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.
Congratulations to both.
A major environmental concern about the use of nuclear reactors is what’s left behind — the nuclear waste from spent fuel rods. Where to dispose of this waste has been the source of much controversy.
But instead of just burying the spent fuel rods, what if you could somehow recycle them to be used again? University of Utah engineering researchers will be working with a team from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to develop an innovative yet simple process of recycling metal fuels for future advanced nuclear reactors. These reactors are designed to be safer than existing reactors, more efficient at producing energy, and cheaper to operate. The team was awarded a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program for the project.
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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.
Recent Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) Ph.D. graduate, Dr. Xiaojuan Ni, received the 2020 Outstanding Dissertation Award for The University of Utah’s College of Engineering for her dissertation titled “Growth, Electronic and Transport Properties of Two-Dimensional Materials Beyond Graphene.” Dr. Ni’s dissertation focuses on theoretical and computational studies of novel 2D quantum materials for potential electronic and spintronic applications. A highlight is her original work on demonstrating the robustness of topological insulator (TI) phase against bulk defects. While the topological edge state of TI is well-known to be robustness against non-magnetic “edge” defects, Dr. Ni has systematically showed, for the first time, how “bulk” defects, such as vacancies and grain boundaries, will affect the topological order of electronic states in materials.
Dr. Ni studied under Dr. Feng Liu, Professor of MSE, and was previously recognized by the International Organization of Chinese Physicists and Astronomers with an outstanding dissertation award. She is currently serving a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Arizona. The MSE Department congratulates Dr. Ni in this award and look forward to following her promising academic career.
A University of Utah team lead by Dr. Ravi Chandran, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, which includes Dr. Taylor Sparks, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, and Dr. Wenda Tan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering has been awarded $800,000 as the Phase-I finding form ARPA-E Ultimate program and involves the development of next generation high temperature alloys.
Current generation of high temperature alloys for aircraft jet turbines are dominated by nickel base alloys, but their capabilities are limited to about 1100C turbine operating temperature. Alloys for higher temperature, about 1300C, inevitably require new alloys based on refractory metals. The team will use physical metallurgy principles for alloy design, assisted by machine learning, CALPHAD phase diagram simulations, phase field modeling and rapid powder metallurgy processing of alloys to make new alloys and prototype samples to meet the ARPA-E specifications.
The newly funded research project begins May 2021.
The Materials Science & Engineering Department at the University of Utah is pleased to announce that Dr. Huiwen Ji will join the department as an assistant professor. She is a materials chemist working on establishing structure-property links in solid-state functional materials with an unconventional perspective. Though crystalline matters are often characterized by periodic order, of particular interest to her research is how correlated disorder and competing local forces give rise to unusual phenomena that are inaccessible to perfect crystals, yet are crucial for energy storage and many other applications. She approaches these scientific questions by coupling synthesis and property measurements with advanced total scattering and spectroscopic characterizations. Her ultimate goal is to design better materials through controlling disorder and even create flexible disorders that are adaptive to external stimuli.
Dr. Ji comes from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she was a research scientist in the Energy Storage & Distributed Resources Division. Her position was supported by the John S. Newman Fellowship funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy of DOE. She was a postdoctoral associate in the MSE Department at UC Berkeley during 2016–2019. She obtained her Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University in 2014.
Dr. Ji will begin her post in January 2021
Engineers from the University of Utah’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering are working with a large team of researchers to prepare experiments for the U.S. Department of Energy’s upcoming Versatile Test Reactor to test various molten salt reactor technologies.
These experiments are part of just one research project that will take advantage of the VTR, which is designed to test fuels, materials and sensors for power reactors. While the VTR is going through a federal approval process and has not yet been built, projects such as the one the U’s MSE department is working on are already underway.
The Idaho National Laboratory has published a new story about what the U’s experiment will be about, which involves the MSE chair, Michael Simpson, and involves irradiating molten salt to see how it would change.
Click here to read the INL story.
The National Academy of Inventors has released a new video about the legacy of Gerald Stringfellow, University of Utah Distinguished Professor of both electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering.
The new video, “From Campus to Commerce,” profiles Stringfellow’s contributions to the development of light-emitting diodes, a technology that would benefit everything that uses LEDs from traffic lights to computer monitors.
Stringfellow developed a process called organometallic vapor-phase epitaxy for the growth of new semiconductor alloys in which aluminum, gallium, indium and phosphorous are deposited on a substrate to create red, orange, yellow and green LED crystals. This led to better handheld calculators that used red LEDs for the display. Stringfellow took his research to the University of Utah where he was hired as a professor in 1980. He made major conceptual advances in the field and would later publish a book on the process that has now become the bible for the science of growing LED crystals.
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