The groundbreaking research of Purdue materials engineering professor Michael Titus, who recently gained support from a prestigious National Science Foundation grant, is pursuing answers to this question. His probes of superalloys’ behavior at the level of their constituent atoms could lead to engines that consume less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases, possibly even to less costly air travel.
A five-year “NSF CAREER” grant of approximately $500,000 will allow Titus to further leverage the University’s newest equipment enabling new hypotheses, observation, computation and prediction related to a phenomenon that posed mysteries for decades. That is, the metal “deforms” slightly under the extreme heat produced inside turbines.
“My work tries to marry atomistic simulations and characterization techniques” to analyze the formation of platelets, only four atoms thick, inside the superalloys, Titus says. The atoms’ behavior, which might first be considered a weakness, actually “stabilizes the platelets and make them very strong”—even more resilient under intense conditions.
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