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NSF award will help UAB researchers develop and understand high-temperature-resistant materials

  • July 18, 2022
Through this grant, Catledge will explore and develop a class of materials known as high-entropy ceramics.

RS44308 Shane Aaron Catledge 1 scrShane Aaron Catledge, Ph.D.Shane Aaron Catledge, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Physics, was awarded a three-year Division of Materials grant from the National Science Foundation for $283,000 for his project “New frontiers in synthesis of high-entropy transition metal borides enabled by microwave-induced plasma.”

Through this research, Catledge and his team will explore and develop a class of materials known as high-entropy ceramics, which extend the range of high temperatures and resistance to oxidation as needed for advanced material systems, such as hypersonic vehicles. They will explore a synthesis approach that takes advantage of the benefits of rapid microwave heating combined with the state of matter known as “plasma” to enhance the chemical reactions and the rates of these reactions leading to the high-entropy ceramic. This synthesis route is unexplored in this field and presents opportunity to study the mechanisms contributing to formation of this relatively new class of materials.  

“For me, this represents a rather unique merging of two distinct fields of endeavor: plasma science/technology and high-entropy materials,” Catledge said. “I have over 25 years of experience in the former but have only started researching the latter in the past year. I am excited to tie these together in ways that have not been considered before with hope that it will have a significant and lasting impact for both fields.”

The kinetics and reaction pathway leading to the high-entropy ceramics via this unique approach will be investigated, along with characterization of structure, hardness and oxidation resistance. Both experimental and computational methodologies are employed to provide new knowledge about how these materials can be synthesized, characterized and modeled.

This grant is a significant addition to another recent award funded by NSF to Catledge to acquire a major instrument called a “Spark Plasma Sintering” system. This instrument will be used in conjunction with the high-entropy materials Catledge and his team will synthesize to demonstrate their potential in forming highly dense products with enhanced properties.

“The significance of this project is that it addresses the need for advanced ceramics as a key enabling technology for many applications in aerospace, defense, power generation and processing industries having significant national impact,” Catledge explained. “The study of materials designed for operation under harsh conditions is essential to meet a range of challenges — from creating better turbines, reactors and batteries to developing future energy systems.”