By Amanda Olavarria
According to graduate student Tyler Flanagan, cold spray is more than just his current research topic, but an effective way to repair helicopter parts. These aluminum cold spray alloys shoot micrometer-sized particles over the speed of sound over a like material. During the impact with the substrate, it then sticks.
Specifically, in his research Tyler carries out compression testing, in which he takes a column of material and then crushes it in order to discover its mechanical properties. This test is a way of testing a small-scale material’s yield strength and ductility, amongst other properties.
Tyler enjoys the nanomechanical research he does under Pratt and Whitney Assistant Professor Seok-Woo Lee. He explains, “I do nanocompressions on pillars and I think that it is really cool that you can crush something a hundredth of a diameter of a piece of hair.”
He does microcompressions and nanoindentations to look for mechanical properties on a micron scale. He found this work to not only be very interesting, but similar to the work he was doing before on atomic force microscopy.
When Tyler was in search of an open research position he talked to Assistant Professor Lee about his research and this ultimately convinced Tyler to join his lab. His advisor has been a great help to him, especially when it comes to explaining concepts. Tyler said, “My advisor is always available whenever I have questions and it helps that his office is in the lab.”
His advisor considers Tyler’s strong physics background to be an advantage when it comes to his research. Assistant Professor Lee said, “His physicist-like mindset is helpful to imagine reasonable deformation processes and to determine a right direction of his experiments. His first micro-scale tensile test in the last summer was one of the biggest achievement in our research laboratory, and is currently bringing a strong attention from our micro-mechanics communities.”
It is not just his advisor that played a role in Tyler’s MSE experience, a variety of other MSE faculty have also assisted in Tyler’s learning. Specifically, he mentioned Associate Professor George Rossetti and Professor Bryan Huey as playing a critical role in his learning experience.
He spoke highly of Professor Huey’s characterization course and considers it to be one of his favorite classes. Tyler thought it was very well put together and although it was hard and involved a lot of thinking, he found it to be a critical class in his academic experience.
Tyler has found his experience as an MSE graduate student to be very rewarding due to a flexible schedule and enjoyable research. In particular, he found attending conferences to be a very influential part of his MSE experience. These conferences provided him the opportunity to meet and connect with different people in the field. As the future is concerned, Tyler is still exploring the field, but tends to lean more towards industrial research.