Grand Opening of the New JKU CD Lab for Material Sciences

New hi-tech research at the JKU aims to better control nano-size semi-conductors and steel coatings.

f.l.: TN-Dean Norbert Müller, Christian Ganser (Bosch), Franz Androsch (voestalpine), Lab Manager DI Dr. Heiko Groiß, CD General Secretary Dr. Judith Popela, VR Alexander Egyed, CD Senate Chairman Prof. Hans Irschik; Photo credit: JKU/Leimlehner
f.l.: TN-Dean Norbert Müller, Christian Ganser (Bosch), Franz Androsch (voestalpine), Lab Manager DI Dr. Heiko Groiß, CD General Secretary Dr. Judith Popela, VR Alexander Egyed, CD Senate Chairman Prof. Hans Irschik; Photo credit: JKU/Leimlehner

The CD lab aims to find ways to better protect cars against corrosion and develop more efficient microchips. The Christian Doppler Laboratory for nanoscale phase transformations has been approved for a seven-year period and will receive 4.2 million euros in funding provided by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW).

Christian Doppler labs conduct high-level application-oriented, base-knowledge research allowing outstanding researchers and scientists to collaborate with innovative companies. Lab manager DI Dr. Heiko Groiß, Center for Surface and Nanoanalytics, remarked, “More specifically, we want to determine how the smallest change to material surfaces or interfaces affect the materials’ properties.” Together with his team, he is currently investigating the physical-chemical properties of various alloys and coated steels.

Dr. Margarete Schramböck, Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, added, “When it comes to modern production processes, we have to be able to fundamentally understand the materials we are using and at the atomic level. The basic research being conducted at this CD lab is making important contributions and will bring about advances in different areas such as semi-conductor industries and steel manufacturing.”

Nano-Scale Level Observations
Construction components are often exposed to high-demanding processes and it is often a matter of safety and security to protect these components from wear & tear and corrosion, such as a car body. Dr. Groiß added, “Modern steel and coatings perform their jobs well but at interfaces and coating interfaces there are sometimes unintentional effects.” Incorrect processing parameters can lead to metal embrittlement or additional material phases which can affect the components’ life span. In addition to steel, the lab will also test semiconductor materials which can have similar problems. In the future, alloys made from germanium and tin are to be integrated into silicon microchips but first scientists need to understand their thermal instability better.

Researchers at the new CD lab will use various electron microscopy and spectroscopy procedures to explore and analyze these phase processes in order to prevent – or at least reduce – unwanted and unintentional effects. Dr. Groiß explains, “The electronic microscope will let us observe in real-time just how nano-size materials change when subjected to high temperatures.” The team will also work together with FELMI-ZFE Graz and use spectroscopy to observe how individual atoms arrange themselves at these boundary surfaces.

Alexander Egyed, JKU Vice-Rector for Research, remarked, “Research today is no longer conducted single-handedly. University researchers and industrial partners can work together to conduct base-knowledge research to address real-world industrial and business problems. The JKU has worked together with companies for years. On behalf of the university, I would like to thank the ministry for providing a majority of the funding, the CD Society, our business partners, and the Upper Austrian government. They have made this collaboration possible and it is very important for Upper Austria as a location of business and research. The JKU is strong in many areas, especially in materials research. The lab will sustainably strengthen this position.

Markus Achleitner, Research and Economic Minister, emphasized the close cooperation between science and business: “This is key issue when it comes to Upper Austrian research policies. University researchers and companies come together at the Christian Doppler lab to conduct top quality application-oriented base-knowledge research. The new center continues to reaffirm research competence at the Johannes Kepler University Linz and contributes significantly to Upper Austria as a location of strong innovative capabilities.”

Business Collaborations
The new CD lab was implemented together with the voestalpine Stahl Ltd. and the Bosch Engineering Center Linz at Robert Bosch AG in an effort to further improve their products. The new project partners are pleased about the new CD lab at the JKU.

Franz Androsch, Head of Research at the voestalpine, remarked, “The long-standing close research collaboration between the voestalpine and the JKU is reflected in the number of projects we have been involved in at the university’s Christian Doppler laboratories. We regard this as a key success factor when it comes to ensuring knowledge transfer from base-knowledge research to industrial applications. We are very pleased about this latest addition and consolidating many years of cooperation in the field of materials science, further enabling the sustainable development of expertise in this area.”

Christian Ganser, authorization officer and site manager at Bosch Linz, added, “We are pleased that our long-standing cooperation with the JKU has become closer in the field of material sciences and as part of the new Christian Doppler lab. The close networking of business and science is a locational advantage that lets us establish acquired expertise at Bosch.”