Friday, November 19, 2004

Discovery of New Metal Could Revolutionize Industry

November 19, 2004 - UVa Top News Daily by Fariss Samarrai

The term “cross-disciplinary research” had not crossed the minds of physicist Joe Poon or materials scientist Gary Shiflet when they first met in 1985. They just realized they had a common interest in “quasi crystals,” materials that have an unusual atomic structure.

At that first meeting, Shiflet was holding an overdue library textbook on phase transformation. Poon needed the book for a class he was teaching. They didn’t argue about it. Instead, they formed a collaboration that has continued ever since, and now includes other researchers from the College’s physics department and the materials science department at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“It was a natural fit for us to work together and share our knowledge and equipment and resources,” Shiflet said, “that’s why this collaboration has lasted so long.”

Besides, the two scientists like each other. “Our work has been very productive,” Poon said.
Ships’ hulls, surgical instruments and tennis racquets are just a few of the ways
 in which a new steel (below) could be used, said U.Va. researchers Joe Poon (left), 
Gary Shiflet (center) and Vijayabarathi Ponnambalam. 
The material could be available for commercial use within three to five years.

No doubt. Throughout the years, Poon and Shiflet have won several million dollars in grants for their investigations into novel materials. Early on, they received a grant from theOffice of the Vice Provost for Research, who at the time was Gene Block. “That academic enhancement grant from within the University kept us going before the big government funding came,” Poon said.

As a result of years of collaborative work, the research team has discovered a nonmagnetic amorphous material that is three times stronger than conventional steel and has superior anticorrosion properties.

A future variation of this material, called DARVA-Glass 101, could be used for making ship hulls, lighter automobiles, tall buildings, corrosion-resistant coatings, surgical instruments and recreational equipment. The scientists say commercial use of the wear-resistant material could be available within three to five years.

The material, made of steel alloys that possess a randomized arrangement of atoms — thus “amorphous” steel — was discovered by modifying an earlier version of amorphous steel known as DARVA-Glass 1, first reported by Poon and Shiflet at the Fall 2002 meeting of the Materials Research Society. This past spring they reported on the more advanced DARVA-Glass 101 in the Journal of Materials Research. A variety of popular newspapers and magazines covered the discovery, including the Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the United Press International, and have touted the material as the next big thing in steel. Scientific American magazine recently named Poon and Shiflet to its annual list of the top 50 outstanding research leaders in science and technology for the year.

“Amorphous steels can potentially revolutionize the steel industry,” Poon said.
The Defense Department is particularly interested. The project is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s research arm that supports investigations into seemingly futuristic materials and technologies, but with very real potential for applicability in the relatively near future.

“They have very high standards for success and progress and they are mission-oriented,” Poon said.

According to Poon and Shiflet, researchers have been making amorphous steel in very small quantities for years, but have had great difficulty “scaling up” the material to sizes large enough for practical use. Poon and Shiflet have succeeded in producing large-size amorphous steel samples that can be further scaled up in industrial labs for mass production. They achieved this by adding a small dose of a rare earth element — yttrium — to create DARVA-Glass 101.

The “glass” in the material’s name refers to the frozen liquid structure of the material, somewhat similar to glass that is a liquid made solid by rapid cooling. But DARVA-Glass 101 is an aluminum-based metal composite frozen to a solid state by rapid cooling.

The team is continually varying the recipe for its materials by adding a pinch of this element, a dash of that, and by trying different heating temperatures and cooling rates. They are always tweaking the product, “trying to fool nature,” as Shiflet puts it — always seeking to come up with something better and stronger.

Most of the lab work is done by co-investigator Vijayabarathi Ponnambalam, a U.Va. materials physicist. During the last two years, the team has produced more than 100 variations of their material on the journey toward the creation of DARVA-Glass 101.

“The problem with making a high-tech material is that, while nature gives you something, it also takes something away,” Shiflet said. “We have been able to achieve great strength and nonmagnetic properties for the material, but it is still somewhat brittle.”

They have a ways to go to achieve near perfection.

“Discovery is going on all the time,” Poon said. “We need to toughen the material more. We can always make it better.”

But discovery is not done randomly. The research team continually revises its strategies based on each new knowledge gained, and what they think may happen if they try something else — perhaps something outrageous. They also use computer models to make rational guesses about how a metal may respond to different temperatures or to the introduction of new elements.

“Unlike previous variations of amorphous steel, DARVA-Glass 101 can be produced in sizable quantities, and it can be machined as well as manipulated like a plastic. “It can be squeezed, compressed, flattened and shaped.” Poon said.

The material is of interest to the Navy for making nonmagnetic ship hulls, particularly for submarines, which are detectable by the magnetic field of their hulls. The amorphous steel that the U.Va. team is refining also may be useful for producing lighter but harder armor-piercing projectiles. The publicly traded company Liquid metal Technologies owns an exclusive license to the amorphous steel invented by the U.Va. scientists.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Gary Shiflet and Joseph Poon named "Research Leader" in Chemicals and Materials on the 2004 "Scientific American 50".

Nov 11, 2004 - Scientific American

Joseph Poon and Gary J. Shiflet
Poon, professor of physics, and Shiflet, professor of materials science, University of Virginia

Created amorphous steel that could strengthen skyscrapers and armor-piercing rounds.

The strength of conventional steel is limited by defects that inevitably pop up in the crystalline organization of its atoms. Joseph Poon and Gary Shiflet and their colleagues devised amorphous steel that lacks those defects because it has randomly arranged molecular bonds. The resulting metal has triple the strength of its crystalline counterpart and better corrosion resistance. Although scientists have created amorphous alloys in the past, Poon and his team reported in the May 2004 Journal of Materials Research a way to make amorphous steel in bulk. The secret was adding the element yttrium, which discourages crystallization as the molten steel solidifies. The metal can then be cast in molds or shaped in the same way plastic can. Separately, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory also reported making amorphous steel in bulk. Intriguingly, both steels are nonmagnetic, which has raised the U.S. Navy's hopes of using the material in submarine and other hulls that could evade magnetic sensors.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

U.Va. Patent Foundation Honors Haydn N. Wadley

May 19, 2004 -- UVA Top News 

The University of Virginia Patent Foundation has named materials scientist Haydn N. Wadley the 2004 Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year. The award, which consists of a plaque and a check for $10,000, was bestowed May 17 at a dinner in Wadley’s honor at Charlottesville’s Boar’s Head Inn.

Wadley, a faculty member at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science since 1988, was recognized for his path-breaking research, which has led to numerous patents (both issued and pending) for innovative materials with applications in the defense and transportation industries, and for his entrepreneurial spirit.

“In selecting a candidate for this award, the Patent Foundation’s faculty advisory committee considers a number of criteria, including researchers’ scholarship and innovations, and the novelty and potential impact of their inventions on human welfare,” said committee chairman John C. Herr, director of the University’s Center for Research in Contraceptive & Reproductive Health and himself the winner of the 1999 award.

In its deliberations, the committee also weighed candidates’ efforts to transform a research question into a commercial product, he said.

“Haydn is a good example of a 21st-century, university scientist who maintains his intense focus on fundamental research, while appreciating the practical importance of the technology he is developing,” said Robert S. MacWright, executive director of the U.Va. Patent Foundation. “His work has the potential to make significant contributions both to the U.S. economy and to our national defense.”
Herr noted that potential contributions to the local economy also were a factor in the decision.

“Haydn is an example of an inventor who is working in an entrepreneurial way to form Virginia companies to keep his technology in Charlottesville so the local community can benefit,” he said.

Wadley currently has 25 patent applications at varying stages of approval, said Alan Bentley, Patent Foundation assistant director. The U.S. Patent Office can take up to five years to issue a patent, particularly when the applicant plans to secure international, as well as domestic, intellectual property protection, he said.

So far, the U.S. Patent Office has issued three patents for Wadley’s inventions, including two that relate to a new method of applying metal and ceramic coatings to various metal surfaces. The method, dubbed “atomic painting” by MacWright, can be used for coatings needed to protect industrial equipment against wear, corrosion and heat, among other purposes. James Groves, assistant professor in the U.Va. Department of Materials Science, is the co-inventor.

The “atomic painting” patents serve as the basis of one local start-up company, Directed Vapor Technologies International Inc., which was established in 2000 by Wadley’s researchers and associates.

James S. Ross, a Harvard Business School graduate, former Chrysler Corp. executive and former president of the U.Va. Patent Foundation, also was among the founders of DVTI and a second company, Cellular Materials International Inc., Wadley said.

CMI, which was established in 2001, centers on an entirely different group of research findings from Wadley’s labs.

These findings involve the development of new metallic structures that offer various combinations of attributes, such as strength, lighter weight, heat and cold exchange, and blast or impact absorption. The company is currently exploring the capabilities of two types of “cellular materials” – the first, a porous metal material; and the second, a material similar in concept to a sandwich, which has an exterior of two solid sheets of metal enclosing a metal mesh interior.

The cellular materials research, which received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, and the DOD’s Office of Naval Research, has potential applications in the defense and automotive industries, among others, Wadley said.

Harry A. Burns, the former chief executive officer of Akzo Nobel Salt, a $500 million international manufacturing concern based in the Netherlands, serves as president and CEO of both companies, which share offices on Boar’s Head Lane and manufacturing facilities on Avon Street.

Most of the employees were hired locally and many hold doctoral degrees, Burns said. DVTI has about 12 full- and part-time employees, and CMI has about eight full- and part-time employees.

The jet engine operations of Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce plc, and the French aerospace corporation, SNECMA, are customers of DVTI and are currently testing DVTI’s advanced coatings process on aircraft engine parts, especially those subjected to high temperatures, such as turbine blades, Burns said. CMI likewise has contracts with Northrop Grumman Corp., United Technologies Corp., General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research, which are testing the new materials.

Along with the local economic benefits, Wadley said there is a practical reason to create start-up companies to develop the innovations coming out of his labs.

“The typical problem in spinning off technology from a research lab is that there is a gap between the point where we want to hand off the technology and where most companies would like to see it as a potential product,” he said.

The gap can range from two to five years, he said.
Wadley’s many titles include University Professor, Edgar Starke Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and senior associate dean for research at the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He also has served on the board of the U.Va. Patent Foundation, including a stint as chairman from 1997-2001.

Established in 1982, the Edlich-Henderson Inventor of the Year Award was named for Dr. Richard Edlich, formerly a professor of plastic surgery and biomedical engineering at U.Va., who conceived the program, and U.Va. alumnus Christopher J. Henderson, president and chief financial officer of Robbins & Henderson, a New York financial firm, who funds it.

The U.Va. Patent Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation affiliated with the University of Virginia that is responsible for licensing to business and industry the intellectual property discovered and created in U.Va. laboratories.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Rob Kelly receives 2004 All-University Teaching Award

April 2004 - Inside UVA by Robert Brickhouse

Demonstrating the University’s commitment to teaching excellence, the exemplary work of classroom teachers will be highlighted April 28 with the presentation of various awards at the University’s annual “In Celebration of Teaching” banquet.

Chosen from numerous nominations, each backed by heart-felt testimonials from students and colleagues, the honorees and their wide-ranging work inspire the whole University, said Marva Barnett, chairwoman of the faculty teaching awards committee and director of the Teaching Resource Center.

“Many of the winners this year make teaching contributions that extend beyond the classroom: by helping students feel comfortable in their courses, they make them more able to learn; by mentoring colleagues as well as students, they inspire learning at all levels,” she said.

Invariably described as demanding, caring and committed to students’ learning, the award-winners include junior and senior professors and graduate teaching assistants from throughout the University.

Several faculty members who have won other major teaching awards in the past few months also will be recognized. These include associate psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, who won the SCHEV/TIAA-CREF Outstanding Faculty Award — the annual statewide award for excellent teaching from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia — and two others who will hold distinguished teaching professorships supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Brian Balogh, Mayo Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, and Mark Edmundson, Daniels Family Distinguished Teaching Professor of English.

Robert G. Kelly
Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

“Analogies are powerful tools. It has been said that learning is simply remembering what we already know...Students learn best by doing. Outside the class the most powerful learning experience a student can have is his own research project. ... Learning is a two-way street. Students can sometimes see an aspect of the subject at hand that has eluded the teacher. ... Good preparation gives me freedom during class. ... Teachers can rely on each other for guidance. My colleagues serve as sounding boards for ideas and provide critical moral support."

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Leland D. Melvin ('91), 2004 Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate Award

Fall 2004 -Virginia Engineering

Several alumni, faculty, and staff were honored at the October 2004 Thornton Society Dinner with VEF Awards.

Leland D. Melvin (MSE ’91) was awarded the 2004 Young Engineering Graduate Award from the Virginia Engineering Foundation.

Leonid V. Zhigilei awarded NSF-NIRT (Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams) grant

Fall 2004 -Virginia Engineering

Ioannis Chasiotis (MAE) and Leonid V. Zhigilei (MSE) with three other collaborators from Case Western Reserve University and Michigan Tech were awarded an NSF-NIRT (Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams) grant. This is a four-year grant with an original total budget of $1.6 million, which has a focus on the experimental and computational study of biological and organic nanofibers

Matthews Family Contributes Additional Funds to Wilsdorf Hall

Fall 2004 - Virginia Engineering

The family of the late John W. Matthews, a former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia and a groundbreaking materials researcher, has pledged $500,000 in his memory to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. 

Professors Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and William Jesser,
Valerie Matthews and Dean James H. Aylor at the 2004
Thornton Society Dinner

Matthews, whose son is the rock music composer and performer Dave Matthews, was an IBM Corporation research scientist who had a long-term research affiliation with the Engineering School.The gift will support the construction of a connector between Wilsdorf Hall and the Chemistry Building. Wilsdorf Hall is an under-construction materials science building that will serve as a research and teaching facility. The building will also house conference rooms and faculty offices. Previously, the Matthews Family contributed $500,000 for construction of a 1,000-square foot laboratory in the building in honor of Mr. Matthews’ long relationship with the Engineering School and with Professors William Jesser and Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf.

Professors Elzey and Fitz-Gerald lead Wheelchair Translation Project

Spring 2004 - Virginia Engineering

The Wheelchair Translation Project group was confronted with a real-life problem here on Grounds this past fall: how to design a device allowing wheelchair users to navigate up and down stairs while avoiding the use of ramps.
Wheelchair project team
 In team fashion, students from the pilot classes taught by Professors Elzey and Fitz-Gerald designed, built and tested two separate wheelchair translation systems to solve the problem.