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Particulate Materials Science & Processing 

Fabrication Science Applied to Discrete Engineering Components

The faculty conduct research and offer graduate courses (ME 543 Powder-Based Manufacturing, ME 596 Powder Injection Molding, ME 646 Mechanics of Sintering, and ME 696 Nanomaterials) on the fabrication science applied to discrete engineering components. Examples of discrete engineering components include oil well drilling tips made out of polycrystalline diamond, automotive hybrid electronics heat sinks made out of copper, low thermal expansion heat sinks made out of copper-tungsten, anti-armor projectiles made out of tungsten heavy alloys, neural and pressure sensors made out of titanium and nitinol respectively, and high performance rare earth magnets made out of FeNdB compositions. The fabrication of such components is largely associated with the many parameters and their interactions associated with taking the product from Powder Technology (powder, polymer, mixture of ingredients) and deciding on the compromise between cost and performance via the processing science - the compaction pressure, sintering time, sintering temperature, external pressure during pressing or sintering, heating rate, particle size, forming machine, sintering atmosphere, tool design, and means to measure properties. This fabrication process, in particular, and powder metallurgy, in general, competes as a technology with casting, machining, forging, and nowadays, additive manufacturing.

Transmission electron micrograph of multiwall carbon nanotubes and funcationalized MWCNTs
Transmission electron micrograph of multiwall carbon nanotubes (a) and funcationalized MWCNTs (b).

The goals are to rationalize new materials and applications to the body of knowledge on powder processing. New powder-based processing approaches that extend/enhance the current state of the art or open up new directions within powder processing science and technology are also being studied. What are very important science aspects are how to modify the surface wetting during liquid phase sintering to improve toughness, how to design the composite microstructure to maximize wear resistance while sustaining the lowest cost possible (and this includes the cost of component replacement), how to employ new polymers to modify the forming process such as in powder metal injection molding, and how to induce densification in sintering to attain maximum properties without loss of shape precision (that idea alone is a $10 billion issue for the cemented carbide industry).

The largest trend in powder metallurgy is global sourcing. Apple is the largest user of powder technology and all of their sintered components are sourced from China and Taiwan, Samsung from Korea, Motorola from Singapore and China, and even Google is relying on the technology for components using sources in Asia. Automotive production is largely relying on US based producers, but that is changing as one Taiwan company has opened a plant in Iowa (sales and demonstration in Iowa, production in Taiwan), as have German firms (Alabama, and Illinois), Spanish firms (Pennsylvania), Japanese firms (Indiana, North Carolina), and so on. Thus, the current research in this area is focused on the newer variants where there is still growth and employment and technical challenges in North America. A long-term plan is also to establish new processing approaches for adoption by the scientific and industrial communities.

Two former graduate students working in this area were employed by a company interested in tape casting for laminated tungsten-aluminum nitride heaters associated with microelectronics, one was hired by a manufacturer interested in porous sintered stainless steel, and one went to work in defense Research and Development. On the academic front, one recent Ph.D. recipient is now an Assistant Professor at another University teaching and doing research in the area of powder-based materials and processing

Titanium Dual Matrix Composite Microstructure Showing titanium Boride Whiskers
Titanium dual matrix composite microstructure showing titanium boride whiskers

Mechanics of Sintering

  • Research on fundamental aspects of spark-plasma sintering
  • Research on the fundamental aspects of sintering anisotropy
  • Application of sintering fundamentals for optimized design of material components for energy-related applications (solar and fuel cells, hydrogen storage, thermal management, novel nuclear fuel components)
  • Research on liquid-phase sintering affected by gravity

These projects are sponsored by NSF, DOE, U.S. Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), NASA, and General Atomics.

Long-term Plans:

  • The development of the multi-scale virtual reality framework for modeling sintering processes
  • The development of the general theory of field-assisted sintering processes
  • The establishment of the center for research on field-assisted sintering technologies

These directions reflect the modern demands of the current powder science and technology in the areas related to sintering. To achieve these goals, we plan to continue the research activities of the SDSU Powder Technology Laboratory in its interactions with governmental agencies and industrial companies to maintain its high reputation and to advance it further to the status of a world leader in fundamental sintering studies. The field-assisted sintering technologies are currently the most popular research domain addressed by the sintering research community; they open broad opportunities for sintering enhancement and control and for the manufacturing of novel materials with extraordinary properties. The unique position of the SDSU Powder Technology Laboratory (integrating the fundamental and applied research expertise) in this area is widely recognized by the world sintering community.

Mechanical Behavior of Particulate Materials

  • The goal of this project is the development of the multi-scale virtual reality framework for modeling high-temperature processing of multi-layered powder composites.

This project is sponsored by NSF’s Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF).

The long-term goals of the project are:

  • The development of the theory of the technological strength of the particulate materials during high-temperature deformation processing
  • The development of the constitutive models of high-temperature deformation of nano-particulate bulk materials

The development of such modeling frameworks is long overdue and is of strong industrial demand (specifically for the optimization of the manufacturing of ceramic powder components for alternative energy applications, such as fuel and solar cells).

 

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Smart Health Institute

SDSU awarded $10M NIH grant

ME Professor, Dr. Kee Moon is one of the PIs on a $10M NIH award entitled "Building Capacity and Infrastructue for Population Health and Health Disparities Research at San Diego State University".

1000 publications

1000+ Scientific Publications by SDSU Professor

Congratulations to Dr. Randall German, ME Professor, for exceeding the milestone of 1,000 scientific publications in powder-based materials and sintering, including 16 books. He is currently the most cited author in his field.

Olevsky-Multi-Layer-Sintering

Modeling Sintering Anisotropy

Dr. Eugene Olevsky has received a $630k NSF award to conduct a multi-scale fundamental investigation of sintering anisotropy.

This conceptual schematic shows a small particle solar receiver.

Concentrating Solar Power SunShot Research Award

Dr. Fletcher Miller is the PI on a $3.8M DoE grant for developing a Small-Particle Solar Receiver for High-Temperature Brayton Power Cycles.

Brain Picture

$18M NSF Engineering Research Center

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Dr. Kee Moon leads SDSU's efforts in the NSF Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. Partner Universities include UW and MIT.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering Job Opportunities

  

  • Part-Time Faculty (Lecturer) 
  • Instructional Student Assistant
  • Graduate Assistant
  • Teaching Associate