Recent developments include a growing proportion of functional materials. A further trend involves the «Materials by Combination» concept to take a customized approach to the use requirements for specific components. By far the best example of this is the division of tasks into mechnically bearing functions in «bulk material» and the incorporation of environmental influences by specific surface engineering. The department's focal areas are therefore in the targeted research and pre-competitive development of
- modern functional materials
- innovative material combinations and composite materials
- custom surface modifications.
The department also has a special commitment to nanotechnology, where we aim to channel scientific findings into specific industrial applications.
Empa's partners in materials research and the provision of high-quality, highly specialized services come mainly from machine building, the transport industry, energy technology and precision engineering, as well as from selected sectors of the construction, medical and aerospace industries. Our modern process labs are committed to developing and characterizing microstructured and nanostructured materials, high-performance ceramics, plasma-based coating processes, fibre- and particle-reinforced materials and joining and manufacturing technology.
Examples of current developments in progress include new high-performance compressive systems for the new transalpine axis (NEAT), the pilot production of nanopowders and capsuling systems, the development of abrasion-resistant, anorganic coatings, the manufacturing of prototype ceramic water filters and fuel cell elements, and the future use of nanotubes as efficient cold electron emitters. Specific services include joint characterization using state-of-the-art methods, specialist material and construction component testing, and the development of systemic approaches to solution-finding. Working in conjunction with our partners, we investigate damage caused by corrosion, friction and mechanical and thermal overloading. We then incorporate the findings into better, more reliable and more sustainable material solutions (life cycle engineering).