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Better engine components through material understanding

To say that truck manufacturer Scania makes in depth efforts to understand the materials they use for producing vehicle components would be an understatement. Together with RISE and with the help of a synchrotron microscope, the properties of a material can be studied down to the microstructural level – all with the aim of producing strong and lightweight components.

Maintaining lightness of weight is one of the automotive industry’s most important issues today. The lower the weight, the lesser the environmental impact and the greater range of, for example, electrical vehicles. However, a lower weight must not be achieved by sacrificing the performance of vehicle parts. The strength of components must be maintained, and to do so, reliable knowledge of how materials behave under loads is required.

In traditional testing of how materials react to heavy loads, it is only possible to see what happens to the surface layers in tests. To perform in-depth examination, Scania and RISE used a synchrotron mikroscope:

– With the help of the synchrotron microscope. we were able to see what was happening throughout the test, says Torsten Sjögren, researcher at RISE. We can look at individual phases in the microstructure and see where and how damage occurs.

Better material models

Information from the tests can be used for a variety of purposes. Either to adapt the material and thus increase its strength, or as in the case of Scania, use the results to eventually build better material models.

– We hope that the tests we make with the synchrotron microscope will lead to us needing to do fewer tests in the future, says Peter Skoglund, engineer at Scania. The better we understand how the material behaves under loads and the better material models we can create, the easier it will be for us to exploit the material’s properties in an optimal way.

Further testing scheduled

So far, Scania and RISE have examined materials under static loads, but in a recently funded Vinnova Project, collaboration will continue with further testing:

– The next step is to test materials under fatigue, says Torsten Sjögren. We have initiated fatigue cracks in the RISE lab and made studies using lab tomography and seen fatigue cracking, but now we’ll look at deeper levels using the synchrotron microscope.

The tests that Scania and RISE perfomed earlier were carried out at a synchrotron facility in Grenoble, France, and future tests are planned on a Swedish beamline at a facility in Hamburg. The hope is that the same kind of tests can be carried out in Sweden in the future. At the MAX IV facility in Lund there is the potential to study materials on a nanoscale – atom by atom. MAX IV is the world’s brightest synchrotron facility and was operationalised in 2016, and the goal is that it should be able to accomodate up to 3000 researchers per year when it is fully developed.


As innovation partner to large-scale research facilities such as MAX IV and ESS in Lund, RISE makes the facilities more accessible and relevant by increasing the use of the facilties’ technologies on both research projects and commercially financed assignments. RISE acts as expert support and a leading partner to the facilities, and also promotes strategic development by developing and implementing new experimental stations, technologies, test environments and analytical methods.

Published: 2019-05-15