Professor Mingxing Zhang leads the Surface Engineering and Physical Metallurgy (SEPM) research group within the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, the University of Queensland, focusing on metal research.

In the following three areas, the researches in the group are world leading:

Surface engineering

The task of surface engineering is to improve the surface durability of structural materials so that they can be used in corrosive, wearing, oxidization environments and high temperatures through surface modification and coating.  Their research capacity includes:

  • Development of new surface treatment techniques, such as the novel packed powder diffusion coating techniques, for metallic materials, including aluminium alloys, titanium alloys, magnesium alloys, steels and other non-ferrous alloys.
  • Development of effective coating process for light alloys and steels using cold spray technology.

Physical metallurgy of metals

The research aims under this theme are:

  • Development of new and more effective grain refiners and the associated master alloys for cast metals, including aluminium alloys, magnesium alloys, titanium alloys, steels and other metals, in order to improve the quality of metal products through grain refining approach.
  • Development of new generation metallic materials, including aluminium alloys, magnesium alloys, titanium alloys and steels, and the associated processes through bigdata analytics, and to further exploit the potency and to improve the mechanical properties of metals.
  • To provide consultancy to in order to solve practical problems related to industry productions.
  • To understand the mechanisms of phase transformations in metals through crystallographic studies. This work provides theoretical basis for the above research.

Metal additive manufacturing (metal 3D printing)

Through collaboration with world leading experts in this area, the research group is now rapidly establishing a cutting edge research theme on metal 3D printing with focuses on:

  • Development of 3D printing alloys so that high quality engineering components can be directly printed on any metal 3D printers.
  • To provide support to industry to develop proper 3D printing processes for particular applications in medical, aerospace, automotive and tooling industries.
  • To extend the metal 3D printing technology to surface engineering, function restoration of failed engineering parts and alloy development.

Available state-of-the-art facilities

  1. Kinetic metallization system (cold spray)

    Kinetic metallization (KM) is the most recent and the most promising cold spraying technique that can be performed in the temperature range from room temperature to 350°C. KM generates dense, porosity-free and highly bonded coating on all types of metal substrate with improved surface durability.

  2. Plasma arc melting system

    This is the most advanced melting facility allowing fast melting of almost all metals, including titanium alloys, magnesium alloys, steels and even tungsten. Melting treatment and casting can be conducted in an enclosed chamber with protection of inert gas. It can be used to development of new alloys and new casting processes.

  3. Optomec LENS450 Metal 3D Printing system

    This is one of the most advanced metal 3D printing system through direct metal deposition approach. It enables researchers to develop optimal metal 3D printing processes. Metals canbe printed include, Al alloys, Ti alloys, steels, Ni-based alloys, Co-based alloys, Cu alloys and etc.

  4. SLM125 metal 3D printing system.

    This is the latest model of the SLM Solutions products for metal 3D printing through powder bed approach. This system is equipped with laser and melt pool monitor system, which differs from all other similar systems.

Accessible other facilities

Researchers in the group can also access to most the University’s facilities and equipment. They include the state-of-the-art electron microscopies and X-ray diffraction system in the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis (CMM). UQ CMM has seven transmission electron microscopes (TEM), 10 scanning electron microscopes (SEM), 4 X-ray diffraction systems and the associated facilities.

Detailed information for the CMM facilities can be found at:

Ina addition, Australia’s largest laboratory foundry, mechanical property testing instruments, heat treatment furnace and metallographic facilities are also accessible within the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, UQ.