SIU researcher seeks more efficient ways to make stronger structural materials – SIU News

April 4, 2022 by No Comments

Sabrina Nilufar, assistant professor in the SIU School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Materials Engineering, is working on ways to more easily and efficiently construct so-called “sandwich” materials used in everything from automotive to marine and aerospace applications. She recently received a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how to make specially designed structures built using additive manufacturing, one of the fastest emerging engineering research areas in the world. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

April 04, 2022

SIU researcher seeks more efficient ways to make stronger structural materials

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Sabrina Nilufar’s research involves sandwiches, but not the kind you eat.

Instead, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale researcher hopes to improve the ultra-strong “sandwich” materials hidden within the sleek, smooth and shiny car panels and airplane wings that we trust with our lives.

An assistant professor in the SIU School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Materials Engineering, Nilufar is working on ways to more easily construct these ubiquitous materials, improving efficiency while saving time and energy. She recently received a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how to make specially designed structures built using additive manufacturing, one of the fastest emerging engineering research areas in the world.

Hidden in plain site

Sandwich structures generally consist of two outer face sheets separated by a lightweight, low-density core structure or foam. The engineering concept has found its way into a myriad of applications, including aerospace, sport, marine, military, thermal insulation, vibration and acoustic isolation, and automotive parts.

The traditional manufacturing process for sandwich materials, however, can be wasteful and limited. In contrast, additive manufacturing allows builders to fabricate objects or custom tailor parts with complex geometry directly from the 3D models to meet specific applications. 

The additive manufacturing process may hold the key to both increased efficiency and better-quality parts, especially when combined with triply periodic minimal surface (TPMS) architecture. TPMS architecture uses complex geometries found in nature to improve strength and weight ratios.

“The aim of my research is to set a solid foundation of manufacturing sandwiches with TPMS-based core lattice for specific engineering applications,” Nilufar said.

Sandwich, anyone?

Although sandwich structures are used in many manufacturing processes, the main limiting factor lies in what’s between the face sheets, which act as the “bread.” The topology of the sandwich’s middle, or core, has a major impact on the overall performance of the structure, in terms of weight, strength, thermal properties and other factors.

Depending on the core’s geometry, such factors can be improved or diminished in function. Engineers theorize about new core structures but at this point know little because of limitations in the manufacturing process.

Working in her laboratory at SIU, Nilufar hopes to reveal the mechanisms and thermomechanical properties of various core structures that can be created with TPMS architecture. Her approach will integrate numerical and experimental methods to find out what manufacturers might achieve using additive processes.

“We want to fundamentally understand how structured core lattice architecture improves the mechanical and thermal properties of sandwich structures,” Nilufar said.

A new way of approaching it

Additive manufacturing refers to creating an object one layer at a time, usually using a 3D printing process, which can deliver highly complex or even combination parts with added …….

Source: https://news.siu.edu/2022/04/040422-SIU-researcher-seeks-more-efficient-ways-to-make-stronger-structural-materials.php

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