It is with deep sadness we share with you the news of the sudden passing away of our beloved and distinguished colleague and friend, Professor Raj K. Rajamani on the late evening of Thursday, Aug 12. Raj, as he is affectionately called, was an outstanding intellectual mind. He was a highly skilled scientist, an excellent engineer, a dedicated philanthropist, and above all, one of the nicest, compassionate, thoughtful, and humble persons. Raj was a cornerstone of our Metallurgical Engineering program at the University of Utah for more than 40 years and will be greatly missed by his colleagues in the department and in our professional community.
Raj received his Ph.D. at the University of Utah and joined the Metallurgical Engineering faculty in 1979. As a faculty member for more than four decades, he was an excellent teacher and a creative researcher, and he made several significant contributions in comminution, hydrocyclone classification, and was the inventor of a new eddy current separation technology.
Raj was the pioneer in the application of the “Discrete Element Method” in the modeling of charge motion in tumbling mills and lifter design for Ag/SAG and Ball mills. He made great contributions to the computational fluid dynamics modeling of hydrocyclones and pulp lifters of tumbling mills. Notably, his research on the fundamental understanding of grinding efficiencies of overflow and grate discharge ball mills was successfully applied in the industry. He developed the first DEM code for mills called “Millsoft” in the early 1990s which led a revolution in the use of simulations for mining. In 2013 he took this further by applying the latest GPU technology with the Blaze-DEM software. In July 2021 the DEM team that he was leading received an NVIDIA inception start-up award for work on advancing automation in milling.
Most recently, his successful research included contributions on high pressure grinding and ground-breaking innovations in electrodynamic sorting (EDX) of light metals and alloys that has attracted worldwide attention and several million dollars in funding from ARPA-e/DOE. EDXTM technology for electrodynamic sorting of metals now being commercialized was his most personally satisfying contribution to society as it addressed the recycling of our key metal resources. Raj supervised the research of more than 30 graduate students over his career and was recognized for his contributions to our profession with the Antoine M. Gaudin Award presented by the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) in February 2009. The citation for his award was, “For his seminal work in the application of discrete element methods in the modeling of charge motion in semi-autogenous and ball mill grinding, and for his contribution to the basic science of comminution and classification.” Other awards include the SAG High Flyer Award in 2001 for outstanding contributions toward the development of autogenous and semi-autogenous grinding technology, the 1995 Mellow Met Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, and the 2018 Utah Innovations Award in recognition of Electrodynamic Sorting of Light Metals and Alloys (EDX). Raj made many contributions to our profession and had a great career at the University of Utah. We will dearly miss our special friend and wonderful colleague.
Whether it was metallurgy, tennis, art, or the Buddhist philosophical tradition, Raj was incredibly passionate and disciplined about mastering any endeavors he took on. Above all, his family was the center of his universe, and his contributions there far outweigh all others. As we mourn his loss, we keep Raj’s wife Sudha, and two daughters Preetha and Vidya in our thoughts.
We are in touch with the family to plan a “Celebration of Raj’s Life” event. We will share information as appropriate from the family as it becomes available.
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.
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.
SALT LAKE CITY — Materials Science & Engineering Professor, Dr. Feng Liu, was named an Outstanding Referee for 2021 by the Physical Review journals. Dr. Liu is one of only 151 faculty members worldwide to be bestowed with this honor this year. This Outstanding Referee honor is a lifetime award and recognition.
Instituted in 2008, the Outstanding Referee program expresses appreciation for the essential work that anonymous peer reviewers do for our journals. Each year a small percentage of our 78,400 active referees are selected and honored with the Outstanding Referee designation. Selections are made based on the number, quality, and timeliness of referee reports as collected in a database over the last 40 years.
For a list of the 2021 honorees please click here.
Congratulations to University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Ashutosh Tiwari, who was elected a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Senior Member for 2021. He is one of 63 luminaries from 36 institutions named to this year’s class and the only one from Utah.
“It is a great honor to be elected to the National Academy of Inventors as a Senior Member. Though this recognition has been granted to me, it was not possible without the creativity and high-quality research performed by my numerous students and postdocs over the last one and half decades,” said Tiwari. “I am also thankful to the College of Engineering and the University of Utah’s PIVOT Center for providing a conducive environment for high-quality research and innovation.”
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.
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.
Since the dawn of history, the materials available to man have defined the very substance of society. The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and eventually to the Iron and Steel Ages. We now enter the Information Age where technologists must balance a dynamic harmony between traditional approaches and transformational new tools. In this fascinating talk, Dr. Taylor Sparks will explain how he is working to reduce the trial and error of new materials discovery.
Dr. Taylor Sparks is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah. He is originally from Utah and an alumni of the department he now teaches in. He did his MS in Materials at UCSB and his PhD in Applied Physics at Harvard University and then did a postdoc in the Materials Research Laboratory at UCSB. He is currently the Director of the Materials Characterization Lab at the University of Utah and teaches classes on ceramics, materials science, characterization, and technology commercialization.
His current research centers on the discovery, synthesis, characterization, and properties of new materials for energy applications. He is a pioneer in the emerging field of materials informatics whereby big data, data mining, and machine learning are leveraged to solve challenges in materials science. When he’s not in the lab you can find him running his podcast “Materialism” or canyoneering with his 3 kids in southern Utah. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
The National Science Foundation has awarded $1,635,591 to scientists from the University of Utah and a collaborator from University of California, Los Angeles, to research one of the biggest hurdles to quantum computing—the quantum logic units, or “qubits,” that carry information. The award is one of 19 Quantum Idea Incubator grants totaling $32 million funded this year as part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Quantum Leap, one of NSF’s “10 Big Ideas” that represent bold, long-term research ideas at the cutting-edge of science and engineering.
The U-led project, “Quantum Devices with Majorana Fermions in High-Quality Three-Dimensional Topological Insulator Heterostructures,” was funded through an initiative called the Quantum Idea Incubator for Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems (QII – TAQS). QII – TAQS supports interdisciplinary teams that will explore innovative, transformative ideas for quantum science and engineering.