October 2014

Engineer Awarded Grant to Study Metal Powder Behavior in 3-D Printing

Michelle Bernhardt

As a geotechnical engineer, Michelle Bernhardt is intrigued by the behavior and properties of granular materials such as sand.

“Granular materials behave similarly no matter what type of granular material they are,” said Bernhardt, an assistant professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas.

“There are certain characteristics of their behaviors, however, which depend on the types of material and their shapes.”

Bernhardt uses computer modeling to break down materials into smaller parts. Using a method called discrete element method modeling, Bernhardt digitally simulates particles to study how they react to displacements and stress, such as those caused by an earthquake. She validates her simulations in the lab using small objects such as ball bearings.

Bernhardt’s discrete element method modeling simulation process drew the attention of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a technology agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, which in September awarded Bernhardt a three-year grant for $340,035.

In her project, Bernhardt will develop discrete element method simulations that can be used to examine the metal powder behavior in direct metal laser sintering devices, one of the techniques known as additive manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing processes build a 3-D object such as a metal part layer by layer,” Bernhardt said. “This particular type of printer spreads a layer of metal powder across a build surface and a laser sinters the metal layer by layer, creating a 3-D object. Discrete element modeling captures the movements and interactions of each powder particle. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is interested in finding out how the powder particles are distributed when the printer arm moves the powder across the build surface, and whether that is going to change the properties of the material that is actually made.”

The simulations will be used to examine the initial packing of the powder, as well as the density and size distribution across the build surface with and without a 3-D object present, Bernhardt said. Each of these factors affects the quality of the built part and understanding how the powder is distributed on the build surface will help link the build conditions with the characteristics observed in the final product. From a manufacturing standpoint, this information will also help increase the quality control of various build conditions, she said.

“There are a lot of aerospace and other applications where you want to make sure the printed part is going to behave like you expect and that the engineering properties are the same each time it is printed,” she said.

For more information about her research or grant, send an e-mail to mlbernha@uark.edu.


Chakhalian Selected as Moore Investigator


Jak Chakhalian

Physics Professor Jak Chakhalian has been selected as an investigator by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which is now developing a $1.8 million grant to support Chakhalian’s research.

The five-year grant will allow Chakhalian to create and investigate novel quantum materials and the relationships at the interface between those materials on the nanoscale. It will fund a state-of-the-art facility to grow artificial quantum materials at the atomic scale, with the ultimate goal of controlling their properties. His findings could represent a breakthrough in the field of exotic magnetism and high temperature superconductivity.

Chakhalian’s project was funded after an intense national competition conducted by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, based in Palo Alto, California. Chakhalian was among those who were invited to enter the competition by the foundation. The Moore Experimental Investigators in Quantum Materials program awarded a total of $34.2 million to 19 scientists at 11 universities across the United States, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I’m very excited,” Chakhalian said. “This is amazing. It was a strong competition. Most importantly, any award is like an allowance given to a scientist. Money enables the science but it doesn’t do the science, so there is exciting, hard work ahead and a lot of responsibility that comes with this award.”

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NSF Funds Traumatic Brain Injury Study

Kartik Balachandran

Biomedical engineering professors at the University of Arkansas have received a three-year, $395,722 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how brain cells respond to traumatic injury.

Assistant professors Jeffrey Wolchok and Kartik Balachandran and their team are trying to determine if neuron-supporting cells known as astrocytes create a degenerative extracellular environment after traumatic injuries. The researchers developed a bioreactor – essentially a bench-top crash tester – that can mimic the physical impact that causes brain injuries.

“Similar in concept to the full-scale crash-test systems used by the automotive industry, the bench-top system will be used to apply impact conditions to populations of brain cells grown in the lab,” Wolchok said.

Traumatic brain injuries affect 1.7 million Americans every year. Such injuries include cognitive, behavioral and emotional complications that may be permanent because the injuries alter the behavior of affected brain cells.

Jeffrey Wolchok

The researchers will collect molecules released from the impacted cell cultures to test whether the degenerative traits produced by the astrocytes occur due to the mechanical stimuli. Molecules exuded from the cells include soluble compounds, such as growth factors and cytokines, and insoluble compounds, such as extracellular matrix.

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Office Offers Limited Submissions Information


The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development encourages all campus researchers to contact the office if they are interested in submitting grant proposals to programs that have institutional limits.

The office has posted at the bottom of its Web page a link to a “Limited Submissions” Web page containing an overview of external funding opportunities currently requiring an internal selection process, as well as a calendar of limited programs competed throughout the year.

According to the university’s Academic Policy Series 1535.10, “In relatively rare situations, funding agencies solicit proposals but limit the number to be submitted by an institution. In such cases, the University of Arkansas will endeavor to determine which proposals are submitted from the campus on the basis of a competitive selection process that is open, fair, and unbiased.”

Cynthia Sagers, associate vice provost for research and economic development, said federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation have been dealing in recent years with an increasing number of proposals.

Learn More


Engineer Awarded Grant to Study Metal Powder Behavior in 3-D Printing

Chakhalian Selected as Moore Investigator

NSF Funds Traumatic Brain Injury Study

Office Offers Limited Submissions Information


Roper Appointed Leader of Engineering Program, Network at NSF

Arkansas PROMISE Begins Enrolling Teens with Disabilities for Paid Work Experiences

National Science Foundation Awards $741,221 to CycleWood Solutions


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Grant Award Winners

The following is a sampling of the top grants awarded to faculty in September, with the principal investigator, the award amount and the sponsor. An asterisk (*) indicates the continuation of a previous award.
• Paul Millett, $764,007, U.S. Department of Energy
• David Deere, $749,370, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• Richard A. Coffman, $571,091, U.S. Department of Transportation
• Matthew Patitz, $439,474, National Science Foundation
• Michelle Bernhardt, $340,035, National Institute of Standards and Technology
• Brent T. Williams, $200,000, U.S. Department of Education
• Stephanie Lusk, $200,000, U.S. Department of Education
• Steve Luoni, $146,501, City of Freeman


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Fayetteville, AR 72701
Website: vpred.uark.edu

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