Missouri S&T – News & Events – Missouri S&T Investigates Ceramic Processing in $1.4 Million Project

When you order fries at McDonald’s, you expect them to taste the same in Missouri as they do in Montana. This kind of consistency is what Missouri S&T researchers are trying to achieve in processing ultra-high temperature ceramics for hypersonic vehicles. Missouri S&T is collaborating on the project with researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Pittsburgh. The Air Force Office of Science and Research is funding the research with a $1.4 million grant.

“Ceramics are particularly sensitive to processing conditions,” says Dr. Bill Fahrenholtz, Conservator Emeritus Professor of Ceramic Engineering at Missouri S&T. “One of the needs of this project is to understand how differences in composition or processing conditions lead to differences in the final product so that we can achieve the same results every time.”

Fahrenholtz and his colleagues at Missouri S&T have been researching ceramic materials for extreme environments for more than 20 years. He says his team’s role in the hypersonic project is to fabricate ceramic materials and intentionally add impurities or change the microstructure and composition, change the production time or vary the particle size in the ceramic powder. Fahrenholtz says the goal isn’t to eliminate defects, but to figure out how to produce a consistent product.

“The core team at UC Davis will perform sophisticated microstructural characterization to see at several microns how changes we make in processing conditions affect the internal structure of ceramic parts,” says Fahrenholtz. “They will use tools that allow 3D analysis of the microstructure.”

Fahrenholtz says the University of Pittsburgh team will perform statistical analysis to determine which processing factors are important and help identify critical steps in the production process. He says the analysis will save manufacturing time and give the Air Force a methodology that could be applied to at least all ceramic materials and perhaps a wider range of manufacturing materials.

“Collaboration is important,” says Fahrenholtz. “No person or institution could manage this type of project. It really requires a team of people with very different skill sets.

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university with more than 7,200 students. Part of the University of Missouri’s four-campus system and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 fields of study and is among the top 10 universities in the nation for return on investment, according to Business Insider. S&T is also home to the Kummer Institute, made possible by a $300 million gift from Fred and June Kummer. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu/.

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