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K-State Today

July 30, 2019

Workshop provides insight on next-generation ceramic composites for aerospace industry

Submitted by Sailesh Menon

Workshop on advanced ceramics for the defense and aerospace industry hosted by K-State associate professor.

Building on a successful workshop from last year, Kansas State University hosted the second polymer-derived ceramics workshop July 15-19 in Boulder, Colorado. The workshop, which is funded through a National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education grant, was organized by Gurpreet Singh, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering. 

Singh, principal investigator, was awarded the grant for his work on polymer-derived ceramics to create "super" turbines. The grant is currently in its second year, with funding available for five years.

The workshop seminars covered topics in the field of polymer-derived ceramics, high temperature ceramic matrix composite materials, additive manufacturing of polymer composites, polymer-derived ceramics for energy storage, and ultrahigh temperature materials for aerospace applications.

Of the 45 members of academia in attendance, one member of the National Academy of Sciences, Alexandra Navrotsky; one member of the National Academy of Inventors, Raj N. Singh; and two members of the National Academy of Engineering, David Marshall and Ray Baughman, were present. The aerospace industry was represented by attendees from Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, General Electric, and Pratt and Whitney — United Technologies. Several attendees from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, South Korea and Japan were present at the workshop. Academia and industry had ample opportunities to network; academics were able to describe their research, while industry attendees were able to communicate their manufacturing needs. A key focus area of the workshop was to find ways to translate academic research to meet industrial needs.

Five of the 15 students at the workshop were from the Alan Levin Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Kansas State University. One of the five K-State students was Sophia Justus, a Partnerships for International Research and Education undergraduate scholar. She took part in a summer research internship at the University of Montpellier, France. Justus' summer research focused on 3D printing of ceramic materials. Workshop attendees were able to learn about student research and internship experiences during a poster session. It was a memorable experience for students as they were able to network with people who work in their field from across the globe. Students were able to discuss internship programs, postdoctoral positions and job openings with faculty and industry members.

The workshop was designed to take a break from science, with day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park for hiking, and Lyons for a bluegrass music festival. The attendees came away with a renewed sense of vigor and a refreshed mindset.

"I am very excited for the future of polymer-derived ceramics and the camaraderie that being part of such a huge collaboration brings," Singh said.

Singh thanks Darren Dawson, former dean of the college, and Gary Clark, interim dean of the college, for leadership and vision. The next generation of students interested in polymer-derived ceramics can look to Singh and his team to mentor them in the right direction.

Learn more information about Partnerships for International Research and Education and related innovations at nsf-pire-pdc.com/Home.html, on the group's LinkedIn page, or by calling 785-532-7085.

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