The nanoscale particles could be key to developing high-manganese steels that will reduce the weight of cars and other vehicles and help meet stricter carbon dioxide emissions targets.

The Glasgow researchers will analyse samples of high-manganese steel containing the nanoscale precipitates of niobium and vanadium carbides. The nanoparticles help strengthen the steel by creating points within its structure that make it more difficult to deform. By strengthening the steel in this way car manufacturers could cut down on the amount of steel used within individual parts without reducing the strength or durability of the finished product.

“In seeking to reduce the amount of steel used in vehicles, and thus the weight, it is very important to retain both strength and ductility, which is where the niobium or vanadium precipitates come in,” said Dr Ian MacLaren, lecturer in physics and astronomy.

“What we hope to achieve by the end of the project is to be able to provide the necessary data for future high-manganese steel alloy design.”

The £180 000  four-and-a-half-year project is being conducted in the collaboration with the University of Oulu in Finland, KTH in Sweden, CEIT in Spain, RWTH Aachen in Germany and two steel producers, Thyssen Krupp Steel and Arcelor Mittal.