros of funding for collaborative research centre

Researchers in the collaborative research centre intend to develop and establish oxygen-free production technology, which will open up fascinating new possibilities. Over the next four years, the German Research Foundation (DFG) will provide approximately 9.5 million euros of funding for the collaborative research centre.

Oxygen is often a significant disruptive factor in many production engineering processes. The new collaborative research centre 1368 "Oxygen-Free Production" aims to reduce the oxygen content to an unprecedented and extremely low level. In an oxygen-free environment, researchers can realise entirely new, energy-efficient, and resource-saving processes, as well as more efficient production conditions overall. This will enable them to create numerous new product properties, which constitutes a genuine technological leap.

Prof. Dr. Volker Epping, President of Leibniz University Hannover, is delighted about the success of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering: "By acquiring funding for a second collaborative research centre in this field, our key area production engineering once again demonstrated its research strengths as well as its capacity for innovation. These approvals acknowledge the high scientific standard of the researchers and our expertise in this field."

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans Jürgen Maier, head of the Institute of Materials Science at the Hannover Centre for Production Technology and spokesperson of the collaborative research centre, which will be officially launched in January 2020, described the challenges of the project: "Whenever two metals come into direct contact with each other in production engineering, it is not the metal atoms that collide but rather those of the oxide layers on the respective surfaces formed by oxygen in the surrounding atmosphere". This basically applies to all procedures in production engineering. "For example, these oxide layers make it difficult to join components, which is why components without oxide layers would provide great advantages in welding, soldering, and additive manufacturing. Furthermore, the absence of oxygen could significantly reduce wear and tear of tools in machining and forming processes."

Since there are still too many oxygen atoms present in technically feasible vacuums as well as in an argon-modified atmosphere - a method applied in welding - the limitations of metal working processes caused by oxidation cannot yet be overcome. In order to realise production engineering procedures without the presence of oxygen for the very first time, the researchers in the collaborative research centre follow an innovative approach: "We will add a small amount of silane to the argon", explains Sebastian Herbst, researcher at the Institute of Materials Science and future head of the collaborative research centre. "Silane, or SiH4, is extremely effective: Silicon reacts with the surrounding oxygen, producing silicon dioxide and water. This way, we generate an oxygen-free environment that corresponds to the conditions in interstellar space."

In the first funding period - now approved - approximately 40 researchers from various disciplines will address fundamental questions: "We will initially look at the field of interaction", said Herbst, "for example: What happens in an oxygen-free environment at the exact position where a laser beam hits metal?" Little by little, the researchers endeavour to expand this focus in order to conduct extensive research and development regarding specific production engineering procedures including primary shaping, forming, joining, cutting, and coating in an oxygen-free environment.

Installing a new collaborative research centre is great recognition for the involved researchers, since a collaborative research centre aims to initiate and promote academic activities in current and promising research fields, as well as to ideally establish them permanently following the maximum funding period of twelve years. Professor Maier was honoured by this recognition and acknowledged the enormous task associated with the project: "As a team, we will focus on developing an entirely new form of production - from foundation to implementation. This is both an amazing and a huge challenge we are happy to accept".

Background information:
The team of SFB 1368 is led by the Institute of Materials Science and includes six institutes from the Hannover Centre for Production Technology, as well as the Institute of Product Development (IPeG), which is based at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Leibniz University Hannover. Additional members of the collaborative research centre include the Institute of Distributed Systems (Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Laser Zentrum Hannover, as well as four institutes from the fields of physics and mechanical engineering at Clausthal University of Technology.

Note to editors:

For further information, please contact Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Herbst, Institute of Materials Science at Leibniz University Hannover (Tel. +49 511 762 18324, Email herbst@iw.uni-hannover.de).