Congratulations to Aerospace Engineering Ph.D. candidate Alireza Nafari, winner of the Advanced Research People’s Choice Award at the 2018 Engineering Graduate Symposium. His winning poster, “Electromechanical Modeling and Experimental Verification of a Direct Write Nanocomposite,” investigates piezoelectric materials in composites.
“Piezo,” derived from the Greek meaning “to press,” describes a range of materials called “piezoelectrics.” These materials generate an electrical field when a mechanical stress is applied. Conversely, they will exert a stress if subjected to an electric field. The applications for this material are extensive, currently ranging from ultrasound equipment earbuds and other speakers.
Nafari and his advisor, Aerospace Engineering Professor Henry Sodano are interested in integrating piezoelectric materials into nanocomposites, a key area of research in the Aerospace Materials Lab. His poster abstract explains that these materials are “promising building blocks for sensing, actuation and energy harvesting systems,” though they “are limited in certain applications due to their lack of machinability as well as their inability to conform to curved surfaces.” The purpose of Nafari’s research is to examine the possibility of using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing to address challenges in piezoelectric nanocomposite machinability. To do so, he provided initial experimental validation of finite element models, focusing on “how the gradual alignment of piezoelectric nanowires in the nanocomposite from randomly oriented to purely aligned can improve electroelastic properties of a printed nanocomposite.”
Having received his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology (2012) and the University of Florida (2015), respectively, Nafari is now in his last year of his PhD; he plans to defend his thesis in May. Reflecting on his award, he expresses gratitude to his research advisor: “Thank you to Professor Sodano – I’ve been working with him since 2013, so it’s been a long time and he’s taught me a lot about how to work in labs. On the research side, that’s six years of knowing him and learning from him.” After defending his thesis, Nafari hopes to continue his research as a postdoc.