WPI is the lead institution on a $7.4 million, multi-university award from the U.S. Army. Richard Sisson, WPI professor and Director of the Center for Heat Treating Excellence, is the PI. Diran Apelian (WPI professor/Director of the Metal Processing Institute at WPI), Yan Wang (WPI professor/Center for Resource Recovery & Recycling (CR3)), Makhlouf Makhlouf (WPI professor/Advanced Casting Research Center), Marion Emmert (WPI professor/CR3), and Jianyu Liang (WPI professor) are the co-PIs on WPI’s portion of the two-year project, which is a continuation of a cooperative agreement with the Army that has already brought more than $4 million to the university.
The overall aim of the work is the development of databases and modeling techniques that will make it possible to predict the nanoscale properties of lightweight alloys (primarily aluminum, titanium, and magnesium), and to use these tools to develop and test new alloys for specific military applications. The new award includes a focus on high-strength magnesium alloys used by the military, particularly in aircraft components. These alloys contain rare earth elements (REEs) that are expensive and increasingly difficult to obtain, as most come from China, which is restricting exports of REEs that it needs for its own military and commercial uses. WPI will develop new magnesium alloys that do not require REEs or which use more readily available REEs, and will explore methods for extracting REEs from ores found outside of China and recovering REEs from recycled metals. The research will help the military develop more effective and durable vehicles and systems. The technologies and processes developed here will also have applications in the aircraft, automotive, and electronics industries.