They call themselves the Wizards of Washburn, the men and women who perform feats of metallurgical magic in the laboratories of the Washburn Shops. It appears that their mystic skills may extend to research funding, as two major awards for metals work arrived recently, courtesy of the White House and the U.S. Army.
The Army award is the latest installment from a multi-million continuing agreement that is supporting research aimed at developing computational tools and new lightweight alloys that the military needs for its vehicles and systems. As the lead institution of a multi-university consortium, WPI received $2.1 million from the new $7.4 million award.
In part, the project will continue work on developing databases and modeling techniques that make it possible to predict the nanoscale properties of lightweight alloys (aluminum, titanium, and magnesium); to a large degree, these properties determine how the alloy will perform. WPI is also using these tools to develop and test new alloys for specific military applications.
“The military is looking to develop super-materials that can meet several needs at once,” says Richard Sisson, George F. Fuller Professor of Mechanical Engineering, director of WPI’s Materials Science and Engineering Program, and principal investigator for the Army award. “They want new alloys that are strong enough to be used structurally, tough enough to function as armor, and light enough to improve the mobility and fuel economy of vehicles.”