UD’s Center for Composite Materials hosts NASA University Leadership Initiative

The University of Delaware’s Center for Composite Materials (CCM) hosted the Second Annual Review of the NASA University Leadership Initiative Composite Manufacturing Technologies for Aerospace Performance at Automotive Production Rates project.

Led by a team from UD, this $5.8 million NASA-sponsored research award is addressing basic research and technology barriers in Urban Air Mobility (UAM), an emerging market of airborne vehicles that could help reduce traffic delays in major cities. The project is also focused on education and workforce training needs through a focus on opportunities for undergraduate interns, graduate research in composites manufacturing and collaborative training opportunities with the program’s HBCU and industry partners.

The research centers on CCM’s patented process for creating a new class of materials known as TuFF, or Tailorable universal Feedstock for Forming. Composed of highly aligned short carbon fiber with a thermoplastic matrix, this material enables maximum weight savings, extended electric vertical take-off and landing range and reduced manufacturing costs. The goal is to develop physics-based simulations tools for modeling different processes in the manufacturing process, then incorporating  these models into software suited for part design and manufacturing using TuFF.

The meeting, held on Oct. 13, hosted nearly 200 virtual and over 50 in-person attendees from NASA and other government agencies, industry and academia. The meeting featured technical presentations, an hour-long Q-and-A session and lab tours and demonstrations at both CCM and the CCM Applications Technology Transfer Laboratory.

CCM-affiliated speakers included Shridhar Yarlagadda, CCM assistant director for research and associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, postdoc Nithin Parambil, doctoral student Brandon Chen, research associate Pavel Simacek, composites process development specialist Tom Cender and senior scientist John Tierney.

“In addition to the research and technical progress, we are very pleased with the success of our education and outreach activities with Southern University,” said Jack Gillespie, professor and director of CCM. “Overall, over 500 K-12 students with approximately 60% from underrepresented groups were involved in NASA ULI sponsored activities.”