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What's Next for MSE - From Ceramics to Nanotech, with David Bahr and Team: Part II

by William Schmitt

This second episode of the two-part visit to the School of Materials Engineering (MSE) remains centered on the overview provided by David Bahr, PhD, head and professor and head of materials engineering. Again, comments from other faculty members with special areas of innovative expertise are interspersed throughout the conversation with Bahr.

Bahr told us ceramics are wide-ranging, from coffee mugs to glass windows to temperature-resistant materials for advanced applications. The complexity of making this last group of ceramics has prompted new research on more cost-effective, smaller-scale “additive manufacturing” of ceramics. These processes are akin to additive manufacturing of polymers and the 3D printing techniques increasingly common in workplaces.

Professor Rodney Trice, mentioned in the previous episode, spoke of ceramics in the context of an urgent challenge now confronted in the defense arena. Materials for hypersonic missile flight must be extremely heat-resistant, as well as resistant to oxidation. Trice is part of a large community of industry and academic researchers pursuing ceramic innovation.

Professor Chelsea Davis exemplifies interest in measurement of adhesion strength between materials. One project for which she leads a team of students, along with Professor Kendra Erk, addresses the road-signage needs of the Indiana Department of Transportation. Davis has seen how MSE prepares students to work in a wide range of applications.

In another testimony to the variety of career paths for materials engineers, Bahr pointed out that one of the School’s faculty members, Professor Jan-Anders Mansson, will oversee Purdue’s new Ray Ewry Sports Engineering Center.

Bahr said the School’s comprehensive materials know-how fits well with the broad visioning taking place in the five Purdue Engineering Initiatives. Those PEIs are virtual structures for incubating innovations connecting principal trends in engineering to the College’s distinctive strengths for ongoing leadership.  

One early example of the intersection between MSE’s resources and the path toward top-priority impacts in engineering is nanoHUB, Bahr said. The international materials community has embraced the nanoHUB tools that were created by Purdue engineers. That places the School at the heart of planning for future applications of computational resources and data science.

Professor Alejandro Strachan is one representative of MSE’s early and ongoing momentum in using data to advance materials research. He said the ability to use predictive modeling based on physics has already helped to accelerate engineering. Bahr said the School and its extended community will continue to be a crucial part of the teamwork that makes Purdue a leader in engineering.

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Purdue College of Engineering