Grants Advance Research into Composites to Protect Vehicles and Troops

Nikhil Gupta, an associate professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, has won grants from both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study magnesium matrix composites, lightweight materials that hold potential to revolutionize the production of military vehicles and armor.

Although magnesium has a high level of strength and enormous resistance to damage, it is much lighter than other materials in common industrial use—two-thirds the density of aluminum, for example, and just one-fifth the density of steel. Gupta hopes to ultimately develop naturally floating magnesium matrix composites with a density of less than that of water, while keeping the strength high.

Gupta’s DOE grant, totaling $150,000, comes under the auspices of the Small Business Innovation Research program and will fund collaborative work with the company Materials Modification, Inc. This work will develop ultra-lightweight composites for automotive applications. His one-year Army Research Lab award will provide $60,000 to further his work on a non-flammable magnesium alloy that was recently approved for use inside airline cabins.

Gupta—the winner of an ASM International (formerly the American Society for Metals) Silver Medal in 2013, which recognizes a career of distinguished contributions in the field of materials science and engineering—is widely acknowledged for his work on lightweight materials that are relevant to Army, Navy, and automotive companies.