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Alcoa Foundation awards Ohio State University $400K to research light-weight, metal-based, vehicle structures

21 July 2011

The Alcoa Foundation recently awarded a $400,000 grant to the Ohio State University (OSU) Institute for Materials Research in support of innovative design and manufacturing technologies that will enable the creation of lighter, more environmentally friendly vehicle structures. The grant is part of Alcoa Foundation’s $4 million “Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions” initiative that funds 10 global sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.

Professor of Ohio State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering will serve as project lead, with Professor Anthony Luscher in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering serving as co-investigator.

Alcoa Foundation funding will also support undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to allow the Ohio State team to develop one-day short courses on forming technology; demonstrations of unconventional, inexpensive, structural and novel manufacturing methods; and the production of archival publications.

There is a growing recognition that the lightest weight and most affordable vehicles in the future will not be made from one material, but many different ones. Mass reduction directly improves fuel economy and is especially important to electric and alternative powertrains.

—Glenn Daehn

Daehn notes a pressing need to reduce the mass of all classes of wheeled vehicles, including light automobiles, trucks, and passenger busses. According to Luscher, vehicles in the future will need to have unique structural designs in order to achieve these weight savings.

The Alcoa Foundation grant will allow us to study new and innovative joining strategies that are tailored to each material combination and each loading type,” he said. “The whole system of joints needs to work together to be efficient.

—Anthony Luscher

The Institute for Materials Research, working closely with Profs. Daehn and Luscher, will help engender this industry-wide change by educating engineers-in-training and practicing engineers on a holistic approach to multi-materials structural joining.

Dr. Leo Rusli, a research scientist in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State, recently advised a team of undergraduate students that put the multi-material concept to the test.

We utilized a tie rod made from aluminum tube with steel end pieces for the Baja SAE off-road competition in Kansas and Illinois. The course is designed to fail the vehicles, but the tie rods held through the course and the electromagnetically formed joints did not experience failure. The new design results in a weight saving of over 55%.

—Leo Rusli

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