ONR grants to UTA's Advanced Materials and Structures Lab top $1.4 million


Credit: UT Arlington

A University of Texas at Arlington aerospace engineering professor has received two Office of Naval Research grants worth nearly $1.5 million that will further enhance the Advanced Materials and Structures Lab's national standing and capabilities.

Andrew Makeev, director of the Advanced Materials and Structures Lab or AMSL and a professor of aerospace engineering, said the first grant, a $542,937 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program or DURIP grant, will upgrade UTA's unique computed tomography facilities to enable high-resolution, in situ, three-dimensional material characterization. The new images have up to a 1-micron resolution. A micron is a millionth of a meter or about .00004 inches. A human hair is about 75 microns across for comparison.

The second grant is for $930,849 from the Aerospace Science Research Division of the Office of Naval Research. It will study the physics phenomena governing the manufacturing irregularities or defects in composite parts.

"We must continue injecting physics/science into the practical engineering analysis to better understand and predict the conditions at which the defects would happen in the composite rotocraft, flight-critical components and structures manufactured using various material systems and tooling," Makeev said.

AMSL has shown funding agencies like ONR a track record that instills the confidence to entrust intricate efforts.

Makeev received three ONR DURIP grants during his six-year tenure at UTA. This year focuses on upgrading UTA's computed tomography facility that can handle structures which are up to 5 feet long which is large for industrial CT capabilities. Due to a unique combination of maximum size of test articles and in situ microfocus ability, UTA's CT system became a destination for Navy, Air Force and Army research programs, as well as aircraft manufacturers like Bell, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. This in situ CT facility has been instrumental in achieving a breakthrough in understanding complex deformation and failure mechanisms in composites.

However, advanced materials, structures and manufacturing processes for critical applications require significant improvement in the resolution capability of the UTA facility.

For example, while the system resolution has been sufficient to see a single glass fiber, which is approximately 10 microns in diameter, in composite structures, it has not been enough for a 5-micron diameter carbon fiber. The upgrade by North Star Imaging includes the new generation X-ray tube and detectors among other hardware enabling unprecedented three-dimensional imaging quality and efficiency.

Erian Armanios, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, indicated the high visibility of Makeev's research. "The Advanced Materials and Structures Lab is continuing its stellar trajectory for making breakthroughs in diagnostics and prognosis of composites," Armanios said. "UTA is becoming the go-to destination for pioneering work serving the aerospace industry and government labs with novel solutions to timely technical challenges."

The research dovetails nicely in with the University's Strategic Plan, including one of the pillars of that plan: data-driven discovery. Duane Dimos, UTA's vice president for research, said Makeev's research is a great example of UTA projects reaching out of the laboratory and into the real world.

"When industry begins seeking out what UTA is doing, that's collaboration that is built to last," Dimos said.


The Advanced Materials and Structures Lab has quickly become a world-class organization with a critical mass of researchers empowered by state-of-the-art facilities. The lab enables a shift from relying on the traditional time-consuming trial and error experimentation loops and empiricism in the design of composite materials and structures, to efficient diagnostics and prognosis methods. These rely upon three-dimensional imaging and performance prediction based on accurate computational tools.

AMSL's recent research accomplishments have appeared in more than 25 articles in the top refereed journals in the field; and recognized by six "best paper" awards at national and international conferences including the Cheeseman Award at the 36th European Rotorcraft Forum. It is the first and only time the award was presented to authors based in the United States. The lab also earned American Helicopter Society Forum best papers in structures and materials in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017; and the American Society for Composites best paper award in 2013.

Makeev has brought in nearly $3 million during the last couple of years from governmental agencies and private companies in the defense contractor sector.

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Herb Booth
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