UT Engineers Win Grant to Predict Materials’ Durability

KNOXVILLE — Two University of Tennessee engineering professors are leading a national team of educators in a $2.7 million effort to create mathematical models that will predict how long materials will last.

Drs. Peter Liaw and Raymond Buchanan won the grant from the National Science Foundation through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program. Liaw and Buchanan teach in the UT College of Engineering’s materials science and engineering department.

Drs. Peter Liaw and Raymond Buchanan

Drs. Peter Liaw and Raymond Buchanan

“The grant will provide an opportunity to develop models that more accurately predict the lifetimes of existing and advanced materials,” Buchanan said. “A material’s lifetime is how long it lasts before it fails, fractures or breaks.”

The grant, titled “Materials Lifetime Science and Engineering,” will provide 30 collaborators at nine institutions with support for 65 graduate students and 20 undergraduates over five years.

“We would like to predict the lifetime of structural components for jet engines, turbine components and bridges, which are subjected to cyclic loading in corrosive environments,” said Dr. Liaw. “Both conventional materials, such as steels and aluminum alloys, and other advanced materials, such as superalloys, intermetallics, and nanostructural materials, will be studied.”

Other participants include Lehigh and Rutgers universities, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Engineering Technology Center of Analysis & Technology Inc., Boeing, General Electric, Haynes International, and the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research in Taiwan.

A second objective of the program is to support U.S. citizens in the pursuit of the Ph.D. in materials lifetime science and engineering.

“This NSF grant program requires graduate students to be U.S. citizens,” Buchanan said. “It’s meant to encourage U.S. leadership in the development of new materials technologies.”