Chance meeting results in conference, research opportunities and collaborations
A chance meeting with engineering faculty from India’s Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT) and a reciprocal visit to India by MU LaPierre Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Sanjeev Khanna resulted in a memorandum of understanding for research collaborations between MU and MNNIT in 2011.
The partnership has broadened in scope since that first agreement and in December 2014, Khanna, representing the MU College of Engineering, collaborated with MNNIT to host an International Conference on Multifunctional Materials, Structures and Applications (ICMMSA) in Allahbad, India.
“We first hosted a two-day workshop on the same topic in 2012,” said Khanna. “It was a test case that included only people from India.”
The success of the workshop prompted Khanna and MNNIT collaborators, Institute Director P. Chakrabarti, and applied mechanics Professor K. K. Shukla, to stage the ICMMSA conference.
“Professor J. N. Reddy of Texas A&M was the keynote speaker. He is known as the guru of finite elements,” said Khanna, adding that as a postdoc at TAMU, he met Reddy and invited him to speak at the conference.
Reddy serves as Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. Chair of Mechanical Engineering at TAMU and has had a long and distinguished career working with theoretical and computational mechanics of composite materials.
Researchers from seven different countries, including six from the United States attended the conference, which received extensive media attention in India.
Khanna delivered one of five additional sub-keynotes at ICMMSA. He presented his current research on lightweight cellular composite materials using nanomaterial reinforcements.
“If you can make materials that are of the same strength but are much lighter for use in things like automobiles, airplanes, and satellites, the energy consumption and cost of transportation would be lower,” he said. “We are working with aluminum foam. It is aluminum with a lot of holes in it, but we are strengthening it with nanomaterials.”
Carbon nanotubes are added to the aluminum foam, and the composite is being tested under impact loading.
“We have shown that adding two to three percent nanomaterials by weight improves the mechanical properties of the foam by at least 50 percent,” said Khanna, adding that the foam’s weight is only 25 to 30 percent that of solid aluminum.
He also is experimenting with adding graphene platelets to polyurethane to increase its high strain rate properties while maintaining its deformation abilities.
The week after the ICMMSA, Khanna attended an Emerging Materials and Processes Workshop held at the Advance Material and Process Research Institute (AMPRI) in Bhopal, one of India’s more than 40 regional research laboratories, the equivalent of this country’s national laboratories.
MU and AMPRI decided to join forces with faculty at the University of North Carolina to collaborate on further developing the reinforced aluminum foam material and have jointly submitted a research proposal to the National Science Foundation.
“Many fruitful connections have been made from that original meeting,” Khanna said. “The next step will be to host a conference on the MU campus in 2017.”