The Project

In the past, materials research focused on a high functional density as well as maximum mechanical performances in order to ensure that high-income countries could offer products that were capable of competing on the world market. Materials that have a high performance level play a significant role in many high-tech applications, but are also of importance for the energy reform, which targets the conservation of resources, and the development of sustainable technologies. In recent years, observations revealed that a large amount of unpredictable material failure occurs in areas that are still influenced by humans. The aftermath of such failures included catastrophic accidents and high economic losses. There are numerous reasons why these failures occur, and they are related to the special material properties of high performance materials, and the stress the materials are exposed to. In particular, however, the influence of humans on the material properties, and, thus, on the safety, reliability, and acceptance of a material in society remains disregarded.

The described issue will be of increasing significance, because the number of high performance materials is growing, and numerous influencing factors are gaining importance due to globalization. It is important to take the origin of the materials into account. Therefore, a new, unique subfield in materials research is to be created at the University of Kassel.  It will

  • Create methods and the technical know-how needed to make materials reliable and safe when they are at the limit of their performance capacity, and then they are exposed to various external influences.
  • Encompass reciprocal effects between human activity and material properties, and
  • Take the future availability and social acceptance of amterials into consideration.

Issues concerning organizational and work psychology have been incorporated in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Kassel for many years. The option to take man into consideration as a factor in technical issues in research and teaching is one-of-a-kind internationally. We aim to further this aspect in the main area of research, and make sure it is more closely intertwined with material technology, i.e., by means of cooperations with research institutes outside of the university. Owing to its structure and size, the University of Kassel possesses the exceptionally well developed collaborative relationships needed for this ambitious goal. A collaborative research center is planned to follow after the main research area of the LOEWE project, in order to continue work in this area of interest.

Guiding Scientific Principle and Scientific Goals

Guiding Principle and Vision

The basis behind the guiding scientific principle is materials research, which focuses on achieving the highest performance possible in a material. At present, the influence of man continues to repeatedly cause unpredictable material failure in materials research, which, in turn, results in devastating consequences. One very well-known negative example in this case is the failure of wheelset axles in ICE trains. The smallest issue in the structure of the material caused by impurities in the steel and consistent stress led to spontaneous material failure. Similar incidents occurred in the recent past, because materials were utilized to their limits when constructing lightweight components. Technical limits are repeatedly exhausted due to resource efficiency and absolutely new raw material sources. These performance-oriented developments, however, are one-sided. Their potential cannot be utilized safely and reliably if the influence of man on the material is not taken into consideration in materials research. This applies to technical aspects as well as to social aspects, i.e., the acceptance of raw materials and their origin, and even their cultivation and harvesting conditions. In addition, a lower damage tolerance level has been observed in the case of the development of high strength and ultrahigh strength materials (usually steels and concretes). Thus, monitoring the development of damage all the way into the smallest joining structures is becoming increasingly more difficult. New materials are entering the market every day in the fields of materials based on renewable resources (i.e., bio-plastics or SMCs for the substitution of cement) and recycling materials (all material groups). At present, these materials are often still subject to indescribable and unpredictable property fluctuations, and, therefore, do not meet the requirements for safety and reliability.

The fact that human decisions in the supply chain of modern materials will increasingly be affected by the following non-technical issues is already foreseeable today. Thus, the availability of materials, their social acceptance, and their boundary conditions, which are relevant from an ecological perspective, will be decisive factors in the developments of materials.

On whole, it can be said that no methods exist in materials research today that enable clear statements about the safe and reliable use of materials to be made. Similarly, the influence of humans and society on materials is not taken into consideration adequately. Strategic foresight regarding the availability, ecology, and acceptance of materials does not exist in materials research.  The guiding principle of the LOEWE research project is to develop the needed methods, integrate them into materials science, and, for the first time ever, create a connection between materials research and a holistic, innovative mindset.

The vision of this research project is to predict the consequences of actions throughout the entire functional chain, extending from the raw material to the long-term utilization of the material in the component. The goal is to show how these consequences influence the safety and reliability of materials.

Goals and Structure

Classic materials research is essentially divided into material groups that deal with specific issues that pertain to the according materials.In contrast to this classic structure, the LOEWE research aims to establish close collaboration between the various material groups while focusing on safe and reliable materials. Moreover, non-technical material fields will be integrated into the research, in order to create a thus far unique, comprehensive study of the materials. 

The LOEWE project is divided into three project areas, which encompass several subprojects in themselves. None of these areas are classified according to a material.