Titanium (Ti) metal, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility is a critical material in aerospace, defense, and medical applications, but its wider use is obstructed by excessively high costs.
That’s where Materials Sciences and Metallurgical Engineering Professor Zhigang Zak Fang comes into play. A recent recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, Fang has developed a breakthrough technology that can produce high-quality, low-carbon emitting titanium powder at a significantly reduced cost. Known as the Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction (HAMR) process, the technology developed by Fang is based on the discovery of new science about the effects of hydrogen on the stability of Ti solid solutions with high oxygen content (up to 14wt%.)
Two students, Allison Harward (B.S., Chemical Engineering candidate) and Jon Dromey (B.S., Mechanical Engineering candidate), from Prof. Michael Simpson’s research group each received scholarships worth $10,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Leadership program. Harward and Dromey are two of only 92 such scholarships awarded nationwide this year and the only recipients from The University of Utah to receive such honors.
Harward has led experimental work on a project funded by the Idaho National Laboratory to develop means to process radioactive waste salt to support safe interim storage. She has determined a means to great reduce the volume of this waste and the process time compared to the state of the art. Additionally, she had authored or co-authored two journal papers, with a third currently under review. This summer she will be working at Bill Gates’ TerraPower nuclear reactor development company on molten salt reactor-supporting research.
Dromey has been working on an ARPA-E funded project to develop a zone refining process to recover actinides from spent metal fuel. He performs mechanical design and fabrication in addition to system testing to support the ARPA-E project. His work has been instrumental in successful completion of milestones related to building a system that can melt narrow regions of uranium-rich metal rods.
University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ling Zang was elected to the rank of Fellow to the Council of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his “distinguished contributions to the research of molecular self-assembly and nanostructures, and development of optical and electrical chemical sensors for applications in public safety, health and environment.”
Zang along with other newly named Fellows will be inducted during the organization’s Annual Meeting, to be held Feb. 19 in Philadelphia. The AAAS has members in more than 90 countries and is also the publisher of the Science family of research journals.
University of Utah materials science and engineering Distinguished Professor, Anil Virkar, who is also the H. Kent Bowen Endowed Chair of Materials Science and Engineering, was elected to the grade of Distinguished Lifetime Member of The American Ceramic Society.
The Distinguished Life Member grade is the Society’s most prestigious level of membership and awarded in recognition of a member’s contribution to the ceramics profession.
Virkar earned a Bachelor of Technology in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India, a master’s in engineering mechanics from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in materials science from Northwestern University in Illinois.
He joined the University of Utah in 1973 as a postdoctoral fellow and was appointed a research assistant professor in 1974. Two years later, he was named assistant professor, an associate professor in 1979, a professor in 1984, and a Distinguished Professor in 2007. He was named the H. Kent Bowen Endowed Chair in 2015.
Increasing the visibility of roadway markings is an important task for engineers. The most popular approach for making roadway striping more visible has been to add glass beads to the surface of the roadway paint in order to cause some of the light from headlights to retro-reflect back to the car. However, when paint with retroreflective beads is submerged with water the index of refraction of water prevents the light from retro-reflecting and the roadway markings become nearly impossible to observe. The easiest workaround for this problem is to add retroreflective tabs to roads, but in our snowy climate the snowplows would rip tabs off the road leaving Utah with no great solutions.
The Taylor Sparks Research Group has set out to develop a potential alternative solution based on “glow in the dark” luminescent phosphors. Glow in the dark roadways have been piloted before in the Netherlands and failed spectacularly after only a few weeks due to rainwater causing the rare-earth elements to leach out of the ceramic phosphor in the paint. The innovation was led by group member Jason Nance (M.S., ’19) who performed his Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) while working as the state chemist for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).
Nance and Dr. Taylor Sparks developed a custom polymer coating for the ceramic phosphors that prevents the rare-earth ion from leaching out when submerged in water for prolonged periods. A provisional patent has been filed and a full patent application is under review. Sparks and Nance hope to commercialize this paint through their startup, JCS Labs, and will be conducting feasibility tests on public roads with UDOT this summer.
Dr. Sparks and Nance were recently interviewed by Fox13 News in Salt Lake City about their research and development, watch the interview here.