Marianna Maiaru earns Air Force Young Investigator award
Credit: UMass Lowell
LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell researcher Marianna Maiaru, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was recently recognized by the U.S. Air Force with funding for her work on process modeling of composite materials.
Maiaru’s three-year, $450,000 Young Investigator Program (YIP) grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research will support her work to advance the development and processing of high-strength, high-temperature structural materials for the next generation of aerospace vehicles.
The Air Force awards the YIP grant to faculty researchers who “show exceptional ability and promise” in conducting creative, fundamental research in science and engineering.
Maiaru is among the 36 scientists and engineers from 27 research institutions across the country selected by the Air Force for the recognition.
Maiaru’s YIP project focuses on ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials, which consist of reinforcing ceramic fibers embedded in a ceramic matrix. They are used for high-temperature, high-strength applications, such as components for gas turbines and heat shields for hypersonic aircraft, missiles, rockets and spacecraft.
For example, a vehicle flying through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds (more than five times the speed of sound, or about 4,000 miles per hour) will experience surface heating of up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with air molecules. The vehicle’s CMC heat shield is designed to withstand extreme temperature, thermal shock and vibrations during flight.
Maiaru will use experimentally validated process modeling to understand the mechanisms for the formation of residual stress induced by “pyrolysis-infiltration-pyrolysis” processes. Pyrolysis is the degradation of the ceramic at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen.
“My goal is to establish a correlation between processing conditions, microstructure and mechanical performance of the composite, which currently is not clearly shown,” she said. “This work strongly supports ongoing research efforts at the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA.”
Process modeling for CMCs manufactured through the pyrolysis-infiltration-pyrolysis cycle is a relatively undeveloped field,
according to Maiaru.
“This project will help enhance the performance of high-temperature composites, optimize their manufacturing process and lead to the discovery of new materials that would establish U.S. leadership in hypersonic applications,” she said. “It has great potential for advancing materials research for extreme environments and for overcoming the costly and time-consuming trial-and-error design that is being used today.”
Maiaru is working on process modeling of advanced composites for structural applications and integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
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