FaME38: Helping Engineers Studying Critical Materials


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Airplane wings or railway rails are examples of mechanical components constantly submitted to stress. They consist of materials (metal alloys) with properties that may change under stress. To understand and improve such materials, it is essential to observe them on a microscopic scale. The ESRF1 and the ILL2 make today a step forward into looking deep inside engineering components. Thanks to the use of complementary neutron and synchrotron X-ray beams, these two centres offer a unique tool to measure strains, texture and microstructure of critical components that are submitted to large stresses. Together with seven British academic institutions, these two research organizations have created FaME38 (Facility for Materials Engineering), a € 5M joint engineering support centre based in Grenoble inaugurated today.

The first pre-standard for the measurement of residual stresses using neutrons was drafted in 2001. This pre-standard is now being developed into a new European and international standard. FaME38 will enable the ILL and the ESRF to develop the hardware and software of their strain imaging facilities and provide a residual stress measuring service to the new standard. The facilities are building new strain image equipment to allow studies of engineering components up to 1000kg within the next few years.

FaME38 will act as the interface between research engineers working to improve the characteristics of modern materials and scientists with expertise in analytical methods using neutron and synchrotron X-ray techniques. In this context, it will have a “Knowledge and Training Centre” to provide technical and scientific know-how. Users will be helped to plan and prepare experiments. They will be assisted with data collection, on-line processing and analysis.

FaME38 will also provide engineering users with a user-friendly “Technical Centre”, equipped with a scanner, static thermo-mechanical loading facilities, microstructural characterisation facilities as well as a data analysis suite providing fast analysis. Components with complex shapes will be mounted and positioned with high precision. The new strain scanners can be considered to be the engineering equivalent of the body-scanners now routinely used in medicine. The neutron and X-ray facilities give very precise information about the defects materials may have.

The FaME38 facilities will be able to offer real-time dynamic experiments. Engineers will be able to observe the structure of materials at the same time as they apply stress to them. These developments will allow the engineers to better understand the response of materials to stress in a short period of time.

1 The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) is constituted as a French Société Civile associating 17 participating countries to operate, maintain and develop a synchrotron radiation source and associated instruments. It operates the most powerful third-generation synchrotron radiation source in Europe.

2 The Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) is constituted as a French Société Civile and is mandated by its four Associates to operate, maintain and develop a high-flux neutron source, to devise and execute programmes of scientific research, and to provide the facilities necessary for their execution.