A collaborative partnership between Brunel University London and Constellium to develop low-carbon aluminium extruded alloys for structural electric vehicle applications has been awarded funding from the UK government.
Brunel with BCAST, the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology, is proudly joining a new consortium of automakers and suppliers to develop lower-carbon, lower-cost aluminium extrusion alloys. Sponsored by a grant from the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the £10 million CirConAl project – standing for Circular and Constant Aluminium – aims to maximise the use of post-consumer scrap in a new generation of high-strength alloys with a carbon footprint less than 2 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of aluminium produced.
CirConAl is part of joint government and industry support for projects to build an end-to-end supply chain for zero-emissions vehicles in the UK. The results of the funding competition were announced on 2 December by Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The Constellium-led project consortium includes automakers, suppliers and recyclers active in the UK market, as well as partners contributing aluminium joining, manufacturing and life-cycle analysis (LCA) expertise.
The CirConAl technical innovation lies in the formulation from end-of-life scrap streams of Constellium HSA6® and Constellium HCA6® high-strength aluminium 6xxx alloy families. These alloys were developed by Constellium’s University Technology Center (UTC) located at Brunel University London in partnership with BCAST. A detailed evaluation of automated aluminium scrap sorting technology was conducted that identified the best available technology and the largest base of installed systems operating commercially for automated aluminium end-of-life scrap sortation in the UK.
Constellium’s best-in-class HSA6® and HCA6® extrusion alloys are made with deliberate additions of magnesium, silicon and copper and can be formulated with higher levels of end-of-life scrap than the more conventional incumbent copper-free alloys.
By designing, developing, prototyping and testing aluminium automotive components at scale, the project is expected to demonstrate that high-strength alloys with high recycled content can meet or exceed OEM requirements, such as strength, crushability, durability and other performance criteria. Together, the partners would also develop scrap sorting technologies to ensure that valuable metal is recycled into new automotive solutions rather than downcycled, preserving its value and contributing to a circular economy.
Aluminium extrusions and components for the CirConAl project will be prototyped and tested in partnership with BCAST at Constellium’s UTC – a centre of excellence for the development of aluminium Crash Management Systems and body structure components, as well as battery enclosures for electric vehicles. The industrial-scale casting and extrusion equipment sited within the BCAST Advanced Metal Casting and Advanced Metal Processing Centres (AMCC and AMPC) on the Brunel campus allows for rapid prototyping, reducing development times by at least 50% for the advanced alloys required to lightweight automotive components.
The technology of the CirConAl collaborative research and development project will provide the fastest available route to net zero aluminium alloys.
Read more about BCAST, the Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology