US National Science Foundation invests $72.5M to create advanced materials

October 20, 2023

A $72.5 million investment from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has been announced in an effort to support the design, discovery, and development of advanced materials required to tackle significant societal challenges. The Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) programme will finance thirty-seven four-year projects.

The DMREF programme brings together a diverse range of disciplines, including materials research, engineering, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. This interdisciplinary approach enables the programme to achieve outcomes that would not be possible through individual efforts. Additionally, DMREF projects involve partnerships with industry to facilitate the translation of technology and to provide training opportunities for the future US workforce in materials development and deployment.

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“By integrating numerous research disciplines across NSF as well as federal and industrial partnerships, this programme truly revolutionises the design, discovery and development of new materials for addressing urgent national needs,” stated Sethuraman Panchanathan, NSF Director. “Some of these have been used to formulate highly sensitive therapeutic proteins to mitigate the primary effects of spinal cord trauma, carbon dioxide capture to address climate change, and advanced quantum materials and semiconductors for powerful computation and communication needs, to name just a few.”

Some 161 researchers from sixty-one universities across thirty US states have been awarded DMREF funding, with a number of recipients utilising Additive Manufacturing in their work. These include:

Discovery, Development, Design and Additive Manufacturing of Multi-Principal-Element Hexagonal-Close-Packed Structural Alloys

University of California, Berkeley

The NSF awarded $1,781,906 to the University of California for this project looking to develop stronger and lighter alloys for low temperature structural applications, replicating the conditions encountered in space exploration. This project combines advanced materials theory, high-throughput computation and experiments with the tools of machine learning to accelerate the discovery and development of a relatively unexplored class of MPEAs in which the atoms of the alloy are arranged in a hexagonal pattern. The project focuses on alloys that can be fabricated through Additive Manufacturing, hence the alloys will be available for immediate technological applications because Additive Manufacturing offers great opportunities for rapid fabrication of components with complex geometries and tailored structures at the microscopic scale.

Simulation-informed models for amorphous metal Additive Manufacturing

Johns Hopkins University, University of Wisconsin and Washington University.

The $700,000 DMREF project looks to develop the underlying materials science and computational tools to enable design of additively manufactured amorphous metals with desired mechanical properties, including strength and toughness. Amorphous metals, also termed metallic glasses, have potential as a transformative material for Additive Manufacturing applications. Amorphous metal Additive Manufacturing is promising for both superior structural homogeneity compared to crystals and for overcoming cooling-rate limitations for casting larger structures. However, the reheating associated with layer-by-layer processing results in material with a complex thermal history and spatially varying mechanical properties. The simulation-informed modelling undertaken by the research team is the first step toward a simultaneous design approach for achieving target materials properties and performance.

GOALI: Multimodal design of revolutionary additive-enabled oxide dispersion strengthened superalloys.

Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Air Force Research Laboratory and GE Research.

$1,957,843 was awarded to for this project to develop new knowledge and strategies for creating metallic materials for ultra-high temperature applications. These applications are believed critical for improving the efficiency of jet engines in aerospace and turbines for land-based power plants and will also lead to reduction of harmful carbon emissions. The new materials to be created and studied are based on the concept that metals can be reinforced by uniformly distributing a small amount of ceramic oxide phases throughout the metallic matrix.

A new way to create these oxide-dispersion-strengthened (ODS) metal alloys will be pursued, using an approach pioneered by collaborators at NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC). In this AM approach, a moving laser melts and solidifies the metal and oxide powder, building up the material layer-by-layer. The project looks to further improve these materials by using additional strategies for strengthening the metals.

The full list of awardees can be seen here.

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