Erik Thostenson’s fascination with composite materials grew out of his love for downhill skiing. “I was intrigued that the performance characteristics of various skis could be remarkably different, yet the skis themselves could look identical,” he says. “The same basic materials — graphite, carbon, and Kevlar — are used in most high-tech skis, but advanced composite technology enables mogul skis to be flexible while racing skis are stiff.”
Two decades later, Thostenson is still fascinated with these high-tech materials and their almost limitless potential to be tailored for applications far beyond high-performance skis. Now a professor affiliated with UD’s Center for Composite Materials, he recently received a prestigious five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate a new processing approach for novel multi-scale hybrid composites with functionally graded material properties. (read more)
Nanomaterials are tiny but mighty, offering the potential for use in a vast array of applications from fuel cells to drug delivery systems. Their size—the diameter of a nano-fiber is approximately one-thousandth that of a human hair—underlies both their power and the challenge of harnessing that power.
“Strange things happen when materials get that small,” says Erik Thostenson, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Delaware. “Exploiting the unique properties of nanomaterials requires a highly integrated approach involving scientists and engineers from diverse fields. For engineers to be well versed in nanotechnology, it’s crucial to introduce the topic early.” (read more)
In August 2007, the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The collapse was attributed to a design deficiency that resulted in a gusset plate failing during ongoing construction work. Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Delaware is developing a novel structural health monitoring system that could avert such disasters in the future.
Erik Thostenson and Thomas Schumacher have received a three-year $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the use of carbon nanotube composites as a kind of “smart skin” for structures. (read more)
Students Sweep SAMPE: Multifunctional Composites Lab takes first, second in international competition
Two undergraduate students from the Multifunctional Composites Lab at the University of Delaware won high honors at the 2011 SAMPE Student Symposium in Long Beach, Calif., May 23-26.
Zachary Melrose won a first place award for his work on “Damage Sensing in Adhesively-Bonded Composite/ Steel Joints Using Carbon Nanotubes.” Sarah Friedrich earned second place for her work on the “Influence of Calendering on Carbon Nanotube/ Polymer Composites for In Situ Damage Sensing.” (read more)
Cedric Jacob (left), a current Ph.D. student in the Multifunctional Composites Lab, and John Gangloff (right) won the Owens Corning International Composite App Challenge. Their winning concept, an integrated structural composite fuel cell, exploits the benefits of advanced composites to lower vehicle weight, increase power output, and significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing and assembly.
Jacob and Gangloff, both current Ph.D. students in mechanical engineering, received their undergraduate degrees at UD and were both undergraduate researchers in the Multifunctional Composites Lab. (read more)