Leonard wins prestigious Department of Energy award

Posted: June 22, 2022
Aeriel Leonard
Assistant Professor Aeriel Leonard

Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Aeriel Leonard has earned an Early Career Research Award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The funding is part of the DOE’s commitment to supporting the next generation of STEM leaders.

Leonard received the award for her research focused on fatigue crack initiation and growth in material systems. She is the first College of Engineering faculty member to receive this award.

This year DOE selected 83 early career scientists from across the nation—including 27 from DOE’s national laboratories and 56 from U.S. universities. Awardees were selected based on peer review by outside scientific experts. The program, now in its 13th year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

Leonard’s proposal, “The Role of Strain Localization at Interfaces on Fatigue Crack Initiation in Highly Textured Magnesium Alloy” was selected for funding by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

New and innovative materials with extraordinary properties—from superior fatigue resistance to excellent high temperature performance—enable a shift from energy-expensive materials to sustainable materials with a positive impact on communities and the environment, said Leonard. Although these material systems provide many advantages, the underlying meso- and micro-scale structures are complex and as a result, the mechanical behavior is very different than that of traditional metallic alloys.

“Of the properties, fatigue—the repeated cycling of stress on a material—is the most critical form of damage in load bearing structures,” she said. “In fact, fatigue accounts for 80 to 90% of failures in structural components and is still a major problem in many industries. And while fatigue has been studied for over 180 years, there are still gaps in our understanding of the processes controlling fatigue crack initiation and growth.”

Her project will directly address these challenges using a specifically designed and multimodal systematic study that combines electron microscopy, digital image correlation, and high energy X-ray based techniques to understand the mechanisms of damage accumulation at interfaces in complex microstructures leading to crack initiation and growth. Leonard will conduct research at Ohio State's Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS), which offers one of the largest concentrations of electron and ion beam analytical microscopy instruments in the world.

Leonard joined Ohio State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2021. Prior to Ohio State, she was an NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. She earned her bachelor's degree in metallurgical and materials engineering from the University of Alabama, and her doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Michigan. In May of 2021, she was awarded the Young Investigator Award by Office of Naval Research to investigate deformation behavior in wire arc additive manufactured Nickel-Aluminum-Bronze.

Contributions from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering