Purdue Engineers Develop Intelligent Architected Materials

Jackie Kaufman

October 02,2023

Jackie Kaufman is the dedicated Editorial Director at Building Product Advisor. With a wealth of experience in the construction and renovation industries, Jackie brings a keen understanding of the dynamic landscape of building products. As a seasoned industry writer, her insightful contributions can be found across various publications, capturing the essence of industry trends and innovations. Her commitment to delivering valuable insights makes her an indispensable part of the BPA team, where she continues to shape the narrative of the construction industry.

Purdue University researchers are testing the new adaptable materials for transportation, structural, and other real-world applications.

Purdue University civil engineers have developed innovative materials that can dissipate energy caused by bending, compression, torque, and tensile stresses without sustaining permanent damage. These intelligent architected materials may also possess shape memory properties, making them reusable while enhancing safety and durability.

The research, led by Professor Pablo Zavattieri, believe the new class of adaptable materials offer potential uses in multiple industries, such as earthquake engineering, impact-resistant structures, biomedical devices, sporting goods, building construction, and automotive components. The technology is currently being tested for 3D-printed panels for aircraft runway mats and nonpneumatic tires for military vehicles, providing resistance to punctures and leaks while maintaining performance in various terrains.

Purdue Develops Intelligent Architected Materials

“These materials are designed for fully recoverable, energy-dissipating structures, akin to what is referred to as architected shape memory materials, or phase transforming cellular materials, known as PXCM,” Zavattieri said. “They can also exhibit intelligent responses to external forces, changes in temperature, and other external stimuli.”

These materials can be created from various substances, such as polymers, rubber, and concrete, as long as they remain within the elastic range. They are designed to deform in controlled and programmable ways, providing enhanced energy absorption and adaptability. For the aircraft runway mats, Zavattieri sees the material aiding in self-healing properties, resulting in a longer life span than a runway made with AM-2 matting. "Another benefit is that debris on the runway will not hamper the runway’s performance with our technology," he says.

The Purdue researchers have demonstrated scalability from macro to micro applications and an improvement over traditional lightweight cellular materials.

“We have produced intelligent architected materials as large as 12 inches, which are ideal for applications like building and bridge construction to absorb and harness energy,” Zavattieri said. “Conversely, we have created materials with unit cells smaller than the thickness of a human hair. This scalability opens up a world of possibilities from macro to micro applications.”

The research has received funding from organizations like General Motors, ITAMCO (Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies), the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force. Additionally, patents have been filed to protect the intellectual property, and industry partners interested in commercializing the materials for the marketplace should contact Dipak Narula, Assistant Director of Business Development and Licensing in Physical Sciences, at dnarula@prf.org about 2018-ZAVA-68252, 2019-ZAVA-68691, 2020-ZAVA-69072 and 2022-ZAVA-69900.

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