Liu’s NSF CAREER award will improve power ultrasound in advanced manufacturing

Posted: January 15, 2021

Xun Liu, an assistant professor of welding engineering, has earned a five-year, $501,865 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her research on ultrasonically assisted wire arc additive manufacturing.

Xun Liu

According to the NSF website, the CAREER award is most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both. Liu’s research is funded by the NSF program, Advanced Manufacturing.

Her project, “Ultrasonically Assisted Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing of Metal Matrix Nanocomposites for High-strength, Lightweight Structures,” focuses on an innovative ultrasonically assisted wire arc additive manufacturing process for fabricating metal matrix nanocomposite structures in freeform and at large scale.

Metal matrix nanocomposites (MMNC) are a promising class of lightweight materials where the well-dispersed nanoparticles within the bulk metal matrix provide superior mechanical properties. Wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) enables direct manufacture of MMNC structural parts at large scale with freeform geometries. However, Liu notes, achieving desirable mechanical properties are challenging due to agglomeration of nanoparticles in the repeated melting cycles, solidification defects, and the as-cast microstructure features.

The process enables the direct manufacture of metal matrix nanocomposite functional parts and is advantageous in distinctly high deposition rate and low cost compared with powder-based additive manufacturing processes. Liu’s project would facilitate wide applications of metal matrix nanocomposites for lightweight structures, which improves energy efficiency, reduces fuel consumption and benefits various transportation industries, thus contributing to national economy and security.

“I think this award will be a great opportunity to further advance the knowledge of power ultrasound in advanced manufacturing and carry on the legacy of this research in our renowned welding engineering program,” said Liu.

The multidisciplinary nature of this project, covering the fields of mechanical design, materials, metallurgy, data processing, thermo-mechanical modeling, and others provides numerous real-world, problem-based training opportunities for students at different levels. Results of this research can be transformed into various outreach activities that increase manufacturing career awareness in young generations and underrepresented minorities through collaborations with student outreach programs.

In addition to her CAREER award, Liu is the principal investigator of two active NSF projects focusing on the fundamental principles and engineering applications of power ultrasound. One study is in collaboration with the University of Michigan and focuses on ultrasonic effects on material mechanical behavior to improve the incremental sheet metal forming process. The other study focuses on an innovative ultrasonically assisted resistance spot welding process for joining lightweight and dissimilar materials, for which Liu’s team holds a patent.

Liu joined Ohio State’s Department of Materials Science in January 2018. She currently leads the ManufacturingX Lab, focusing on the development and analysis of advanced manufacturing process, which integrates mechanical, material and computational modeling multidisciplinary research fields. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, and her bachelor’s from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China.

contributions from Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering

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