Record Cold

As much of the country is experiencing record low temperatures, we are doing our part to make it a little worse. We completed the first round of testing on our cryoindenter, which was designed and fabricated in-house for the Army Research Lab. We converted a standard LECO microindenter to test samples at approximately -170 deg. Celsius (so far). This is easier said than done as the atmosphere has to be moisture-free and the operator can’t lose fingers to frostbite. Needless to say, both were addressed and we can now move on to warmer prospects, including recent modifications to our custom Hot Press.

Cryoindenter Setup         Temp/Humidity Monitor Cold Trap for Moisture Exhausting the LN2


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Something to write home about

The past several months have been busy for writing, and several publications have recently come out. We still have several more articles near submission, and a significant undertaking on an invited review article was recently accepted for publication. Well done to the students working on those projects. Not bad for working out of storage area! Hopefully that will be changing very soon. The plans for a dedicated lab renovation are in the final phase!

The papers published this semester include:

Solid State Porous Metal Production: A Review of the Capabilities, Characteristics and Challenges. Advanced Engineering Materials; ONLINE FIRST

Getting more porosity from metal powder foams through intraparticle expansion.


Multiscale design of nanofibrous carbon aerogels: Synthesis, properties and comparisons with other low-density carbon materials.

Effects of milling time on the development of porosity in Cu by the reduction of CuO.


Advancing commercial feasibility of intraparticle expansion for solid state metal foams by the surface oxidation and room temperature ball milling of copper.

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Going Off-Road with SME

The SME group has been planning to join the Baja SAE competition for a while now, but now it is official. The team is registered to compete for our first year in Mechanicsville, MD in April. Since we started this year without even space to work in, the fact that we have a garage, a trailer, a slew of new equipment, growing sponsorship and the frame is starting  to take shape, I think that is good progress. The primary driver of this progress has been Sam Brennan, president of the student group, and the many students involved have helped push this forward in a short time. We recently met with the local SME chapter in our department, and they have provided a generous donation to help us keep momentum. Sam and Lew Baum are pictured below, as is some recent progress on the frame (we just got tubing this week!). For more information or to get involved (as a student, sponsor, mentor, etc.), see the SME group’s Get Involved page.

For website

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Passed the Dandelion Test

Whether microlattices or carbon aerogels, ultralight materials are often perched atop dandelions or other plants to demonstrate just how light they are. Since the dandelions are growing like weeds right now (pun intended), it made sense to put some carbon nanofiber material on top of one. The material pictured has a density of 19.8 mg/cc (or about 99.1% air). The nice thing is that we can make higher density versions for applications other than holding down dandelion seeds. Check it out here.

carbon aerogel - like material on dandelion

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Turning Up the Heat

Many of the alloys we create are very hard to compact, even at 3 GPa, so a little temperature can go a long way. We have just completed a self-contained hot chamber for pressing under vacuum, argon or any other gas. The heater is controlled using a PID unit similar to most furnaces, and the 40 ton hydraulic press is programmable as well. Topped off (literally) with a small vacuum pump and mini gas tank for argon, we will be putting this thing through its paces on projects such as metallic foams and nanostructured press 2

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Built to Last

You might think a material that is 95% air would be weak. You might think the rest being entirely carbon would make it brittle. You might be wrong.

In ongoing testing on nonwoven carbon nanofibers created through the CoFFiN process (see this page), we’ve found the material to be surprisingly robust and a lot more fun than science gets credit for. The videos below show that a little liquid nitrogen goes a long way, and a lot of compression is no big deal.

Shot and edited by Joseph Wright.

Shot and edited by David Edwards.

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Up and Running

The new ITEC 281 project, a steam or air-powered “wobbler” engine, cleared its first semester, and though challenging, was rewarding as well. The end of the semester turned into a competition of sorts to see whose engine could operate at the lowest (or highest!) pressure. Though small, these little engines can reach some impressive speeds.

To see the demo I built in action, click here.

Elmer #25 Wobbler Engine


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Conference Season

It has been busy fall semester. Five of us made the trip to Baltimore for the Nano 2016 conference (Herald’s International Conference and Exhibition on  Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology). Congratulations to David for a job well done on his presentation, and it was a good experience for all of us. Roger presented at the 2016 Materials Science and Technology (MS&T) conference in Salt Lake City, UT as well as the PASSHE Undergraduate Research Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics here at MU. Also a great job and dedicated effort. We also had a good showing in the 16th Annual Fall Student Research Poster Display. You guys make the group look very good.

Looking forward to the future!

david conference

David at Nano 2016


Roger at PASSHE STEM Conference


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