UWM: Engineering Professor’s Pioneering Work the Subject of National Symposium

 Issued by: Laura L. Hunt, 414-229-6447; [email protected]
3/13/06

MILWAUKEE – In 1965, materials engineer Pradeep Rohatgi developed a foundry process to synthesize metal matrix composites (MMCs), high performance, “combination” materials that are stiffer, self-lubricating or stronger – but also lighter – than conventional aluminum alloys. It led to a one-step, cost-effective way to mass-produce these aluminum-based materials, which could replace heavier, iron-based components in many applications.

His discovery fostered more research in the field and resulted in the synthesis of many new MMCs, which have applications in the automobile, aerospace, electromechanical machinery, aviation, electronic packaging and sports equipment industries.

Considered a world authority on MMCs, Rohatgi, a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Composites at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), has synthesized composites and syntactic (metal-based) foams to produce additional characteristics like wear-resistance and high thermal conductivity. They have been used in producing engine parts for cars and trains, thermal management devices in computers and even parts for the Hubble Space Telescope.

To showcase the research his work has spawned and to honor his contributions, the national Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) is hosting the “Rohatgi Honorary Symposium on Solidification Processing of Metal Matrix Composites” today through March 16 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.

More than 30 technical papers from U.S., European, Asian, and Latin American countries will be presented at the three-day symposium by scientists and engineers who have worked in this field. Several current and former UWM students will also present their work.

Rohatgi, who earned his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering from Banaras Hindu University and his doctorate from MIT, has authored or co-authored 11 books, more than 400 scientific papers, and holds 20 U.S. patents. His 1965 research on synthesis of cast metal matrix composites was cited as a landmark in the history of metal casting by the American Foundry Society.

He has received several million dollars of funding in research contracts and gifts since his arrival at UWM in 1986 from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and leading corporations including Ford, General Motors, Electric Power Research Institute, International Copper Association, Sunstrand, and Aluminum Company of Canada.

Today, Rohatgi is still working on revolutionary new processes and materials, including technologies that could transform the foundry industry by giving old-line manufacturing the means to producing high-tech products such as nanostructured, biomedical and high-efficiency components He was awarded a grant last year from the U.S. Army to develop rapid and mobile manufacture of lightweight materials for transportation systems.

The processes will enable industries to manufacture components with increased speed, and the new technology will venture out of the factory, making on-site manufacture of such components possible.

Rohatgi’s laboratory is exploring the use of MMCs and metal-based foams for other uses – such as human bone replacement and out-of-body medical support systems which will be much lighter than those currently in use.

The work is especially vital for U.S. foundries that are grappling with competition from countries where labor is cheaper. The trend is harming Wisconsin’s economy, which is second only to Ohio in the number of foundries still operating.

“The only way to keep foundries and other manufacturing industries viable is to help them develop fast-track technologies to manufacture components from advanced lightweight materials,” Rohatgi says.

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(CONTACT: Pradeep Rohatgi, 414-801-4530,
[email protected]. For a photo or a one-page biographical sketch, contact Laura L. Hunt, 414-229-6447, [email protected].)