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Smooth Sailing

Sudarsanam Suresh Babu

Professor Babu

While aircraft, missiles and satellites now play
an important role for the US Navy, it still relies
primarily on ships, as it has for 242 years.

Those vessels are only as good as the resources used to build them, however, so if a particular material has design flaws or is prone to failure, it can prove costly for lives and national security as well as create major financial implications.

UT has placed an emphasis on becoming a leader in advanced manufacturing and advanced materials in recent years, with seven UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair appointments focused on those areas.

Suresh Babu, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing, recently received high validation for the work he has led, becoming the first from UT chosen to lead a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) in the 30-year history of the program. “To be leading the first team from UT picked to handle a MURI project is quite an honor,” said Babu. His team will focus on properties, defects, and instabilities in advanced manufactured alloys, an area of great importance to the US Navy, who backed his selection.

“This selection highlights the expertise that we’ve assembled in advanced manufacturing and materials as well as the strength and importance of our Governor’s Chair partnership with ORNL. The work Suresh and his team will do will directly impact national security,” said Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis.

Much is still unknown about the physical and thermodynamic properties of certain materials, limiting our ability to describe them through models. Babu and his team hope to better explore a number of physical processes that can affect the final product, including rapid heating and cooling of materials, and examine how physical properties at small scales might differ from those at greater scales.

Babu began working on the project through UT’s Office of Research and Engagement in 2017. His team includes Associate Professor Hahn Choo from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering as well as researchers from Virginia Tech, the Ohio State University, Iowa State University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the Colorado School of Mines.

An Australian team, led by Professor Simon Ringer at the University of Sydney, is also integrated into the project and includes colleagues from the University of New South Wales. The US universities will be sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, while the Australian Team will be sponsored by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

“This research will be crucial to all metal advanced manufacturing processes that use high energy deposition processes, all of which are relevant to US Department of Defense and manufacturing industries,”said Babu.

While the award will total roughly $1.5 million a year for three years, extendable up to five years, the impact of Babu’s research will last much longer and keep the Navy sailing smoothly for many more years to come.

By David Goodard