UTEP Mechanical Engineering Professor to Study Materials for Hypersonic Cruise Vehicles

A mechanical engineering professor from The University of Texas at El Paso will help enhance the sustainability of structures moving at hypersonic speeds through a $130,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering in UTEP’s College of Engineering, is the principal investigator of the award from the AFRL.

The grant will be used to conduct experimental and computational research on materials for hypersonic cruise vehicles (HVCs).

The project objective is to develop a real-time mechanical state tool for the predictive maintenance of turbomachinery and the survivability of hypersonic structures.

The mechanical state is the temporal and spatial distribution of residual stresses, deformation, and defects within a material.

Stewart directs the Material at Extremes Research Group under the direction of UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology and Research (cSETR). The project is divided into two research objectives.

The first objective is to generate a database of standard and nonstandard experimental data for a candidate material for hypersonic cruise vehicles.

The second objective is to develop a tool — based on information from the database — that incorporates both a physically realistic model and computationally efficient software to enable the real-time prediction of mechanical state.

“Real-time prediction of the mechanical state is important for the survivability of HCVs,” Stewart said. “At that speed, the life expectancy of these vehicles is measured in minutes. If we can better predict the mechanical response under the conditions of hypersonic flight, we can extend the life of HCVs and eventually be able to travel around the globe in less than two hours.”

The AFRL grant will used to support student researchers and provide student travel to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

“The success of any research project arises not from the professors involved but from the students,” Stewart said. “The students involved in this project will work on a national high-priority research area. Ideally, these students will go on to work for AFRL and be an example of the high caliber of students that UTEP can produce.”