Page top
Skip navigation


2006-2007 HIGHLIGHTS








Cover of the 2007 Annual Report
Annual Report
PDF (4 MB)
Cover of the 2007 College Directory
College Directory
PDF (4 MB)


Content begins

Izabela Szlufarska, Dane Morgan, Kumar Sridharan, Michael Corradini, Mark Anderson and Todd Allen

From left: Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professors Izabela Szlufarska and Dane Morgan, and Engineering Physics Research Professor Kumar Sridharan, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Michael Corradini, Associate Scientist Mark Anderson and Assistant Professor Todd Allen. Among the researchers working on the molten salt project are PhD students Luke Olson (below, left) and James Ambrosek (below, right). Grainger Professor Gerald Kulcinski also is part of the research. (Large image)

Engineering Physics

Focus on energy:
Advancing environmentally benign nuclear technologies

Competing in an overall field of 79 proposals, UW-Madison research teams received three of 10 Department of Energy University-Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (U-NERI) grants, which support innovative research in advanced nuclear technologies.

Dustin Jacqmin, Luke Olson and James Ambrosek

Undergraduate Dustin Jacqmin (seated) and PhD students Luke Olson (center) and James Ambrosek are among researchers working on the molten salt heat transfer project. (Large image)

Under the grants, which total approximately $1.73 million over three years, the researchers are conducting multiscale modeling and experimental projects to study fission product transport in TRISO-coated particle fuels, oxidation and surface modification treatments of candidate materials for very high temperature reactor pressure vessel applications, and materials corrosion and heat transfer issues in the use of liquid salts as media for process heat transfer from very high temperature reactors.

Applying plasmas to air flow
over airplane wings

Back in 1857, Werner von Siemens discovered the dielectric barrier discharge (DBD), in which an oscillating applied voltage drives thousands of nano-quick current pulses, or discharges, per cycle between two electrodes separated by a dielectric (or insulating) material. It’s an atmospheric-pressure method for generating a charged-particle gas, or plasma, and has become the industrial standard for producing ozone for purifying water and material surface cleaning. But, as scientists are just beginning to discover, this 150-year-old technique has myriad potential applications.

At UW-Madison, Irving Langmuir Professor Noah Hershkowitz and doctoral candidates Alan Hoskinson and Young-Chul Kim are studying how DBDs work to direct air flow over an airplane wing. Grants from NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research fund their research.

The researchers not only are investigating optimal conditions and geometries for generating the plasma, but also are examining how the plasma interacts with the air—the neutral background gas—around it. The group is combining experimental measurements and data from dielectric barrier discharge simulations to gain a more complete understanding of the overall phenomenon. “We’re trying to understand the basic physics and chemistry of these discharges—what they really are, how they work,— says Hershkowitz. “Because if you don’t understand how they really work, in the end, you’re not going to take full advantage of their properties.”

Experimental, theoretical advances expand limits
of composite materials

Using a unique combination of barium titanate and tin, UW-Madison researchers have made the first known material that’s stiffer than diamond. While diamond achieves its rock-solid stability via dense, directional, extremely tight atomic bonds, the researchers created their ultrastiff composite from ordinary materials combined in extraordinary and innovative ways.

In laboratory experiments, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Roderic Lakes and his collaborators showed that if they embed barium titanate, which exhibits negative stiffness, within a tin matrix, which exhibits positive stiffness, the resulting composite material achieves stiffness approaching 10 times that of diamond. The researchers include Lakes, former UW-Madison PhD student Timothy Jaglinski (now a research associate with the Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics), former master’s student Dennis Kochmann (now of Ruhr-University, Bochum, Germany), and Materials Science and Engineering Associate Professor Donald Stone. The group published its results in the February 2, 2007, issue of Science.

In a paper appearing the same date in Physical Review Letters, Professor Walter Drugan proved that elastic composite materials containing a material phase that is unstable by itself can be stable overall. This theoretical result means that the long-held theoretical limits on composite material performance now are invalid, because they were derived assuming all composite material phases must be stable for overall stability.

The result opens new vistas for achieving novel and optimal composite material performance, and it means that there now exist no theoretical limits on many aspects of composite material performance. In fact, a previously published research paper by Lakes and Drugan showed that if overall composite stability were possible when a composite contains an unstable phase (which Drugan’s February 2 paper proves), the unstable phase can be tuned to produce theoretically infinite composite stiffness.

Back to page topEnd of page