$8 million awarded to UAB to establish a Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Center of Excellence under the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Agency

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been awarded $8 million from the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Agency.
Written by: Micah Hardge and Jeff Hansen
Media contact: Micah Hardge

Yogesh Vohra 2 scrYogesh Vohra, Ph.D.,
Photography: Steve Wood
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been awarded $8 million from the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Agency. Distributed over five years, the award will establish one of nine Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Centers of Excellence.

UAB’s cooperative agreement will be for the Center for Additively Manufactured Complex Systems under Extremes.

Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Physics and associate dean for Research and Innovation in the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as the principal investigator.

“I have been supported by the NNSA SSAA program on a single investigator grant since the inception of this program,” Vohra said. “During this time, I had the amazing opportunity to train six graduate students who have joined NNSA labs, and some have risen to leadership positions within the NNSA complex.”

“CAMCSE gives me an opportunity along with academic partners to offer a broader exposure to graduate students to complementary expertise at various institutions, so they become well-rounded STEM graduates for employment in academia, industry and NNSA labs.”

According to the NNSA, the SSAA seeks to develop and maintain a long-term recruiting pathway in order to support the national laboratories through the training and educating of the next generation of scientists in critical areas of science and technology.  

“The 11 graduate students and two postdoctoral scholars supported under CAMCSE at UAB and at our academic partners would undergo internships at the DOE NNSA labs to prepare them for careers at national laboratories,” Vohra said.

CAMCSE has four academic partners: University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Stanford University, University of California-Irvine and Tuskegee University.

With core strength in materials physics research, Vohra affirms that the UAB Department of Physics has been highly active in the field of materials under extreme conditions of high pressures and high and low temperatures.

“UAB has also led the development of many enabling technologies in the high-pressure field.” Vohra said. “This DOE Center of Excellence would allow us to apply our theoretical and experimental expertise to this technological area of additively manufactured complex systems.”

Vohra says CAMCSE will allow UAB and four academic partners to conduct investigations into behavior of additively manufactured materials in far-from-equilibrium state both under static pressure conditions and under high strain rates representative of shock compression.

The materials of interest to CAMCSE are complex compositions of high-entropy alloys and metallic glasses that are made through “additive manufacturing” technologies. Three-dimensional objects are grown one superfine layer at a time, bonding each layer to the previous layer of melted or partially melted material. It is an advanced form of 3D printing, where an object is formed by adding material, as opposed to more traditional subtractive methods of manufacturing where milling and machining are used to cut away unneeded material.

“The compositionally complex alloys are a relatively new field, and not much is known about phase transformations, compression behavior and strength under varying strain rates in these systems,” Vohra said. “Our long-term goal is to gain fundamental understanding of far-from-equilibrium compositionally complex alloys and glasses under high strain rates so they could be deployed in practice under extreme environments.”

The other physics faculty playing key roles in CAMCSE are Wenli Bi, Ph.D., Cheng-Chien Chen, Ph.D., and Aaron Catledge, Ph.D.

The SSAA funds research grants and cooperative agreements to provide unique opportunities for scientific collaboration between the academic community and scientists at the DOE and NNSA national laboratories.

The SSAA Centers of Excellence funding opportunity occurs only once every five years.