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IMPRESS Education

Welcome to the IMPRESS Education Pages.

Lead by the European Space Agency, IMPRESS is a pan European, materials science research project, studying the solidification process in intermetallic alloys. As part of our educational and outreach programme we have developed materials and resources to support the teaching of the physical sciences and engineering for pre-university students. All the resources are free to use and are provided in the hope that they will support students in their current studies and encourage them to consider materials science and engineering as possible career paths.

The Project and the Science

The IMPRESS Project, coordinated by the European Space Agency (ESA), combines the expertise of over 40 research groups from academia and industry. The scientific objective of the project is to fully understand the link between material processing, the microstructure of the resulting material and the final properties of new intermetallic alloys. These special crystalline alloys are one of the key materials of the future, with many different applications ranging from aerospace components to power generation systems.

Jet EngineTitanium aluminides have remarkable mechanical and physical properties at temperatures up to 800 Celsius. It is the combination of high-melting point, high strength, and low density that make them ideal for high-performance gas turbine blades. These blades, produced by advanced casting techniques within IMPRESS, will be used in the next generation of turbines for aero-engines and modern power stations. Using titanium aluminide would result in a 50% weight reduction of turbine components, in turn, leading to improved thrust-to-weight ratios of aero-engines, higher efficiency, reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions.

Cataytic PowderIntermetallic alloys are also important for advanced catalytic powders. Catalysts speed up chemical reactions, saving both time and energy. There are many uses of catalysts in, for instance, the pharmaceutical, food and energy industries. In IMPRESS, scientists investigate catalytic powders made from nickel aluminides. Rapidly-solidified, nano-structured particles can be produced by gas atomisation and, after leaching in a sodium hydroxide solution, can be used by industry to speed up hydrogenation reactions which are vital for the production of a wide range of chemicals and plastics.

Companies developing and using hydrogen fuel cells also benefit from this research, since catalytic electrodes based on nickel powders are effective alternatives to conventional platinum electrodes - and many hundreds of times cheaper. Considerable improvements are expected in the performance, cost-effectiveness and sales potential of these pollution-free power-generation systems.

Sounding Rocket LaunchA unique component of IMPRESS is the experimentation performed in space. Microgravity platforms, such as sounding rockets, parabolic flights and the International Space Station are used to perform benchmark experiments on these intermetallic alloys. The aim is to understand the role of gravity on materials processes, to generate fresh knowledge, to validate computer models of solidification and ultimately to optimise industrial processes, such as casting and gas atomisation.

IMPRESS PartnersThe impact of IMPRESS is being felt on many different levels. It has the potential to give European industry a world-leading position in turbine production and fuel cell development. Economic gains will certainly be made in both areas. Not only will IMPRESS strengthen the global competitiveness of many European companies, but it will also lead to major environmental and energy-efficiency benefits. It is hoped that the results of the project will make a valuable contribution to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and future policies. On a regional level, training and educational initiatives are being carried out to promote industrial research and inspire a new generation of young scientists.

From Ireland in the West to Russia in the East; from Finland in the North to Italy in the South, IMPRESS encompasses the best minds in European materials science and so embodies the vision of European integration and is a prime example of trans-national cooperation in materials science and industrial application.

The Resources

The IMPRESS educational resources are intended to support pre-university students in their studies of the physical sciences and engineering. They cover subjects as diverse as heat transfer, materials science, catalysis, and circular motion. As well as the web pages, all written resources can be downloaded as MS Word files to use as worksheets. Hundreds of questions together with detailed specimen answers are provided. Use is also made of Macromedia Flash files in order to provide both animations and simulations. In detail, the topics covered are:

These subjects might at first glance seem largely unrelated, however professional science and engineering projects tend to do this in the real world. Heat transfer and solidification are there because of the materials science core of the IMPRESS Project. The mechanical properties section reflects one of the major aspects of the project; the production of light weight intermetallic turbine blades for aircraft engines and power production. Circular motion is present because of the IMPRESS Project's use of 'centrifugal' casting for the turbine blades. Catalysis is another major application of the IMPRESS intermetallic alloys in the area of commercial hydrogenation reactions and hydrogen fuel cells. Finally microgravity is present because of the extensive use that has been made of it in this and related materials science projects. In all cases though the subjects are presented in a rounded way that goes far beyond the concerns of the IMPRESS Project itself.

Educational standards across Europe vary greatly and so what might be appropriate to one country's seventeen year olds will be beyond the scope of another country's students and in a third country it will be more appropriate to a fifteen year old's studies. Equally, in a different topic the situation may well be reversed. Because of this you are certain to find materials here that are not relevant to pre-university student's in your country. Feel free to pick and choose, or to edit the downloads so as to make them more appropriate.

We hope that you find the resources useful.

The IMPRESS Team

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