Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, has been awarded an early-career award from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research for his work developing ultralight, super-elastic, and flexible inorganic metamaterials for future flight structures.

Inorganic materials, such as metals or ceramics, are desirable for applications because of their high temperature and chemical resistance. But often the materials are inflexible, brittle, and heavy.

Zheng’s research will study the unique mechanics of three-dimensional, multiscale nano-architectures and proliferate them into superstructures through additive manufacturing. The goal of the study is to introduce significant weight saving, flexibility, toughness, and smart morphing that are unattainable in brittle, but functional inorganic materials.

Three Virginia Tech faculty members were among the 45 to receive the three-year awards in 2017. Joining Zheng, also a faculty member in the Macromolecules Innovation Institute, are Reza Mirzaeifar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Wei Zhou, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The Air Force's Young Investigator Research Program annually awards funding to U.S. scientists and engineers who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. Zheng will develop functional lightweight materials that are ultralight and strong, and able to survive in harsh environments.

Zheng received his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in 2011 from Boston University.

Written by Rosaire Bushey

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