Professor Stefan Pogatscher received the ERC Consolidator Grant for his research into sustainable light metal alloys. This was the next important honour to be awarded to the metallurgist from Leoben after the ERC Starting Grant. He is the first scientist at the University of Leoben to achieve this.
Success with recycling metals and alloys
Pogatscher’s research focusses on the recycling of metals and alloys. He received his award for the HETEROCIRCAL (Intermetallic Phase Heterostructured Circular Aluminium Alloys) project.
The following principle applies in metallurgy: the purer the metals and alloys, the better their properties. However, with the increasing importance of recycling in material production, the content of impurities is rising. The consequences are particularly serious in the case of aluminium, as most elements lead to the formation of brittle intermetallic phases. It is also virtually impossible to remove impurities once they have entered the aluminium. "The HETEROCIRCAL project aims to break through the paradigm of ’harmful’ impurities and turn their effect into a positive one", explains the successful researcher.
The greatest challenge is to develop practicable means of producing advantageous structures from intermetallic phases that can be used on a large scale. This task is solved by manipulating the intermetallic phases during solidification and solid-state processing. "We assume that the HETEROCIRCAL project could solve recycling problems", says Pogatscher confidently. For example, almost 100 million cars were produced worldwide in 2017. Up to 40 different aluminium alloys as well as coppers and steels have been used in cars to date. For the recycling of end-of-life vehicles, this complex mixture of materials means that high-purity alloys can only be downcycled into low-purity cast engine blocks. "The question arises as to what will happen if the number of motor blocks decreases due to the increase in electric vehicles? This is exactly what HETEROCIRCAL is intended to offer solutions for, so that car doors can be remade from engine blocks, for example", says Pogatscher, outlining the future application possibilities.
Stefan Pogatscher is a university professor for Metallurgy of Sustainable Light Metal Alloys and has headed the Department of Metallurgy at the University of Leoben since 2022. He received his doctorate from the same university in 2012 and was a post-doc at the Laboratory of Metal Physics and Technology at ETH Zurich from 2012 to 2015. Pogatscher has been teaching and researching in Leoben since 2015, first as an assistant professor, then as an associate professor, and, from 2015 to 2022, as an endowed professor of aluminium materials technology. In 2018, he also took over the management of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Advanced Aluminium Alloys. His research focuses on the metallurgy of sustainable light metals and high-resolution material characterisation. He has already received numerous important prizes, and is the only Austrian to have won the Houska Prize twice. The ERC Starting Grant 2017 will now be followed by an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2023.
ERC Consolidator Grant
The European Research Council (ERC) promotes open-topic, pioneering research, where the boundaries between basic and applied research and the individual scientific disciplines are removed. The sole ERC funding criterion is scientific excellence of both the project and the researcher. ERC Consolidator Grants support excellent young researchers at that stage of their career when they are often still developing their own independent research direction and/or their own research group. Consolidator Grants can be awarded up to a maximum amount of 2 million euros for a period of five years.