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High pressure die casting for lightweight metals

Lightweight materials have become increasingly critical for producing components for aircrafts, cars, trains, ships, and defence equipment. Especially, lightweight metal and alloys possess high strength-to-weight ratios and low density.
Common applications are met in the automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, railway and other large niche applications.
For example, lighter vehicles consume less fuel, emit less harmful gases and provide a better performance.
It should be noted that the aforementioned sectors (based on recent Eurostat data) are of crucial importance for the European Manufacturing Industry providing more than 6 million jobs and contributing ~11% to the EC-28 GDP.
As lightweight metals we consider aluminum, magnesium, and titanium alloys. Moreover, metal matrix composite materials that traditionally incorporate micron scale reinforcements in a bulk metallic matrix offer opportunities to tailor material properties such as hardness, tensile strength, thermal stability, ductility, density, thermal and electrical conductivity, and wear resistance.
With the advent of nanomaterials, nanocomposites are envisioned, and are being developed, with properties that overcome technical limitations of pure metals or composites that contain micron scale reinforcements. In the past decade, much work has been done towards developing polymer matrix nanocomposites and such materials are already used in various applications.

The LightMe Project is an €11M EU Horizon 2020 project that involves over 20 partners throughout Europe. The LightMe project aspires to be a point of reference for boosting innovation in the field of lightweight metal matrix nanocomposites (MMnC) setting up an Open Innovation Ecosystem (test bed) that will boost the introduction of new functionalities, features and capabilities to lightweight metals. The LightMe Ecosystem will provide the necessary infrastructure (6 Pilot Lines – PL) and knowhow for upscaling the new materials concepts related to lightweight MMnC and advance materials, in a cost effective and sustainable way.

The research at Brunel is responsible for the HPDC pilot line. The work includes (1) modification of the pilot line to produce industrial-scale castings; (2) optimisation of the casting process (3) evaluation of the mechanical properties of the final components.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Brian McKay
Dr Brian McKay - Dr Brian McKay is currently a senior lecturer in BCAST at Brunel University. Prior to this he was a university assistant at the Institute of Casting Research (ICR), University of Leoben, Austria (2003-2009) and a research fellow at UMIST (2003). He obtained his DPhil from Oxford University, MSc from The Queen’s University of Belfast and BEng from the University of Ulster. He has over 20 years’ experience in solidification research with 1 Patent on novel metal composites (UK Patent No. 1714401.5), 1 trademarked product (Basaltium), and over 30 papers and two co-edited monographs published in the field. His main expertise lies in the fields of castings, composites, interfaces, coatings, and their characterisation using advanced electron microscopy techniques. Whilst his research interests in the past have been centred on understanding heterogeneous nucleation during solidification, these interests now also include Metal Matrix Composites/Nano-composites, Powder Metallurgy and Electroplating. Over the past 9 years Brian has been involved in 11 successful grant awards totalling ~£30M. He is currently PI on a new €11M Horizon 2020 project LightMe, was the Co-ordinator and PI of a €1.6M EU-FP7 grant, HardAlt, involving 12 partners from 6 countries that focused on finding an alternative nano-composite coating for Hard Chrome, a CoI on the £4.5M EPSRC - LiME grant that investigated solidification mechanisms, PI on the £150k “Characterization and Processing of High Thermal Conducting Al-MMCs” grant sponsored by the Korean Institute of Technology (KITECH) that examined the potential of CNT MMCs for High Power Light emitting Diodes (HPLeD’s), PI on the £300k STORM Innovate UK/EPSRC in which a new composite Al core was produced for offshore marine energy mooring connectors and Co-I on the £10M EPSRC Manufacturing Hub grant. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Institute of Cast Metal Engineers and has sat on the Technical/Educational Board of the latter as an adviser since 2012. In addition he is a member of the EPSRC Peer Review College and an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cast Metal Engineers. Over the years Brian has collaborated with many companies including, LSM, BMW, Alcoa and Alcan. He has given several invited presentations throughout Europe and in 2006 he received a TMS Magnesium Application Award for his work in nucleation and more recently has been a recipient of the Rushlight Responsible Product or Service Award 2017-18 for the STORM connector.

Related Research Group(s)

metallurgical process of melting metals

Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST) - BCAST is an academic research centre focusing on both fundamental and applied research on solidification of metallic materials.


Wolfson Centre for Sustainable Materials Development and Processing - Research into the development and processing of new materials including nano-materials, nano-phosphors and nanostructured carbon, biofuels, polymers and bio-polymers.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 18/03/2021