Ding Receives NSF Grant to Study a Fast Laser-based Surface Nanostructuring Method

Hongtao Ding, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and researcher at the UI Center for Computer-Aided Design, has received a $425,794 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the fundamentals of a fast laser-based processing method to create functional surface textures on metal alloys.

With a focus on laser materials processing, Ding and his graduate students are working to understand the underlying fundamental mechanisms driving the nanosecond Laser-based High-throughput Surface Nanostructuring process. The fabricated surfaces have random nanoscale structures that promote superhydrophobic (repels water), and highly anti-reflective characteristics. Drops of water tend to stick and spread on metal surfaces, but that doesn't happen on the treated ones using this technology, they roll off the surface. And when they roll off, they take the dust on the metal with them — a form of self-cleaning. The water doesn't get to freeze on these processed surfaces — a form of anti-icing. Random surface nanostructures generated from the process significantly enhance the effects of surface diffuse reflection and light trapping, resulting in a great reflectance reduction within both visible and infrared spectra.

"The processing method can both be applied to many critical engineering materials including steel, aluminum, titanium and magnesium alloys, and offer a high-throughput process chain capable of treating large surface areas," Ding said. "All the existing technologies take a while—up to two full hours to treat a single square inch of metal—whereas this technology few tens of seconds to process the same. Realization of these potential manufacturing gains will advance the national prosperity and welfare by increasing U.S. advanced manufacturing competitiveness, and will find application across many manufacturing sectors including aerospace, energy, and defense."

A special YouTube video about the technology is available. Go to https://youtu.be/hd9ynVmzazU

The award will also facilitate training of the future workforce as students across all levels will gain experience in advanced manufacturing and surface science fundamentals. Additional educational opportunities will be made available for underrepresented freshman from rural areas of Iowa through the Rural Scholar Research Program.

In addition to Ding as principal investigator of the grant, co-principal investigators include Shaoping Xiao, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and researcher at the UI Center for Computer-Aided Design, and Scott Shaw, assistant professor of chemistry in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

To learn more about the award, go to https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1762353&HistoricalAwards=false

Hongtao Ding