Leicester University is spearheading a multi-million-pound project that could help engineers develop safer, more cost-effective welding processes.
The €4.8m (£4.3m) research venture, MintWeld, aims to develop commercial software capable of modelling the welding process at the atomic scale through to microstructural and component-life prediction.
With 11 partners from seven countries, the team hopes it can replace current welding-material selection methods.
Dr Hong Dong, who is leading the research, believes that a computational approach could lead to safer and cheaper weld processes for markets such as deep- sea oil transportation and light-weight automotive design.
‘With oil and gas wells getting deeper and deeper, the current materials have reached their limit and manufacturers are now looking to develop materials that can withstand harsher conditions,’ said Dong.
MintWeld intends to develop a commercial software suite for use in the metals industry within the next four years.
Dong said that the product will focus on the solid-liquid interface evolution and model changes in thermal profile and mechanical integrity at various nano- and micro-meter scales.
This will allow manufacturers to identify elements that can be changed to strengthen the link between different atoms, paving the way for alloy combinations that are able to withstand extreme conditions.
The team is also working on validation methods, including real-time synchrotron X-ray imaging, that will observe evolution of the weld interfaces, electron microscopy and atom-probe measurements to characterise chemistry in grain boundaries.
Dong said: ‘The tool will… provide a full description of the chemistry involved in the welding process. We hope this… will give us some definitive answers.’