New materials with improved material and surface characteristics are divided into the areas of metals, ceramics, polymers, organic materials and composites. However, they also include biomaterials and other inorganic materials. The new materials sector is less a separate, clearly distinguishable economic sector and more a competitive factor that runs through a large number of other sectors.
New materials are a highly research-intensive area. The interdisciplinary development targets can be derived from the requirements of the economic sectors in which they are used. The basis is material science itself as well as surface and nanotechnology.
The Austria-based global market leader in high-performance materials produced in powder-metallurgical form, for instance, creates products that are used in the automotive industry, electronics, medical technology and in aviation and aerospace.
And a globally leading technology and industrial goods group with combined materials and processing expertise supplies high-quality product and system solutions made of steel and other metals. It is one of the leading partners of the European automotive and household appliance industry as well as the oil and gas industry worldwide.
Innovations in working materials play a fundamental part in economic success. New markets can be opened up through them. The use of new materials and working materials over the entire lifecycle can also result in considerable savings in basic materials and energy.
New materials optimise the value chain through an increase in efficiency, reduction in costs and reduction in pollutants, starting with development & conceptual design, mining of raw materials, production, use and recycling. Impact assessments of the mining of raw materials from production, use and recycling guarantee the high quality of Austrian products, which is appreciated worldwide.
Example of polymers
Polymers, often referred to as plastic, still provide new developments and areas of use such as in the automotive area. Carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) are among the fastest-growing new categories of materials.
Polymer Competence Center Leoben GmbH (PCCL) was established in 2002 and over the past few years has developed into the leading Austrian centre for cooperative research in the field of plastics technology and polymer sciences. Together with companies of the plastics industry and universities (among others: Leoben Mining University, Graz University of Technology and Vienna Technical University), innovative plastics solutions are processed in a broad field of applications. Around 100 highly qualified employees place their expertise at the service of R&D projects for automotive, aviation and packaging to solar and photovoltaics applications.
Example of melamine
In the business segment melamine, Austria has the European market leader (global number two). A product innovation developed jointly with the Linz centre of competence Wood K plus is a composite produced on the basis of melamine that does not melt even at great heat and can revolutionise the production of prefabricated houses and windows.
As new materials are a highly interdisciplinary and research-intensive field, specialist training is very important. The specialist field sees itself as a key discipline that provides a large number of solutions for challenges relevant to society, above all in the major future fields of energy, climate and environment protection, resource conservation, mobility, health, security and communication.
Today, material science and material technology topics are an integral part of degree courses in almost all areas of engineering science, but also in the natural science areas of physics and chemistry and increasingly in medicine. Material science and material technology has firmly established itself as an independent discipline not only in research but also in university teaching.
The most renowned training institutions in Austria are: