In 2021, JOANNEUM RESEARCH celebrated the 30th anniversary of its state-of-the-art installations in Niklasdorf, located in the Styrian province of Austria. Reason enough to profile our SUSTAINair partner in the materials sector, which can look back on over three decades of cutting-edge application-oriented research & development in this field.
A strong presence in Austria's industrial heartland
The history of the JOANNEUM RESEARCH Materials institute is tightly linked to the strong industrial cluster of Upper Styria, especially the city of Leoben. Leoben is located just a few minutes away from Niklasdorf and is known as the center of the heavy industry (especially for iron and steel) in Upper Styria. The renowned University of Leoben is Austria’s only higher education institution for materials, mining and metallurgy. Moreover, Austrian steel giant Voestalpine operates a key steel plant in the area.
JOANNEUM RESEARCH Materials is strongly connected in particular with the Montan University Leoben. From this partnership, the laser center Leoben emerged 30 years ago. Its main purpose was to make the emerging laser production technology more available to Austrian industry. Initially, JOANNEUM RESEARCH was located in the facilities of the University of Leoben, but moved to its own premises in Niklasdorf few years ago. Although both split physically, they have maintained a close-knit cooperation in the materials sector.
Original developer of laser welding processes
JOANNEUM RESEARCH’s team of around 80 researchers provides interdisciplinary solutions across the entire value chain – from the idea to the prototype. It uses cutting-edge technologies and methods mainly based on miniaturisation, integration and materials optimisation. The Laser and Plasma Processing group of JOANNEUM RESEARCH Materials institute also originally developed laser welding processes for the joining of various kinds of alloys, even before laser welding was adopted into the regional automotive supplying tier 1 industries. JOANNEUM further owns the first successful machine for an economical combination of L-DED (laser directed energy deposition) and post-processing. Beside component repair, the company is using this technology for additive manufacturing of multi-material components.
Plasma-based coating processes & nanomaterial synthesis
JOANNEUM also spearheads research and development of plasma-based coating processes and nanomaterial synthesis. These are able to perform in atmospheric pressure, in vacuum, at low temperatures (<40 °C), as well as in sol-gel coatings. It is also developing chemical and biological sensors, as well as electronics and instrumentation of measurement systems. JOANNEUM has been successfully advancing measurement system based on electrospun ZnO-doped nano-fibers. The piezoelectric materials are now being continuously miniaturized under the brand PyzoFlex®. This is a new sensor technology with novel sensory function, to detect pressure and temperature changes as well as structure-borne sound.
JOANNEUM is also innovating in electrospinning. Electrospinning is a fiber production method dating back to the 1900’s, which uses electric force to draw charged threads of polymer solutions or polymer melts up to fiber diameters in the order of some hundred nanometers. JOANNEUM is further developing this proven method in an new process to support the production of ultrafine nanometer fibres, which are put into nanowires. These nanowires are then deposited into piezo-electric sensors, to enable better and more precise measurements in sensors (e.g. for material stresses). Electrospinning is done by JOANNEUM’s specialists for sensors and functional printing in a center in Weiz, Styria (see picture below).
JOANNEUM RESEARCH in SUSTAINair
Combined with state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure, especially as concerns high-powered lasers, JOANNEUM RESEARCH Materials offers innovative solutions and services tailored to the needs of business and industry. It is collaborating not only with universities like Graz Technical University or University of Leoben, but also with top companies as e.g. the mobility technology giant Magna International.
In SUSTAINair, the JOANNEUM RESEARCH Materials institute is working on laser welding and L-DED technologies for novel Al- and Ti-based alloys. It is also focusing on production technologies based upon plasma-processes and electrospinning for the optimized deposition of nanofibers for piezo-electric sensors.
More resources about JOANNEUM RESEARCH
Check out an in-depth video showcasing laser and plasma technologies at JOANNEUM’s location in Niklasdorf (video below):