Materials are everywhere, and even small materials-related developments almost always have great significance – not to mention completely new materials and solutions. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd invests heavily in pioneering Finnish materials research. Anssi Laukkanen, D.Sc. (Tech.), who was involved in the creation of the materials modelling concept VTT ProperTune, has been appointed as VTT's first research professor in computational materials and data sciences.
Digital, computational materials research provides for more durable and efficient materials solutions for the manufacturing industry. To renew industrial operations, we need new perspectives and business models, which take into consideration the possibilities of circular economy.
'Significant developments in the materials field shake up the entire research field and industrial sector, creating great economical opportunities. I am delighted about Anssi's professorship. He uses cutting edge scientific solutions created through materials research to the benefit of companies, combining VTT's diverse competences', says Tarja Laitinen, head of materials and component life-cycle management solutions at VTT.
Materials challenges should be approached from different perspectives simultaneously for optimal outcomes. In its applied research, VTT collaborates closely with representatives of the corporate world and other research organisations.
'New endeavours related to, for example, circular economy and materials solutions that create social and economic opportunities are important. Extensive development of materials technology and computational platforms is crucial in order to introduce new perspectives to the Finnish industrial sectors', Anssi Laukkanen say.
The new professor in computational materials research will approach the materials field from three angles. First, the research aims to discover new materials with the help of modelling. Here, artificial intelligence plays a big role, and the resulting materials will be customised to product-specific needs. Secondly, the research will focus on the optimisation of materials solutions, as well as their systematic development for industrial purposes. The third area of focus is the management of complex, multi-level materials phenomena, meaning materials challenges that, because of their complexity or functional requirements, are difficult or even impossible to tackle solely experimentally.
In the future, materials will be created on on-demand basis
VTT is an international leader in certain areas of materials modelling, such as micromechanical modelling, modelling of additive manufacturing of metals and materials modelling of various coatings and composites.
The newly appointed professor reckons that, in the future, materials will be invented and developed and product properties will be optimised on case-by-case basis. Digitalisation and new manufacturing methods will give rise to custom-made materials that will be developed systematically exploiting materials hierarchies, from atom-level to actual products.
'This will be done mainly with the help of artificial intelligence. Digital twins created using our calculation methods will be fully integrated to control autonomous high-throughput physical manufacturing, characterisation and testing functions. The entity will work practically in real time, discovering, creating, certifying and optimising new materials and materials solutions', Laukkanen visions.
'In recent years, the increased importance of AI and machine learning has resulted in some even quite wild visions in the field of materials research and contributed to the creation of new solutions to traditional problems, and new materials provide even further possibilities.'