Competence center for examination methods
Another important function of the research and development site Leoben is the role as a competence center for mineralogical, chemical and physical tests, including a pilot plant and a simulation and modeling department.
Among the main tasks are tests in the areas of product development and quality assurance, technical support of research & development activities, marketing, sales and production departments and addressing refractory problems throughout the Group.
Responsibilities of the mineralogy department
Here, mineralogical baseline studies as well as detailed mineralogical examinations of existing and newly developed raw materials and products are conducted. Other main tasks include the preparation of test samples, polished section analyses, wear examinations of postmortem samples, measurements of crystal size distribution and determination of the melting point of test specimens and powders. The mineralogy department is also responsible for compiling research reports in response to customer complaints.
Analysis methods: Optical, hot stage and scanning electron microscopy.
Tasks of the chemistry department.
They include the determination of chemical and physicochemical parameters of raw materials, bonding substances, finished products, postmortem samples, slag and environment samples. Legal responsibilities encompass the central preparation and administration of safety data sheets of the entire product portfolio as well as the observation and implementation of changes in the environmental, waste and chemicals legislation, e.g. REACH.
Analysis methods: X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF), X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), Inductively-Coupled Plasma (ICP), photometric and electrochemical analysis methods, carbon and sulphur determination (“LECO”) and rheometers for the determination of viscosity.
Tasks of the physics department
They mainly include material tests on existing and new products and the support of the development of new raw and basic materials by developing applicable measuring methods. The simulation of crack formation and fracture mechanics using the wedge splitting test is one example.
Material property testing: Porosity with pore size, pore volume and gas permeability; Mechanical strength up to 1,700°C with compressive and bending strength, fracture energy and creep under compression; Thermoelastic properties up to 1,500° C with thermal expansion, Young's modulus, stationary and transient thermal conductivity. Chemical (corrosion) and mechanical (abrasion) material wear are also determined.
Responsibilities of the pilot plant
Leoben's pilot plant supports all other departments with the development of new, innovative testing methods, the production of prototypes, the realization of wear tests and studies, tests of starting materials and products, material tests under realistic operating conditions and raw material synthesis at temperatures up to 2000 °C.
Tasks of the simulation & modelling department
Numerical simulation methods for flow calculations, finite element analyses and the calculation of chemical thermodynamics substantially reduce the development efforts for new products through the accurate prediction of their expected performance under certain operating conditions. Simulation/modelling uses different software packages to work on issues in thermal and fluid mechanics.