Brunel develops innovative metal casting for automotive industry

Posted on 17 Jul 2013

Brunel University in London is opening a new research centre thanks to a government-supported programme to take laboratory discoveries and upscale them for industry.

The £14m Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC) at Brunel aims to bridge the gap between fundamental research and full-scale industrial trials.

The centre is jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the aluminium automotive sheet & extrusions solutions provider Constellium, Brunel, and a major luxury car manufacturer.

Minister for universities and science David Willetts recognised the project’s importance to driving growth.

“For Britain to get ahead in the global race we have to back emerging technologies and ensure our universities have the latest equipment. This capital investment will help scientists make new discoveries and take their research through to commercial success. It will drive growth and support the Government’s industrial strategy.”

The new facility will draw on the work done by Professor Zhongyun Fan and his team at the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) to improve the recyclability of metals.

Professor Fan outlined the challenges and benefits to reusing aluminium.

“In the UK alone we send around 300,000 tonnes of aluminium to landfill every year. That is a direct economic loss of nearly £800m and represents a further loss of around 11 million barrels of oil, representing the energy used to make that amount of aluminium. Clearly, there are many environmental and economic benefits to be gained from reusing that material.”

“Every failed casting represents a huge waste of energy, time and money,” said Professor Fan. “We know that our new techniques can reliably create first class components from recycled metal. Our challenge now is to scale these methods up for commercial use and to show that they can reduce cost, improve quality, and conserve natural resources.”

The purpose-built 1000m³ laboratory on Brunel’s west London campus will initially serve the automotive industry, but the longer term aim is to extend its knowledge to other engineering sectors, including aerospace, defence, electronics and the general engineering sector.