P.C. Rossin College of
Engineering and Applied Science
Lehigh engineers using data analytics, experimental microscopy validate novel approach to new materials search

EDS mapA new method of discovering materials using data analytics and electron microscopy has found a new class of extremely hard alloys. Such materials could potentially withstand severe impact from projectiles, providing better protection of soldiers in combat. Lehigh researchers describe the method and findings in an article, “Materials Informatics For the Screening of Multi-Principal Elements and High-Entropy Alloys,” published in Nature Communications.

“We used materials informatics—the application of the methods of data science to materials problems—to predict a class of materials that have superior mechanical properties,” said primary author Jeffrey M. Rickman, professor of materials science and engineering and physics and Class of ’61 Professor.

Researchers also used experimental tools, such as electron microscopy, to gain insight into the physical mechanisms that led to the observed behavior in the class of materials known as high-entropy alloys (HEAs). High-entropy alloys contain many different elements that, when combined, may result in systems having beneficial and sometimes unexpected thermal and mechanical properties. For that reason, they are currently the subject of intense research.

“We thought that the techniques that we have developed would be useful in identifying promising HEAs,” Rickman said. “However, we found alloys that had hardness values that exceeded our initial expectations. Their hardness values are about a factor of 2 better than other, more typical high-entropy alloys and other relatively hard binary alloys.”

All seven authors are from Lehigh, including Rickman; Helen M. Chan, New Jersey Zinc Professor of materials science and engineering; Martin P. Harmer, Alcoa Foundation Professor of materials science and engineering; Joshua Smeltzer, graduate student in materials science and engineering; Christopher Marvel, postdoctoral research associate in materials science and engineering; Ankit Roy, graduate student in mechanical engineering and mechanics; and Ganesh Balasubramanian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics. The four faculty members are affiliated with Lehigh's Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD); Rickman, Harmer, and Balasubramanian are also affiliated with the Institute for Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems, and Computation (I-DISC).

The research was funded by the Office of Naval Research with support from Lehigh’s Nano/Human Interface Initiative.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

Story by Amy White

Main image: An X-ray energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) map of the as-cast microstructure of a hard alloy predicted from Lehigh University researchers' analysis. Source: Lehigh University

Jeffrey M. Rickman

Jeffrey M. Rickman, professor of materials science and engineering and physics and Class of ’61 Professor

Helen M. Chan

Helen M. Chan, New Jersey Zinc Professor of materials science and engineering

Martin P. Harmer

Martin P. Harmer, Alcoa Foundation Professor of materials science and engineering

Ganesh Balasubramanian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics