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UT-ORNL Governor's Chair of Advanced Manufacturing ?Suresh Babu (left).
UT-ORNL Governor's Chair of Advanced Manufacturing Suresh Babu (left) has been selected to lead a US Navy Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program.

The US Navy has chosen a UT professor to lead one of its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) programs for the first time in the 30-year history of the initiative.

Suresh Babu, the UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing, will lead a team that will focus on properties, defects, and instabilities in advanced manufactured alloys, an area of great importance to the Navy.

According to the Office of Naval Research, the award will total roughly $1.5 million a year for three years and be extendable to five years.

“To be leading the first team from UT picked to handle a MURI project is quite an honor,” said Babu, who is also a professor in UT’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. “The basic research we are doing will focus on addressing solid stabilities in metal alloys subjected to thermo-mechanical transients typical of additive manufacturing, also referred to as 3D printing, through advanced in-situ and ex-situ measurements.”

While advanced manufacturing has become more commonplace in recent years, much is still unknown about the physical and thermodynamic properties of certain materials, limiting our ability to describe them with detailed computational models.

Babu, an expert in additive manufacturing, began working on the project through UT’s Office of Research and Engagement in 2017.

He and his team hope to better explore a number of physical processes that can affect the final product, including rapid heating and cooling of materials, and examine how physical properties at the submicron level might differ from those at a far greater scale.

The influence of this fundamental research will be crosscutting and crucial to all metal advanced manufacturing processes that use high energy deposition processes involving arc, plasma, laser, and electron beams, and powder bed fusion processes with laser and electron beams, all of which involve solidification and solid-state transformations under highly transient conditions.

These processes are all relevant to US Department of Defense and manufacturing industries.

“This selection highlights the expertise that we’ve assembled in advanced manufacturing and materials as well as the strength and importance of our Governor’s Chair partnership with ORNL,” said Tickle College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis. “The work Suresh and his team will do will directly impact national security.”

The programs are set up to encourage collaboration between universities in the US and Australia, strengthening educational and governmental alliances.

“With this award, UT continues to expand its research portfolio with the Department of Defense and, in particular, this opportunity with the Office of Naval Research,” said Victor McCrary, vice chancellor for research. “Dr. Babu is a prime example of the university’s research excellence.”

Associate Professor Hahn Choo of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is on Babu’s team, along with researchers from Virginia Tech, Ohio State University, Iowa State University, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the Colorado School of Mines.

An Australian team led by Professor Simon Ringer at the University of Sydney is integrated into the program, and includes colleagues from the University of New South Wales.

This project brings together world-class expertise in processing, materials science, and computational modeling, as well as in-situ and ex-situ characterization at different length and time scales.

The US universities will be sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the Australian Team will be sponsored by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

“MURI supports research by funding teams of investigators that include more than one traditional science and engineering discipline in order to accelerate the research progress,” said Dale Ormond, principal director for research in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “MURI awards also support the education and training of graduate students in cutting-edge research areas.”

The Army Research Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Office of Naval Research received 436 initial proposals. Along with the Department of Defense, they narrowed those proposals down to 24—one for each of the two dozen topic areas—awarding $169 million in total across all MURI awards for the duration of each project.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,