Multifunctional Engineered Systems

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TITLE:  Multifunctional Engineered Systems

SPEAKER:  Ben Wang, Faculty Candidate


Gen I composites, made with fiberglass and early carbon fibers, served as metal replacements in secondary, non-load bearing parts. The Gen I success fostered the development and progressive use of modern carbon fibers in load bearing structures to replace metals. Gen II composites, built on intermediate-modulus carbon fibers and improved matrix resins, brought about a broader use in selected structures. The 1970’s-80’s saw major investments in advanced materials, processes and analysis tools.  Advancements in the 1980’s-90’s resulted in innovative uses of composites in commercial aerospace, auto, marine, space and sporting goods and expanded military applications. This growth was largely driven to achieve additional weight saving due to the materials’ unparalleled ability to solve seemingly contradictory requirements, such as reducing weigh while increasing mechanical properties. Such developments catapulted the composite industry into a $45B industry. The potential of composites is clear and the trend of continued use of composites is unstoppable. Unfortunately, the growth of composites use has been slower than predicted, due to a lack of clear performance/cost benefits at the system’s level in major commercial application areas.

Treated as metal replacement, total performance improvements at the system’s level has largely been “linear” over the past 50 years spanning Gen I and the current Gen II, despite a tremendous body of knowledge in materials science and impressive engineering developments. However, if we continue this linear trend and extrapolate into out years, can composites meet much more stringent requirements for tomorrow’s lightweight engineered systems characterized by unprecedented requirements for performance, energy efficiency, safety, environmental compatibility and life cycle affordability? Continuing the current “metal substitutions” mindset, and at the current funding levels and research focus, we do not believe this can be achieved. A game-changing paradigm that exponentially increases the “total system’s value” of composites is needed.

We define Generation III composite systems as ultra-lightweight, energy efficient, high-performance composite structures where multiple functions co-exist symbiotically without requiring parasitic components. Such a paradigm-changing endeavor obviously requires enormous teamwork over a long period of time.

The R&D at Florida State University’s High-Performance Materials Institute (FSU HPMI) focuses on the use of carbon nanotube buckypaper (BP) for multifunctional applications. This presentation will discuss on-going R&D programs in advanced composite materials, especially on buckypaper-augmented nanocomposites at FSU HPMI. The presentation is intended to stimulate a discussion on the following topics:

1.      Can synergistic materials with intrinsic properties be developed, scaled and integrated to realize effective Gen III multifunctional structural systems?

2.      Can the Gen III multifunctional structural systems exceed the performance of today’s best composites and if so, by how much?

3.      What are the barriers, challenges and possible solutions at the basic science and enabling technology levels and how can these solutions be embodied in an integrated engineered system?

Dr. Ben Wang is Director of High-Performance Materials Institute and Assistant Vice President for Research at Florida State University. He holds two distinguished professorships: Simon Ostrach Professor of Engineering and U.S. Department of Energy Samuel P. Massie Chair of Excellence in Engineering. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) and Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). He received his B.S.I.E. degree from Tunghai University (Taiwan) and M.S.I.E. and Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Anita Race
  • Created: 02/22/2011
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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