Washington, August 12 : Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, Germany, have come up with a computer simulation method that can predict in record time when and where heavily stressed engine components are likely to fail, and thereby significantly reduce the time required by car manufacturers new engine components.
Exhaust fumes coming out of car engines at up to 1050 degrees Celsius expose the engine components to tremendous stress, for they expand heavily in the heat.
On frosty days, on the other hand, the material contracts.
Such temperature fluctuations put the material under enormous pressure.
Car manufacturers, presently, rely on a trial-and-error process to test particularly stressed components, and to produce a reliable component with no weak points. Such investigations cost time and money.
The Freiburg scientists claim that their simulation method can enable companies to significantly reduce the time taken to develop exhaust manifolds, which collect the hot exhaust fumes from the engine and pass them on to the catalytic converter.
They say that this method allows working out the places in which a component will wear out and fail after a certain number of heating and cooling cycles.
According to them, such simulations can help manufacturers optimise the shape of the workpiece on the computer, and greatly reduce the number of real test runs.
The researchers take a very close look at the material. Starting by testing the material in the laboratory, they heat, squeeze and pull the metal, repeatedly checking under the microscope when and where tiny cracks begin to form.
These insights are later fed into the simulation software.
The research group says that, from now on, car manufacturers can use it to calculate how the material will behave and when it will fail, for each new component shape.
"It goes without saying that our simulation models can also be applied to all kinds of materials and used in other sectors of industry," says IWM project manager Dr. Thomas Seifert. At present, Seifert and his colleagues are engaged in a joint project with RWE Power and Thyssen-Krupp to investigate heat-resistant nickel alloys for a new generation of power stations.
The researchers say that these will be built to operate at particularly high temperatures, and achieve a higher degree of efficiency than today's facilities.