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Poly Professor and Student Team up to Design a New Material


Recognizing the limitations of existing composite materials, Dr. Nikhil Gupta , Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and recent Polytechnic graduate William Ricci, BS ’06, set out to create a new type of composite material with superior structural benefits. The results of their efforts were published in a leading journal of the field, Materials Science and Engineering A.

Functionally graded syntactic foams (FGSFs) are valued for their lightweight and high strength, and are used in structures such as ships, spacecrafts, and airplanes. However, the typical development of FGSFs can lead to the possibility of warping or premature fracture, so Gupta and Ricci developed a novel approach to create an enhanced material. The structure they designed is based on variation in the wall thickness of hollow particles instead of the more common approach of volume fraction variation. Gupta and Ricci found that the total energy absorption of the new FGSFs was about five times greater than that of the traditional materials. In addition, the newly developed material does not show evidence of fracture and displays the same strength up to approximately 70% compression. These results have important implications for enhancing the structural safety of aircrafts and other types of vessels.

William Ricci’s work on this project was supported by a Major Project Initiation grant from the Othmer Institute.

Article Citation:

Gupta, Nikhil & William Ricci. “Comparison of compressive properties of layered syntactic foams having gradient in microballoon volume fraction and wall thickness.” Materials Science and Engineering: A 427, 1-2 (2006): 331-342.

Available through Elsevier Science Direct.