Air Force Launches New Center at Johns Hopkins to Advance Structural Materials and Design for Aerospace Applications

The long-term goal is to produce lightweight, yet durable, components for future military aircraft, from fighter jets to surveillance drones.


“For example, turbine engines produce more thrust as an aircraft takes off and the higher loads and temperatures can produce changes in the dimensions of the components. This can cause all sort of problems — engine parts may hit the casing, setting off a fire,” said Ghosh. “In cases like that, we would try to find out how to increase the material’s thermal-mechanical stability so that it can perform at higher loads and temperatures.”

Researchers will construct three-dimensional representations of aerospace and engine materials, from atomic configurations and beyond. Virtual tests will be conducted with powerful computational models to determine, for instance, how cracks form, what causes materials to change shape and how well materials stand up to repeated loadings.

These computational models may bear some resemblance to those used in computational medicine, in which scientists test drugs and study medical disorders with software instead of living subjects. “The idea is that this allows you to cut down on expensive lab experiments,” Ghosh said. “In the computer you can mimic what real experiments can do.”

Although there will be a strong emphasis on virtual experiments, researchers will also be evaluating material properties using multi-scale testing methods on commercial alloys and polymer composites to ensure that the computer models are accurate.

The Air Force award for the new center will also provide funding for new educational opportunities. It is expected to support research that will involve more than a dozen doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and undergraduates annually.

Related links:

Whiting School of Engineering: http://engineering.jhu.edu/
Computational Mechanics Research Laboratory: http://www.ce.jhu.edu/somnathghosh/

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