Golden Kumar is dedicated to the study of metallic glasses and how to eliminate issues to make them a commercially viable material.
Imagine a glass that has tremendous elasticity, is wear resistant and moldable into many different shapes. Actually, it's not necessary to imagine that type of glass. It exists. It's called metallic glass.
However, metallic glass is also very brittle and comes with a higher cost to make than regular glass. For that reason, it has yet to find its niche as a viable commercial product. Perhaps the research of a Texas Tech University faculty member will change all that.
Golden Kumar, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, has been selected to receive a grant from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program that will allow him to research ways to harness metallic glasses at the nanoscale for novel applications.
Kumar, who earned his doctorate in 2005 from the Technical University of Dresden in Germany, earned the five-year, $500,000 grant, which will start on June 1, from the CAREER Program for his research, "Understanding of Intrinsic Size-Effects in Deformation of Metallic Glasses."
Kumar leads the Functional Materials and Devices Laboratory at Texas Tech, which deals with the fabrication and characterization of functional metallic materials with tunable properties, such as wetting, adhesion, reactivity, strength and plasticity. The group is dedicated to understanding the physics of materials on a very small scale and uses metallic glasses as model materials to develop structures at the sub-nanometer scale.
"The CAREER grant will allow us to bridge the gap between the fundamental science and the technology of metallic glasses," Kumar said. "Research in metallic glass has made landmark contributions to the glass physics, crystal nucleation and growth theories, quasicrystals and undercooled liquids. But the technological road has been bumpy for metallic glasses. The future of metallic glasses hinges on converging the advancements in basic science and practical applications."
The CAREER Program offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department. Their work indicates the beginning of a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.
Kumar is the second Texas Tech faculty member to receive the award this year.
"NSF CAREER awards are hugely competitive, and Golden's achievement represents tremendous commitment, dedication to excellence and intellectual creativity," said Guy Loneragan, interim vice president for research at Texas Tech. "This is a hard-won, and prestigious, springboard for Golden's career. In addition to his tremendous individual achievement, his success advances our institution as a whole and raises our profile and standing as a great public research institution. We are most grateful for Golden's commitment to excellence and Texas Tech University."
Because of their strength and elasticity, metallic glasses are seen by researchers as the future of engineering materials. But the material does have some serious obstacles to overcome in order to be a viable commercial product, mostly notably its high costs and its failure when tension is applied to it.
Kumar said the future of metallic glass depends on researchers being able to control its brittle nature and finding a use for it in commercial applications. This will be the focus of his research under the CAREER Award, where he hopes to gain an understanding of the material's reaction under stress on the nanoscale while at the same time harnessing the advantages of reduced size in novel applications.
"We will develop new fabrication and testing paradigms that will allow characterization of hundreds of nanoscale samples simultaneously," Kumar said. "Complex testing of individual nanoscale specimens and irradiation damage has prevented clear understanding of mechanical behavior of metallic glasses at these challenging length scales. Overcoming these hurdles will be the key goal of this project."
Kumar credited the success of his CAREER proposal to three critical components: a noble outreach plan originated from discussions with his wife, continuous encouragement and mentorship by his postdoc advisor, Jan Schroers at Yale University and outstanding work done by graduate student Molla Hasan at Texas Tech.
This is the second NSF award Kumar has received since joining the Texas Tech faculty in 2012. In 2013 he received a grant for $231,311 to study the functionalization of metals by hierarchical surface patterning.
"I'm extremely proud of Dr. Kumar," said Al Sacco Jr., dean of the Whitacre College of Engineering. "This is just another example of the outstanding young faculty we've brought to Texas Tech in the last several years. Dr. Kumar is a leader in his field at a very young age and is being recognized for that with this outstanding award. We will continue to build a community of scholars around individuals like Dr. Kumar as we begin to become a globally elite college of engineering."