Louisiana Tech University and faculty from its College of Engineering and Science will play an important role in a new state-wide consortium that will focus on research and development of advanced manufacturing techniques based on metals and alloys.
Through a $20 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant recently awarded to the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Consortium for Innovation in Manufacturing and Materials (CIMM) will focus on two broad aspects of materials manufacturing: multi-scale replication and forming technologies, which are used to produce large numbers of components with features that range from microns to millimeters and beyond with high fidelity and repeatability, and adaptive manufacturing of small numbers of application-specific structures using laser-based 3D printing.
Dr. Ramu Ramachandran, executive associate dean for research in Louisiana Tech's College of Engineering and Science, is a co-principal investigator of the CIMM.
"This grant will boost Louisiana's competitiveness in advanced manufacturing, a high priority area for national investments and one that promises to create many high-paying jobs," said Ramachandran. "Our outstanding faculty and the physical infrastructure provided by the Institute for Micromanufacturing will contribute greatly to the success of this project."
Along with Ramachandran and 10 other Louisiana Tech faculty members, researchers from Louisiana State University, University of New Orleans, Grambling State University and Southern University are involved in CIMM. Louisiana Tech will receive $4.3 million from the NSF and Board or Regents as part of the consortium.
The CIMM is a five-year collaborative effort between the member institutions, which builds on prior NSF investments in the state that formed the Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications (LA-SiGMA). LA-SiGMA's focus was on building multi-institutional teams working on computational materials science, and making effective use of the next generation of heterogeneous, multicore and hyper-parallel cyberinfrastructure. Ramachandran serves in a leadership capacity for the LA-SiGMA project as one of four co-principal investigators.
The CIMM's research efforts will be complemented and supported by statewide activities in education and workforce development relevant to manufacturing that involve high school and community college students and teachers as well as summer research programs for undergraduates.
The overarching goal of the CIMM is to accelerate manufacturing technology development by combining supercomputer modeling and simulation with physical experimentation. Support for the computational research will be provided by the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI). Computational modeling of materials has tremendous advantages because many of the preliminary investigations can be conducted virtually and safely, greatly speeding up discovery time and testing of novel materials.
Ramachandran says that this, in fact, is the basic premise of the Materials Genome Initiative launched by the White House in 2011, with the goal of making materials discovery "cheaper, faster, and safer" by integrating computational and experimental research in materials science.