UT will be part of a national effort, announced today by President Barack Obama, which could lead to more fuel-efficient cars and decreased costs for ships and aircraft.
Suresh Babu, UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing, and a team of faculty, will help lead UT’s research effort in the $140 million Detroit-based institute, called the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation, or LM3I—one of two institutes announced today.
The US Department of Defense–funded facility pairs together aluminum, titanium, and high-strength steel manufacturers with universities and laboratories pioneering new technology development and research for consumer products and defense capabilities.
“What they will be doing at this center could have a huge impact on our lives for decades to come,” College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis said. “For us, and for Dr. Babu, to be a part of that is a tremendous honor and a reflection of the quality of work that goes on here at the University of Tennessee.”
Today’s announcement fulfills the president’s pledge in his 2013 State of the Union Address to establish new manufacturing innovation institutes from existing resources. According to a release from the White House, putting a focus on lighter yet stronger materials will help “improve the performance, enhance the safety, and boost the energy and fuel efficiency of vehicles and machines.”
For example, a lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft could have more room to carry payload, key for the military and businesses, or to carry passengers, helping airlines and travelers around the world.
“This center is the best way to make sure that development and innovation aren’t stifled, and having it in one place allows people to come in and evaluate the technology, evaluate the economics, and figure out what best meets their needs and adapt to that,” said Babu.
According to Babu, the initiative allows UT to showcase its leadership in the realm of structural metals research including steels, aluminum, and titanium, something of importance to both UT and the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma.
“We already have a great deal of expertise and capability in aerospace materials like titanium,” Babu said. “We can bring our expertise to the group and help with modeling capabilities, with understanding what happens when you use them certain ways, and at the same time it helps establish us as the source of information on it. It’s a win-win for the university and the center.”
“This advanced manufacturing opportunity is strategically important for the University of Tennessee,” Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement, said. “This is just one example of our focus. Advanced manufacturing is critical to Tennessee and to our growing research and development collaborations with industry and government.”
Additionally, the use of new lighter materials could ease deployment by helicopter of military vehicles. It could also increase fuel efficiency while decreasing the overall fuel load required for larger vehicles, and help speed vehicles’ construction.
The consortium, led by Ohio-based EWI, includes nine universities, thirty-four companies including ALCOA Technology, and seventeen other groups.
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