Gupta and Porfiri receive NSF grant

Assistant Professors Nikhil Gupta and Maurizio Porfiri of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering have received a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new class of functionally graded composite materials. This collaborative project will develop a new type of hollow particle-filled composite material, called functionally graded syntactic foam, containing very high damage tolerance and energy absorption. These materials are also expected to have better dimensional stability under a variety of environmental conditions, which is essential for high technology applications.

The new materials developed in this project are expected to have significant implications in a variety of fields, including defense, biomedical and construction. Some of the examples of the future possibilities include development of new armors, development of artificial bone segments closely mimicking the properties of natural bones, and highly damage tolerant aerospace structures. These possibilities can become independent research initiatives in the future.

Gupta’s research group, the Composite Materials and Mechanics Laboratory, will lead the experimental work on design, fabrication and characterization of these advanced lightweight composite materials. Porfiri’s research group, the Dynamical Systems Laboratory, will lead the modeling and theoretical analysis part of the project.

The project integrates education with research experience at all levels including high school, undergraduate and graduate students. The proof of concept study was first initiated by Gupta with the help of an undergraduate student, William Ricci ‘06. They published a paper in Materials Science and Engineering A that demonstrated the superiority of FGSFs over other composite materials. The project was extended by doctoral student Sandeep Kumar Gupta and high school student Benjamin Mueller to understand the properties of such composites under bending conditions

Mueller is a junior at Great Neck North High School who worked in Nikhil Gupta’s laboratory in the summer of 2006. He won the Herbert Hoover Young Engineer Award for his work. He also won first prize in the Long Island Science Congress physics competition, and the Long Island Science Education Leadership Award. He and Sandeep Kumar Gupta are coauthors with Nikhil Gupta in a paper that is scheduled to appear soon in Materials Science and Engineering A.

The team plans to continue involvement of students at all levels and organize various outreach activities under this project.