Subhash Receives 2005 Research Award

Professor Ghatu Subhash, who has gained an international reputation for his research in mechanical engineering and materials science, is the recipient of Michigan Tech’s 2005 Research Award.

This makes him one of a handful of MTU faculty to be honored with both the Research Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award, which he received in 1994.

“I am really honored and humbled–this was a bit unexpected,” said Subhash, the associate chair and director of graduate studies of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. He credited both the university, his students and his department for supporting him in all facets of the academic mission.

“I have always felt that Michigan Tech is an outstanding educational institution which fosters all aspects of teaching, research and scholarship,” he said. “This is one of the best places in the country to do the all-round activities associated with any aspect of higher education.”

“Plus, the support from my department has been incredible, and from my family too. My family provides the fuel that keeps me going.”

Subhash’s work focuses on understanding the properties of materials at high rates of loading, and he distinguished himself early in his career with the invention of the Dynamic Indentation Hardness Tester. The device is now patented in both the U.S. and Canada and has been licensed by the Army Research Lab at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

“It measures a material’s resistance to high-speed events, like you’d have in a crash, impact or in machining,” Subhash said.

The hardness tester looks deceptively simple. There’s a long bar with a power source at one end, a point at the other, and a weight in the middle. “It’s more complicated than it seems,” Subhash notes. “It’s like firing a bullet, making it kiss the target and come back.” He was invited to write two ASM International handbook articles based on this research.

Department Chair William Predebon, who nominated Subhash for the Research Award, noted that the hardness tester has attracted interest from a number of corporations and that work is under way to establish ASTM International [formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials] standards for this testing method.

“Professor Subhash has also made breakthroughs in the area of wear,” Predebon said. Until Subhash developed the Instrumented Scratch Tester, there was no good method for measuring how resistant materials are to wear and tear. “The national labs are using it to test materials, both military and civilian,” Subhash said.

G. Ravichandran, a professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering at Caltech, praised Subhash’s research achievements. “He combines strengths from many different disciplines to attain the necessary breakthroughs which lead to penetrating insights into material behavior.”

As an example, Ravichandran cited Subhash’s brittleness measures, which can determine how susceptible to wear a given material is. “For example, if you have 10 candidates of materials for a given purpose, you can rank them from best to worst,” Subhash explains.

“We are also looking at unlocking the mechanics of wear at the nanoscale with a National Science Foundation grant,” he adds. “Nanostructured materials are superior to large-grain-size materials; they have higher strength and higher resistance to wear.”

Subhash has been exploring another realm on the interface of engineering and science, amorphous metals, also known as metallic glasses. In addition to military applications, amorphous metals could find a role on the golf course. “A club made of metallic glass would have high elastic strains and a high coefficient of restitution,” Subhash says. In other words, for a golfer using a club with a shaft made out of metallic glass, a 300-yard-drive could be no big deal.

In addition, he and his graduate students are working on an analysis tool called crushability-maps to help engineers and designers pick the right density of structural foam. Structural foams are typically used to cushion impacts and may surround a gas tank, cover a dashboard or protect the underside of a military transport vehicle in Baghdad. “It lets the designer select the right foam density for the project,” he says.

M. A. Zikry, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, calls Subhash’s research on foams “pioneering. ”

“His work in this area has been heavily cited, and these maps are proving to be invaluable to materials designers and computational modelers,” Zikry said in recommending Subhash for the Research Award. “I feel very fortunate to have him as a research colleague.”

In addition to producing top-notch research, Subhash is devoted to teaching and scholarship, according to Predebon. “There are only a few people who can do it all well, and Subhash is one of them,” he said. “He’s an effective and exciting teacher, he’s very active advising and graduating grad students, and he’s active in professional societies. Plus, he’s a terrific mentor for young faculty, and he’s known internationally through his research.

“He’s one of the few people who can do fundamental research and convert it into patent.”
Predebon noted that Subhash is one of the youngest members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to be elected to the grade of Fellow, a designation achieved by less than 3 percent of the society’s members.

He agreed with Subhash that the university does provide opportunities for excellence. “I’ve always felt that because Michigan Tech is small, we are more agile and you can make a difference here,” Predebon said. “Ghatu Subhash has definitely made a difference in research and teaching, and I’ve tried to support that.”

Among his other honors, Subhash has received the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award and the ASME Student Section Advisor Award and was named an Outstanding New Mechanics Educator by the American Society for Engineering Education in 1996.

He has received over $3.2 million in research funding from industry and government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office and Oak Ridge National Laboratories and has authored or coauthored more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and two handbook articles and co-edited a book, “Deformation, Fracture and Failure of Advanced Materials.” His journal publications have received more than 300 citations.

As the recipient of the Research Award, Subhash will receive $2,500.