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The Infineum-Diamond prize for innovative automotive research using synchrotron light has been awarded to Oxford University post-doctoral researcher, David Collins. Working in collaboration with BMW-MINI, David’s research looks at the ductility of sheet metal used in manufacturing. By stretching the material in new ways, David is looking to develop novel manufacturing processes to make faster and more streamlined cars.
David explains: “I’m looking right down into the material at the thousands of minute crystals that make up steel. Each of these crystals has a unique atomic arrangement within the metal, but by manipulating this arrangement, I’m hoping to reorient the crystals in the perfect position to make the steel much more ductile.”
The capabilities on Diamond’s Joint Engineering, Environmental and Processing beamline (I12) have enabled David to study how the properties of steel change as its atoms are altered. To explore this process, David designed and built his own experimental equipment to exert strain on metal in specific directions in a very controlled manner. He then brought the equipment to I12 so that he could view the effects of this strain on the metal using synchrotron light. This combination allowed David to perform a world-first, exploring the effects of deformation on steel as it occurs at the atomic level. This research has the potential to create stronger, more streamlined and more geometrically complex steel structures. As such, it is of great benefit to the automotive industry.
The Early Career Research Prize was awarded at the iCAR 2015 conference, jointly hosted by Infineum and Diamond. The conference brought together automotive experts in academia and industry to discuss cutting-edge research and new approaches for challenges facing the automotive industry. Taking place on the 4th-5th of November 2015, iCAR saw speakers from Shell, BP, Ricardo, Ilika, Johnson Matthey and a host of leading UK universities.
Commenting on David’s award, Diamond’s CEO, Andrew Harrison, observed: “I’m delighted that the Early Career Researcher prize is going to such a worthy recipient. It’s great to see scientists discovering the enormous potential of Diamond early on in their academic lives. We hope to be able to continue offering David and other scientists like him cutting-edge technology and expertise as their research progresses throughout their careers.”
Professor Angus Wilkinson is David’s supervisor at the Department of Materials, University of Oxford. He comments: “David is already beginning to develop an international reputation through the originality and ambition of his research. He is at a relatively early stage of a career that is moving forward at pace. David is an exceptional talent and I feel certain that he will develop into a leadership role and make significant contributions to shaping and delivering materials engineering at the interface between academia and manufacturing industry.”
Both David’s research and the iCAR 2015 conference highlights the importance of this interface. Collaboration between industry, academia and cutting-edge research facilities like Diamond will be crucial to shaping the future of the automotive industry. With skills and expertise from different backgrounds alongside pioneering technology that allows us to see more than ever before, innovation is sure to thrive.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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