Alloy Design Workshop

Metallurgy has always had a strong presence at MIT; Course 3 originated as the Department of Mining and Metallurgy with a focus on researching and exploring the possibilities inherent in alloy design to meet society’s needs. Though the materials research is now in many areas and disciplines, metals and metal alloys remain integral to the development of new materials.

To emphasize the continued importance of alloy design in modern materials science, C. Cem Taşan, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, created the Alloy Design Workshop, an annual event held on the last day of the fall MRS Meeting, as an opportunity for the MIT community and the materials community as a whole to congregate in an intimate setting to present and discuss new, unpublished research.

The purpose of the workshop is twofold: to foster an environment of metallurgical discussion within MIT, and to invite leaders in the field to join the discussion and provide an outside perspective. “Given the large variety of metals in use today, I think [metallurgy] is already a core topic,” says Prof. Taşan, “but I want to emphasize its relevance, and to fuel it further so to speak. I want students who are interested in metals to have opportunities to come and listen to these talks. Discussion is at the core of science, and we have to provide students multiple opportunities to discuss with people who are pushing the limits of our understanding; the only way to push the limits of that understanding is to be at the limits.”

Each year, Prof. Taşan chooses a specific theme related to alloy design on which to focus. In 2018, the topic was “New guidelines in alloy design: from atomistic simulations to combinatorial metallurgy.” He chose this topic because he wanted to demonstrate students interested in becoming metallurgists that the options regarding alloy design are still vast.

“If I just take iron and add some carbon, maybe that’s a relatively small space to explore. Now imagine I need to add not only carbon, but also silicon, aluminum, manganese; now I have five components. I can play with each of their amounts—if you think about all the combinations available, you realize that you have many many options. And, then of course, composition is only one of the variables you can play with. When you start playing with microstructure, you get even more options. In other words, we have an enormous design space for making metallic materials, effectively an infinite design space. Of course It takes some effort to understand what controls what, and we have limited resources. The obvious question, then, is ‘what should we investigate next? What should be the guidelines in alloy design?’ Well, that’s what last year’s workshop was for.”

This year’s topic will focus on Micro-mechanics informed alloy design: overcoming scale-transition challenges, and the date is already set for Friday, December 6, 2019. With the opening of MIT.nano, Professor Taşan wants to focus on the shifting exploration of micro- and nanomechanical research. “It’s an interesting direction, because within only a couple of decades most metallurgists moved suddenly from the “dirty” world of molten metals, casts and high temperature furnaces, to clean labs with electron microscopes and tiny probes on tiny samples. More and more we end up looking at tiny regions in our samples – the workshop is about how to connect this information back to the alloy design problem.” 

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