We are delighted to welcome you to the web site of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at the University of Tennessee (UT). This site provides you with information about research, teaching, and service activities of our faculty and students. We also provide MSE course information and we introduce you to all of our departmental staff and students. Thank you for taking an interest in UT-MSE!
MSE faculty and students talk about unique opportunities for students studying at UT.
(Click here to download our department's video)
One of the key holdups in the march toward more efficient sustainable energy could soon be answered thanks, in part, to UT researchers.
The College of Engineering's Alexander Papandrew and Gerd Duscher are part of a broader Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led team that recently received a $2.75 million Department of Energy grant for work on improving fuel cells, $1.4 million of which went to their project.
The basic premise of their work is to find a far more efficient way to turn chemical energy—in this case natural gas—into electrical energy. "Current methods typically involve burning the gas to run a turbine in order to generate electricity, and then transporting the electricity," said Papandrew, a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "We believe that is an inefficient way of going about it. "We're interested in converting natural gas directly to electricity using fuel cells. If we can improve our cells in the ways and to the levels that we hope to achieve, it could fundamentally change the way we get power."
Papandrew and Duscher, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have set a goal of improving current efficiency by 30 percent. To get there will take a major leap forward in technology and capability, something the kind of grant they are working under was intended to do.
DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, grants are designed to reward major shifts in research and design. It's a designation that brings plenty of both possibilities and challenges.
"They hold the work to high standards, and they fully expect that you come up with cutting-edge solutions," said Papandrew. "You have to produce concrete, real-world ideas and prove that they work. That carries risk, but it can be very rewarding whenever a new approach comes forward to tackle problems."
For the UT-ORNL team, that new approach is the way that they looked at electrodes and catalysts.
Catalysts speed up the reactions converting chemical energy into electrical energy. In an electrode, catalysts are integrated with an electrolyte that conducts ions and an interconnect that conducts electrons to form a circuit.
Platinum is currently used as the catalyst in many electrochemical devices. In this case, it is present in costly amounts that leave significant room for improvement, as the team sees it. For its design, ORNL is providing the nanostructure "scaffolding" surrounding the UT-provided electrolytes.
The devices the team is testing are the size of a coin but the internal structures that they are engineering are significantly smaller. So small, in fact, that Duscher uses ion beams to slice sections bit by microscopic bit.
"Working together with ORNL, we've been able to come up with a concept that should improve output by almost one-third, while at the same time seeing a tenfold reduction in the amount of platinum we have to use," said Papandrew. "That's the kind of game-changing technology we hope and think we can provide."
As far as what the long-term implications of such a drastic improvement could mean, Papandrew pointed out how such a field shift could affect the way people power their houses.
By being able to take their cells and group them in housings roughly the size of a pillow—it would be possible to power an average-sized house via natural gas delivered by pipeline or stored in a tank on the premises. Not only that, but the heat generated by the process could also be used in the home.
It's an application that could prove useful not only for homeowners, but campers, hunters, military and emergency personnel and those in developing countries or in areas without established power grids.
As a joint faculty appointee, David Mandrus conducts materials
synthesis research at ORNL and the University of Tennessee.
An idea for a new way to test some of the smallest pieces of our planet has earned a large award—more than $2.2 million to be exact—from the National Science Foundation for a pair of UT professors in the College of Engineering.
George Pharr and Erik Herbert, both of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, helped come up with the concept for the "Development of and Broad-Based Materials Research with the Next Generation Nanomechanical Testing Laboratory" along with Warren Oliver of Nanomechanics Inc.
"This is a huge coup for our university, especially because it comes in the highly competitive realm of proposals worth more than one million dollars," said Kurt Sickafus, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. "This award and the work accomplished with it has the potential to impact advanced materials research across the world."
Their idea, in the simplest of terms, seeks to address the next generation of nanomaterials studies by looking at what tools will be needed and doing so with a wide-ranging appeal across their field.
By making sure that technological advances are both applicable and open to such a large swath of materials scientists, everything from fuel cell research to designing more earthquake-resistant structures could be affected.
"The testing system we will develop will be the only one of its kind in the world and will allow us to test nano-sized objects at temperatures up to 1,100 degrees Celsius," said Pharr, who is a joint UT -Oak Ridge National Laboratory professor. "By obtaining data with high precision and at extremely high rates we can determine the strength of many of the small-scale objects that are fueling the nanotechnology revolution.
"Our data will be key to the successful development of many next-generation nano-devices." The team wants to create summer workshops for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and will partner with a local small business, Nanomechanics Inc, to commercialize the new technology.
More than 70 percent of the funding—$1.54 million—will come through the NSF's Major Research Instrumentation program, with the remainder coming through UT. "In addition to developing and building the next-generation nanomechanical testing platform, we get to do it working alongside a number of the best and brightest minds in our field," said Herbert. "We hope to develop advancements in our understanding of the fundamental aspects of materials, from elasticity to conductivity."
"This has been a dream of mine seventeen years in the making." The project will last five years and will be housed in the Joint Institute of Advanced Materials at UT when complete.
Mandrus, of the College of Engineering's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, recently was chosen by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as a Moore Synthesis Investigator, a highly selective honor that carries with it $1.7 million in funding.
If the breakthroughs Mandrus is studying come to fruition they could revolutionize everything from appliances to computing, as his work focuses on using both the charge and spin—the intrinsic magnetism—of electrons to shape the future of electronics.
"The idea is to control electrons using magnetic fields as well as electric fields," said Mandrus. "This will lead to new device concepts and a new generation of electronic devices that require very little power to operate."
Mandrus is a specialist in the discovery and growth of new quantum materials, which he says "are the engine that drives progress in condensed matter and materials physics."
These materials encompass both topological and strongly correlated electronic phases, and are interesting because they often display striking and unexpected phenomena that challenge our fundamental understanding of matter and can lead to revolutionary new technologies.
"It is our job to keep theorists awake at night," Mandrus laughed. "I'm thrilled to be chosen to help lead efforts forward."
In simplistic terms, Mandrus's work involves the study of conductive materials at increasingly smaller scales, to the point of being nanoscopic.
Mandrus will also be working to create magnetic semiconductors that will be compatible with a new push toward two-dimensional semiconductors.
By exploiting the magnetic properties and adding them to "traditional" electronics, the amount of data flow increases, while the amount of power and thermal output decreases.
It is that work on the cutting edge of technology that led to his recognition by the Moore foundation.
"This is a prestigious designation and it speaks to the amount of respect they have for his work," said William Dunne, associate dean for research and technology in the College of Engineering. "This isn't something you can apply for, but rather something where they ask you to submit a proposal.
"Even getting to that point is an honor, but for them to choose you is very special."
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was founded to help nourish ideas ranging from science and environmental conservation to patient care by investing in research and development.
For more information on the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, visit moore.org.
College of Engineering associate professor Claudia Rawn has been named a 2014 ASM International Fellow, earning one of the highest honors attainable in her field.
"I'm thrilled," said Rawn, a faculty member of theDepartment of Materials Science and Engineering. "To join the other colleagues of mine in the department who have been made fellows is a tremendous honor."
Rawn is the third member of the department to be honored in the last seven years, but her participation with ASM, formerly the American Society for Metals, goes back much further. She first began working with the group as a student before switching organizations during postdoctoral study.
After that brief time away, Rawn became reacquainted with the group after coming to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1997, then even more so once she joined the UT staff a decade ago.
"Being made a fellow brings it back around to where I started as a student," said Rawn.
Since that time, she has helped out with projects, camps, contests, and conferences, and is active in a number of different roles on campus.
She is director of the Center for Materials Processing and a member of both iBME, the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, and JIAM, the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials. She has helped organize her department's Materials Camp since 2004.
ASM started its fellows program in 1969 to help recognize specific achievements or contributions to the field of materials science.
In Rawn's case, the award stems from her work using in situ X-ray and neutron diffraction to study a variety of novel energy materials from superconductors to gas hydrates. She, and other members of this year's class, will be formally inducted at an Oct. 14 meeting in Pittsburgh.
While the honor itself is nice, being recognized in front of her peers validates a lifetime of giving back to her field.
"I have a lot of pride in what we do, and I know a lot of the people in the organization," said Rawn. "There's no other way to say how much it means. It's just a thrill."
Congratulations for all your great accomplishments from all of us students, faculty,
and staff of the MSE Department!
Dr. George Pharr, Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Joint Faculty Scientist in the Materials Science and Technology Division at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has been named to the National Academy of Engineering. He becomes the fifth NAE member in the College of Engineering. Pharr, who is also director of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Advanced Materials and McKamey Professor of Engineering, has been elected for his "development of methods for determining mechanical properties of materials by nanoindentation." Read more >>
Mariya Zhuravleva, assistant research professor of materials science and engineering, was recently named principal investigator on a $2 million 5-year grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Her research addresses a grand challenge in border security by developing crystal growth technology aimed at enabling the production of large size gamma-ray scintillators with superior energy resolution. The properties of currently available materials limit the performance of detection systems. For most gamma and neutron detection applications, these materials must be available in large size at a reasonable cost while maintaining the required energy resolution to unambiguously identify various nuclear signatures. New fundamental understanding of the materials properties of recently discovered scintillators will be coupled with numerical simulations of fluid flow and heat/mass transport to drive the design of new crystal growth furnaces and new growth protocols aimed at demonstrating the potential of large scale production. The effort will focus on recently discovered scintillators that appear to have inherent advantages for large-scale production. A key strategy of the program is the tight integration of research and education that will provide opportunities for students to develop a deeper knowledge, expertise, and appreciation of this critical field.
Carlos Gonzalez is an MSE- PhD candidate who dreams of someday being a professor at a small college. Listening to the comments of the people he has worked with, it definitely sounds like he has all the right stuff. Since beginning work on his doctorate in 2010, Gonzalez has mentored seven materials science and engineering undergraduate researchers on a variety of projects. They all agree his passion for the field is contagious. "Carlos' drive and joy for learning are inspirational," says student Joe Ulrich. "He makes you want to love the work, and having someone like him to guide you is vital to enjoying an internship." Read more about Carlos here
D. Joshua Burgess is a UT-MSE Ph.D. candidate in the Materials Joining Group. He is an American Welding Society (AWS) certified Level III Expert welder with over seven years welding experience. Mr. Burgess is a two time Tennessee State Champion welder and ranked 3rd in the nation at the Skills USA National Welding Conference. While competing in the U.S. Weld Pre-Trials for a chance to represent the United States in the World Skills competition, he became interested in the science behind welding and decided to pursue a college degree in a welding related field. Mr. Burgess received his B.S. in MSE in 2009 and his M.S. in Welding Metallurgy in 2011. Josh is currently serving as Chairman for the local North East Tennessee American Welding Society (AWS) Section and recently elected to be the AWS District 8 Director for 2014-2017.
Click here to learn more about Josh Burgess.
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System