Materials with hexagonal crystal structure (largely titanium, zirconium and magnesium alloys in high-value applications) are highly anisotropic – more so than for steel and Al alloys (cubic crystal structure) – and plasticity is very complex due to the low symmetry, and can even show spontaneous rotation, called twinning.  Hexagonal materials are strategic and profoundly important to the UK economy and find wide application (for example in aerospace and defence industries), but understanding of their performance lags behind that for cubics.  The research outputs are potentially profound in developing significant improvement in materials, material structure and processing conditions in optimizing manufacture and component design with superior property-behaviour relationships, in improving operational efficiencies and in reducing production and running costs, thereby contributing to fuel efficiencies and very importantly, the UK’s competitive advantage.

HexMat wishes to develop step-change technology by bringing to bear the extraordinary range of experimental, characterization and modelling techniques in which the UK holds many leaders but who have yet to combine effort to take full advantage of the synergy and multiplication possible. This simply remains un-achievable without clear UK unification of research effort. HexMat’s ambition is to bring together the UK’s experts in academia, supply chain and end-users to transform understanding in hexagonal alloys.

Four key themes have been identified and need to be addressed:

(i) Fundamental Mechanisms (Principal Investigator: Prof Angus Wilkinson, University of Oxford)
(ii) Micromechanics and Sonics (Principal Investigator: Prof Fionn Dunne, Imperial College London)
(iii) Performance in Aerospace environments (Principal Investigator: Dr David Dye, Imperial College London)
(iv) Performance in Nuclear environments (Principal Investigator: Prof Michael Preuss)

This therefore requires the talents, experimental characterization, testing and modelling techniques which exist in Imperial, Oxford and Manchester to be unified within the four major themes in order to generate synergy.