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U.S. Air Force funds multifunctional composites collaborative research

Story by
Frank Allen
Composite Manufacturing Bay at the High-Performance Materials Institute
Composite Manufacturing Bay at the High-Performance Materials Institute

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) has awarded a $6.3 million contract to Florida State University (FSU) and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to study multifunctional composites to meet the aerospace application needs of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Department of Defense. 

Researchers from the High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI), associated with the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (FAMU-FSU Engineering), the joint engineering education and research institution for Florida A&M and Florida State universities, will partner with the School of Polymer Science and Engineering (SPSE) at USM to study, design, and test large lightweight sample panels capable of scale-up manufacturing to provide multifunctional performance for aerospace applications.

The FSU team will be led by HPMI director Professor Richard Liang, and the USM team is being led by SPSE Professor Jeffery Wiggins.   

The university teams are working closely with materials experts at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Materials and Manufacturing Directorate to ensure the panels meet the military’s needs.

“We are very excited about this project to work on aerospace composite technology, and it is very interesting to explore multifunctionality-by-design approach through this major collaborative effort among academics, AFRL and industrial partners,” said Liang, who was recently appointed as FSU Sprint Eminent Scholar Chair. 

“This collaboration between AFRL, FSU, & USM is timely given the continued need of incorporating multi-functionality in composites for next-generation war-fighter needs, not only from the perspective of the optimal microstructural design of composites at lab scale but to make certain that the desired multi-functionality remains intact during scale-up manufacturing,” said Dr. Vikas Varshney, AFRL Program Manager.

The project emphasizes training of domestic students to develop a workforce of next-generation aerospace composite scientists and engineers to meet an emerging need of highly skilled professionals. The partnership exchanges researchers between the universities, AFRL and strategic industrial collaborators.

“This opportunity for our students and faculty to collaborate with world-renowned researchers at AFRL and FSU safeguards our mission for preparing next-generation polymer scientists and engineers who are fully prepared to lead strategic future material development programs in areas of national need,” said Wiggins.

The joint university team includes HPMI researchers and FAMU-FSU Engineering professors Jin Gyu Park, Rebekah Sweat, Mei Zhang, Arda Vanli and Qiang Wu, and faculty members and lead researchers James Rawlins, Jason Azoulay, Yoan Simon, Sergei Nazarenko, Olivia McNair and Jinhai Yang from USM.

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