Research Areas

Processing and Fabrication of Materials

Faculty Involved: Dr. Bryan A. Chin, Dr. Jeffrey W. Fergus, Dr. William F. Gale, Dr. R.A. “Tony” Overfelt, Dr. Barton C. Prorok

Metalcasting represents a major area of materials engineering research, primarily through the efforts of the Auburn University/NASA Solidification Design Center. This research is extremely wide ranging in terms of both materials (ranging from conventionally cast steels and aluminum alloys; through single crystal nickel-based superalloys and refractory metals; to the design of castable structural intermetallic compounds) and scope (extending from the fundamental thermo-physical properties of casting alloys; through solidification science; to casting process development). Through this research, faculty address issues such as casting defects, ceramics applications, metal reactions and wettability.

Joining research represents another major component of MREC’s processing and fabrication research. The scope of this work ranges from the development of microjoining technologies, via transient liquid phase (TLP) bonding of advanced aerospace materials, to the automation of submerged arc welding for shipbuilding.

Adaptive Materials

Faculty Involved: Dr. ZhongYang Cheng, Dr. Bryan A. Chin, Dr. Jeffrey W. Fergus and Dr. William F. Gale

Sensors research is an interdisciplinary effort within the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, not to mention an area with a multidisciplinary scope within Auburn University. For years, MREC has been a driving force behind sensors-related research. A primary focus of this work is the development of biosensors for the detection foodborne pathogens and other biological hazards and contaminants.

Research in this area is in conjunction with the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center (AUDFS), a multidisciplinary effort identified as a Peak of Excellence by the university in 1999. Current work within AUDFS focuses on the use of acoustic wave sensors with a bacterial capture layer immobilized on the sensor surface (using Langmuir-Blodgett film deposition or other processes). Four of the center’s 13 researchers are from the Materials Engineering and Research Center; the remaining faculty represent the Colleges of Agriculture, Human Sciences, Sciences & Mathematics, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as other College of Engineering departments and research centers.

Work is also underway on the development of novel shape memory alloys and devices, as well as on a variety of electrochemical sensors, advanced batteries and phase change materials for energy storage.

High-Temperature Materials

Faculty Involved: Dr. Jeffrey W. Fergus, Dr. William F. Gale and Dr. R.A. “Tony” Overfelt

High-temperature materials — including structural intermetallics, ceramics, refractory metals and nickel-base superalloys — are another important area or materials research. This work focuses on both the design of new materials and determination of structure-property relationships in commercial materials.

Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites

Faculty Involved: Dr. Barton C. Prorok

Wide-ranging research on nanomaterials, thin-films and nanocomposites is conducted within the Materials Research and Education Center, and in collaboration with Tuskegee University (a leading historically black university). This research on nanocomposites encompasses both lamellar and particulate composite materials. Work includes electrochemical fabrication of heterojunctions and quantum wells, deposition of nanoparticles from supercritical fluids, applications in treatment of wastewater and biomimetic materials with enhanced mechanical properties.

Other Research Activities

A variety of other materials-related projects representing novel or cutting-edge research occur at Auburn University. Projects, such as examining the fundamental metallurgical factors governing bacterial attachment to austenitic stainless steels used in food processing, apply materials engineering concepts in cross-disciplinary settings. Because of the application of materials engineering concepts in a number of research applications, our faculty are often asked to join projects outside our traditional scope to provide materials expertise. These opportunities allow faculty to broaden the horizons of materials research to anticipate and participate in the materials needs of an evolving society. Research of this nature also supports Auburn’s land-grant university mission, and the university’s emphasis on cross-disciplinary research efforts.

Last Updated: Oct 24, 2012