Scientists at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg – University of Resources, in Saxony, have developed and patented special processes that combine steel and ceramics to form highly innovative materials with a particularly high capacity for absorbing energy. This ability to withstand high mechanical stresses – and thereby potentially save lives – makes them particularly attractive to the automotive industry. “The arrangement of the atoms within the material changes under stress. The distances between the atoms increase, so the material can stretch and expand,” explains Prof. Horst Biermann. The composite materials consist of zirconium dioxide ceramics and metals, including TRIP (Transformation-Induced Plasticity) steels. The project, now in its ninth year, receives funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG).