May 24, 2017 | By Tess

Tresa Pollock, a scientist at UC Santa Barbara, has been awarded a $3 million grant which will go towards funding her advanced materials research project. More specifically, Pollock’s project is seeking to develop a 3D printing platform that will enable the discovery of advanced materials for extreme conditions. These materials could be used to build such things as rockets, aircraft engines, and even hypersonic flight vehicles.

Tresa Pollock

(Image: Matt Perko)

The $3 million given to the UC Santa Barbara researcher makes up one of thirteen 2017 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowships, which are given out by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The distinguished fellowship program is geared towards supporting scientists at American Universities who are conducting “high risk, high pay off” research in fields relevant to the DoD.

Obviously, materials research and advancement is one such field, especially in the area that Pollock is working in.

“Printing advanced materials into complex architectures on demand poses many technical challenges, and this fellowship will enable us to tackle what are currently limiting materials-science issues,” she explained. “The award builds on our previous research on crystal growth and solidification, 3D materials science, and alloy design. These intellectually challenging areas of research are highly suited to the talented Ph.D. students at UCSB.”

For her research, Pollock plans to use a specially developed electron and laser-beam tomography system as a base for establishing an open-source, highly automated laser-powder-processing platform, which could be used to either build up a material layer by layer (more or less your classic additive manufacturing), or in a “combinatorial chemistry mode” which would allow for different materials and combos to be tested.

The idea is to experiment with printing different metal powders and combinations of metal powders to achieve certain properties for a given function. So far, Pollock’s team has been able to work with six or seven metal powders, and they are hoping to increase that number by finding out more about what happens during the melting, blending, and vaporization that occur when the powders are being sintered.

UC Santa Barbara campus

“The grand challenges for making materials in this fashion are twofold and three-dimensional,” said Pollock. “We need to design material compositions in which defects will not form during melting and cooling within the cubic-millimeter pool, and we need 3D tools to examine the structure of that millimeter-scale volume of material at the nanometer scale to ensure that the structure is sound. The Vannevar Bush fellowship will enable us to focus on these two aspects of the printing problem.”

Pollock also said that the 3D printing platform her team is developing will enable them to study design spaces of “higher-dimensional” compositional materials in an unprecedented way. This means they will be able to ascertain information about the 3D printed material’s structure, chemistry, and crystallography.

The $3 million fellowship award will reportedly fund Pollock’s research project for the next five years.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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