Skip to content

Best of Both Worlds

Creating a totally new category of materials requires persistence and patience.

Metallic glass may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an actual thing. How is it possible to take the best characteristics of metals and glasses and combine them into one super-strong yet easily malleable material?

Takeshi Egami knows the answer, because he’s been working on it for over 45 years. And there are still plenty of secrets yet to be unlocked.

You may not be familiar with metallic glasses because they’ve been around for only a few generations. But according to Egami, a UT-ORNL Distinguished Scientist and professor of materials science and engineering, it’s only a matter of time until they are everywhere.

“Glasses have existed since the beginning of history, but the science of glasses has always been shrouded by big mysteries,” Egami said. “Due to metallic glass, the newest addition to the glass family, we are now solving those mysteries and will soon be ready to use these materials in technologically advanced products.”

Welcome to the New Age

The key to the metallic glass revolution lies in understanding the properties of both metals and glasses at the atomic level.

Metals offer advantages in strength and durability that are unmatched by other substances. Their conductive properties helped usher in the electronics age. Another positive is the abundance of metals, making them easily available and cost effective.

On the downside, metal atoms tend to line up in an orderly fashion—like a marching band—making the material susceptible to breaking or shearing under heavy loads. Additionally, even the finest metals have a much higher tendency to corrode compared to plastics or glasses.

"A material that combines  the strength and ductility  of metals with the fracture  resistance and anticorrosive  properties of glass will  truly prove to be an  important milestone." —Takeshi Egami

While regular glasses used in windows clearly don’t have the same inherent strength as metals, the one crucial benefit they offer is that their atoms are arranged chaotically—like a throng of football fans flooding the field after a big victory. This lack of alignment makes straight-line failures nearly impossible.

Their main disadvantage, however, is fragility. Once they start to fail, they fail catastrophically, limiting their use in areas where strength is a concern.

Egami believes that coming up with a material that combines the strength and ductility of metals with the fracture resistance and anticorrosive properties of glass will truly prove to be an important milestone.

“Much like silicon has defined the information age, this new wave of substances will set the tone for coming innovations,” Egami said.

Cooling-off Period

The first recorded production of metallic glass happened in 1960. Scientists knew that when a metal melts into a liquid, its atomic structure becomes disorganized.But they discovered that rapidly cooling the molten metal preserves the chaos.

This process produces a glass by locking the atomic structures of the liquid-state metal in place before they can return to solid-state patterns of the crystals.

While that breakthrough proved metallic glass could be fabricated, there were some drawbacks. At the time, only very thin ribbons could be formed because the liquid needed to be cooled so quickly.

As the years progressed, new expertise and alloy development moved the needle exponentially. Today, it’s possible to manufacture metallic glass more than an inch thick—almost a thousand times thicker than the original experiment.

“Our knowledge of the basic properties of liquids and glasses—such as viscosity, strength, and ductility—has increased greatly over time,” Egami said. “We still have a long way to go in understanding the physics, but we are going down the right path. Soon we will be able to design new glasses based upon the science.”

Potential Outcomes

Even though metallic glasses are used in small quantities in many applications, much more research is needed before they can be used in widespread commercial applications. But their properties are promising for a number of reasons.

For example, their tendency to resist scratching and breaking makes metallic glasses ideal for mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. Their strength—even at extremely small widths—could allow them to replace plastics used in those devices.

Other beneficial properties like high strength and low energy loss have made metallic glasses useful in tools and sports equipment such as golf clubs that are designed to convey the maximum possible force.

In an odd twist, the extreme durability of metallic glass could actually hamper its adaptation. While having a phone that won’t break or a razor that never dulls might seem great for consumers, it could severely limit a company’s profits. Why would they sell something you had to buy only once?

“If they made a product that never broke or never needed replacing, they could sell one to everyone and that would be it,” Egami explained. “There would be no ongoing market.”

So you might say that makes metallic glass a bit of a paradox as well as an oxymoron.

Originally published in Quest Magazine.

Accolades: Notable News for December 4, 2017

Coble Named Southern Company Faculty Fellow

Jamie Coble

Assistant Professor Jamie Coble

Assistant Professor Jamie Coble was awarded the inaugural Southern Company Faculty Fellow award in recognition of her outstanding performance in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. The award is renewable on a competitive basis.

The Southern Company Faculty Fellow was created by the Southern Company in coordination between the college’s Office of Development and Southern Company, represented by Kim Greene, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Greene is a UT engineering alumna. Many UT nuclear engineering graduates are employees at Southern Company and its affiliates, and the company is a major provider of co-op opportunities for Tickle College of Engineering students.

Read more about the Department of Nuclear Engineering

TerMaath Named Jessie Rogers Zeanah Faculty Fellow

Stephanie TerMaath

Stephanie TerMaath

Assistant Professor Stephanie TerMaath was named the inaugural Jessie Rogers Zeanah Faculty Fellow in recognition of her outstanding performance in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. The award is renewable on a competitive basis.

The award was created by Eric Zeanah, an industrial engineering alumnus, and named in honor of his mother, who inspired her sons to reach for their goals in education, business, and life. Zeanah is a current member of the college’s Board of Advisors and contributes often and in many ways to the college’s success.

Read more about the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Alshibli Contributes Photos to Arabic Space Museum in Kuwait

Alshibli photoResearch photos taken by CEE Professor Khalid Alshibli for his geotechnical research will be used as part of a permanent visual display at a world-class space museum currently under construction in the Al-Sha’ab district of Kuwait City, Kuwait.

The photos depict macroscopic images of the lunar regolith simulant, which was created to mimic the geotechnical properties of lunar regolith, since actual lunar soil is not available to most researchers due to the small collection samples brought from Apollo missions.

Read more about Alshibli’s photos

Congratulations to CURENT’s 2017-2018 PES Scholar Recipients

Eleven students from CURENT partner universities received PES Scholarships for the 2017-2018 year. A total of 210 PES Scholarship recipients were selected from the 548 individuals who applied for the scholarship.

Read more about CURENT scholarship winners

Hairong Qi Named an IEEE Fellow

Hairong Qi was elevated to IEEE Fellow for 2018. She was recognized “for contributions to collaborative signal processing in sensor networks.”

Read more about Hairong Qi

Jiani Tan Receives A&WMA Scholarship

Jiani Tan (3rd from left) and Laura Wilson of Vanderbilt University (2nd from left) receive the A&WMA scholarship presented by Andrea R. Gardiner, Southern section Chair and Scott Freeburn, A&WMA President.

Jiani Tan (third from left) receives the A&WMA scholarship.

Environmental engineering doctoral student Jiani Tan was awarded one of two A&WMA (Air & Waste Management Association) Southern Section PhD. Scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year.

Tan was invited to speak at the Southern Section Annual Conference in Nashville on September 20-21 and gave a brief summary of her current and past research on air pollution modelling.

Read more about Tan’s scholarship

Fraser Earns IEEE Fellowship

Ryan Fraser received a Life Members Graduate Study Fellowship in Electrical Engineering during a ceremony on 17 November in Phoenix, Arizona. Fraser is a UT graduate research assistant pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering.

Read more about the IEEE awards

UT Business, Engineering Students Developing Interactive Bus Kiosks

Students visit Local Motors.

Students visit Local Motors.

Nineteen sophomores in UT’s Integrated Business and Engineering Program are ramping up their efforts on a project with real-world impact: a ticketing kiosk and bus stop for Olli, the driverless bus being produced by Local Motors.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced in April that Olli will be used by the city, giving students added motivation to see their designs carried out. Plans are for it to be utilized around conventions and other high-turnout events, with initial rollout and testing to be done around Chilhowee Park.

“We’ve teamed with Local Motors as a way for our students to get experience working with a highly innovative company on a project with public impact,” said Mary Brow, IBEP director. “The company presented us with a set of requirements that had to be met, and our student teams have come up with some additional ideas for add-ons that have found a place in the design process.”

Among the requirements laid out for the designs were that the kiosks and bus stop must:

  • Weigh less than 500 pounds
  • Be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Meet codes and regulations
  • Have interactive LED screens with common apps such as Google
  • Have lights and cameras for security

Students have also suggested charging ports, Wi-Fi, solar panels for power, and seating for customers.

The project culminated Tuesday, November 28, when Local Motors officials visited UT to hear the teams make their presentations and select the winning design.

UT launched IBEP to have select students from both the Haslam College of Business and Tickle College of Engineering gain experience and education about all aspects of an industry. Beginning in their sophomore year, students take five classes together and complete a joint business and engineering capstone project to earn a concentration with their degree.

The goal is to have 60 students–20 of each class rank from sophomore through senior–in the next two years.

The class featuring the Local Motors project, Problem Solving in Organizations and System Thinking, includes an introduction to the basics of industrial systems, guest lectures from industry leaders, and sessions devoted to critical thinking and finding solutions to production.

Led by Heath Fellow, Professor, and Director of the Center for Advanced Systems Research and Education Rupy Sawhney and Professor of Practice and Engineering Entrepreneurship Director Lee Martin, the course included the semester-long project as a way to test students’ knowledge and their ability to work together and to collaborate with others outside their group.

Engineering Summer Programs: From Pre-College to College

James Pippin Works with Two Students

James Pippin (center) with two students in 1986.

The Office of Engineering Diversity Programs initiated the first ever summer pre-college program in 1997 when it introduced Middle School Introduction to Engineering (MITE). James Pippin, former program director of the office, said the program’s goal was to introduce middle school students to engineering and recruit high school students to the college.

Today, the office hosts four different programs which include Engineering VOLunteers for Ninth Graders (eVOL9), Engineering VOLunteers for Tenth Graders (eVOL10), High School Introduction to Engineering Systems for 11th Graders (HITES11), and High School Introduction to Engineering Systems for 12th Graders (HITES12).

The goal is to spark an interest in engineering through hands-on activities and allow students to explore career opportunities, by participating in classes, dining in student dining halls, and living in student residence halls. The programs also offer students the ability to familiarize themselves with UT and the Tickle College of Engineering.

“While I was at HITES, we toured every engineering facility and many faculty members spoke to us about their respective departments,” said Irfan Ibrahim, a nuclear engineering major from Sevierville, Tennessee.

“This was great in that we could all see what each engineering field was about and also see what types of careers people have in them.”

The pre-college programs also prepared students like Annette Robbins, a nuclear engineering major from Chattanooga, for the rigors of college once they arrive.

“HITES12 prepared me for the incoming workload from Engineering Fundamentals and how to standardize the homework in an engineering format, they helped me understand the engineer’s way of thinking—critical thinking,” said Robbins.

To date, the programs have provided a summer engineering experience to over 1,000 middle and high school students. Amongst those students are plenty of success stories of students who continued forward through the programs into the college, like Jamie Anderson-Porter, who went from pre-college to a PhD in nuclear engineering. She is now a senior radiation engineer in the Space Exploration Sector at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

“Jamie Anderson was the first female African-American student to graduate from the University of Tennessee with a PhD in nuclear engineering,” Pippin said.

This year marks a change for the eVOL9 program. It will move to a three-day conference style setting.

“The goal is to expand this opportunity to 100 students,” said Travis Griffin, program director of the college’s Office of Diversity Programs. “In addition, we will provide educational workshops for their parent or guardian and teachers. The important concerns associated with the program are improving the student experience to discover engineering, ACT preparation, and educating parents and teachers of the expectations of an engineering student.”

The new setting for the conference will also serve as a pilot program for potential future expansion.

“When the eVOL9 conference proves to be a successful model, we plan to make it mobile to provide the engineering experience in other major Tennessee cities such as Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis,” said Griffin.

The college will expand the eVOL10 and HITES12 summer experiences. These experiences will be lead by our assistant director, Ms. Jalonda N. Thompson starting summer 2018.

The Journey Continues: Office of Diversity Programs Set to Enter its 45th Year

From Fred Brown’s time as director of the Office of Engineering Diversity Programs (EDP), the office has seen a lot of change. In 1999, it was renamed and has come to serve not only African American, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Alaskan Native students, but also female students.

Throughout the past 44 years, the office has supported more than 1,000 students. The Fred Brown Jr. Minority Academic Endowment, James Pippin Pre-College Program Endowment, Engineering Diversity Excellence Endowment, and Robert B. Lewis III Engineering Diversity Excellence Endowment provide resources for underrepresented students within the Tickle College of Engineering. Additionally, the office continues to expand to support more students from underrepresented populations who are pursuing engineering. The office is considered a safe place where students can learn, grow, receive encouragement, and even let out their frustrations from time to time.

EDP has also made massive strides in maintaining strong corporate relationships, including a partnership with the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP), which provides students with many opportunities including monthly enrichment to students on subjects involving professionalism and student development. The TLSAMP Graduate Development Program also offers post-undergraduate workshops and GRE preparation for students planning to attend graduate school.

This year, the Engineering VOLunteers for Ninth Graders summer program was selected for the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Programs Advocates Outreach Program Award. This award is given to honor programs that have actively increased the participation of students from historically underrepresented minority populations in engineering.

Travis Griffin

Travis Griffin

“EDP continues to develop partnerships across Tennessee to support community-based programs with the goal of supporting student learning and engineering exploration,” said Travis Griffin, director of the office.

“We’ve come a long way, but the journey continues,” says Griffin. “We are committed to supporting underrepresented students in any capacity. In the coming year, a renewed focus will be placed on Women in Engineering programs to increase outreach and retention efforts to increase the number of female engineers in our college.”

Griffin’s goal is to provide programming to address recruitment, transition, and retention of female engineering students while continuing the strong support for multicultural engineering students and their communities. Efforts will include class clustering, academic workshops, and community building in order to improve academic performance and retention.

Jenny Patel and the Society of Women Engineers Recognized

Jenny PatelJenny Patel’s advocacy for women in engineering, as well as her pursuit of advancing the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at the University of Tennessee, have made her stand out from among her peers. Due to her vision and leadership skills, Patel has been awarded several honors. She received the Most Outstanding Freshman of the Year Award and the Leadership Award from the UT Section of SWE, and she was also recognized for outstanding leadership for the WomEngineer’s Day Conference in its inaugural year.

Within SWE, Patel has served as an officer for three of her four years, and her uplifting personality and passion for engineering has allowed her to be a successful leader. Patel currently serves as president and has worked to increase meeting attendance by over 70 percent by offering networking opportunities with company representatives throughout the region. She not only promotes engineering through her involvement with SWE, but also serves on the WomEngineer’s Leadership Council to coordinate an annual WomEngineering Welcome Dinner for incoming freshmen and to motivate women in STEM fields throughout the college. Additionally, Patel has been a coordinator for the biennial WomEngineer’s Day Conference, since its inception in 2015.

Most recently, her commitment and enthusiasm for engineering allowed her to gain an internship at Siemens Healthineers, where she served as a mechanical engineering intern and worked with PET and CT scanners.

Membership Retention Award

Society of Women Engineers LogoThe Society of Women Engineers at UT strives to provide opportunities for our members to aspire to their dreams, advance their profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders. Activities and programs are aimed to foster mentoring and the development of professional and personal networks—emphasized by the SWE Core Values. At the beginning of the year, the executive board met to determine how to improve membership retention—they realized more professional opportunities were needed.

“An Evening with Industry” was an event planned to do just that. This fall event provided an opportunity to network with professionals from over 10 companies. In the spring, SWE hosted a networking event with an interactive workshop focusing on reviewing resumes, mock interviews, and critiquing elevator speeches. Meetings also emphasized professional growth by welcoming a number of industry professionals to share their expertise and advice. Professional growth is also achieved through the SWEeties Mentoring Program, aimed to recruit new members and retain current members. The program’s focus is to improve retention of female engineering students and support them with mentoring and networking.

While much of SWE’s focus is to provide professional opportunities to members, events like SWEek and the annual Halloween celebration foster a way to strengthen community. These events range from ice cream socials and cookouts to intramural sports and costume competitions.

Accolades: Notable News for November 27, 2017

Hashemian Named IEEE Fellow

Hash Hashemian

Hash Hashemian

Hash Hashemian has been elevated to the distinguished grade of Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for his exceptional leadership in developing technologies for nuclear reactor monitoring.

Hashemian (degrees) is president and CEO of the AMS Corporation and an adjunct professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He is a recognized international expert and leader in the field of nuclear power plant instrumentation and control (I&C) testing and automated I&C maintenance. He received the 2016 Dougherty Award, the college’s highest honor for an alumnus, and is also a former member of the Tickle College of Engineering Board of Advisors.

The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.

Read more about IEEE Fellows.

Duty and Tru-Design Team Win R&D 100 Award

Chad Duty

Chad Duty

MABE Associate Professor Chad Duty is part of the Tru-Design Team, which won an R&D 100 Award at the 55th Annual R&D 100 Awards Ceremony.

The team won for their “Large-Format Additive Coating Solutions.” These coatings were developed for large scale printed parts for both high and low temperature applications, and were featured on the Boeing 3-D printed trim tool that set a Guinness Book of World Records last year.

Read more about the R&D 100 winners.


Civil Engineers Build Canstruction for Second Harvest

Canstruction 2017

Faculty and students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering built a holiday cottage covered in lights for their 2017 Canstruction sculpture.

A team of faculty and students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering “Canstructed” a sight to behold this holiday season as they participated in a friendly and spirited competition.

The “Canstruction” competition brought together teams throughout the Knoxville area in a contest to see who could build the most elaborate structures out of canned goods, all for one purpose—fighting hunger.

Jenny Retherford, a lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental engineering and the facilitator for this year’s team, said UT’s has participated in the regional Canstruction competition each year since it began in 2013.

"press me," Canstruction 2017

Lights on the Canstruction house blinked when activated by a visitor.

UT’s design was a “CANpetition Christmas House,” covered in lights that blinked when visitors pressed an indicated green button. The team started planning for the event in August, and it took around nine hours to actually build the structure.

Other team designs included structures such as “Silent Night, Jedi Knight,” “Dance the Horah for our CANorah,” and “Miracle on Gay Street.”

Sponsored by Messer Construction Company, the contest benefits Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

With the donation of an estimated 50,000 cans, “Second Harvest Food Bank will continue to make an impact on the lives who need it most in our region this holiday season,” said Randy Fields, business development director for Messer.

Canstruction is a national competition that began in New York City in 1992 and has since helped donate 40 million pounds of food to various food banks in cities around the world.

The “Knoxville Holiday Canstruction Exhibit” is now open to the public at the Knoxville Convention Center until December 13.

Go check out these works of art for yourself and be sure to vote for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s structure at

Voting ends Wednesday, December 6, at midnight.

Canstruction street view

The snowman in the foreground invited visitors to activate the roof lights of the 2017 Canstruction sculpture.



American Association for the Advancement of Science Honors Khomami

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named UT’s Bamin Khomami, the head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, as a 2018 Fellow.

Bamin Khomami

Bamin Khomami

Khomami, who also serves as the Granger and Beaman Distinguished University Professor and director of the Sustainable Energy Education and Research Center, was chosen for his contributions to modeling and research that have led to a better understanding of fluids.

“Being chosen as a fellow of the AAAS is a tremendous and humbling honor,” said Khomami. “Getting recognized by your peers like this speaks highly of the work I’ve been able to accomplish and of the people with whom I’ve collaborated.”

He received his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

Prior to joining UT, Khomami was the Francis F. Ahmann Professor of Chemical Engineering at Washington University, where he started his academic career in 1987.

Between 1992 and 2006, he was a visiting professor at Stanford University, Universidad Nacional de Educatión a Distancia in Spain, and the Technical University of Denmark.

Khomami has served as a development and product consultant for companies including Dow Chemical, Nike, General Electric, Intel, Mitsubishi and 3M. In 2015, he helped co-found Celtig LLC to produce high-quality graphene nanoplatelets.

He has authored 165 papers and is a member and a fellow of both the American Institute of Chemical Engineering and the American Physical Society. He is also a member of the Society of Rheology and the American Chemical Society.

He was the 1993 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar National Award recipient and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award recipient from 1991 to 1996.

The fellows will be inducted in February at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. The AAAS Council elects fellows whose “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.” It was founded in 1848 and includes 254 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals.

Tickle College of Engineering Introduces Kids to 3D Printing at Children’s Hospital

UT senior Brandon Rowell, right, a materials science and engineering major with a biomedical concentration, stands with East Tennessee Children's Hospital patient Shelby Layman and the 3D printer he has been taking around the facility.

UT senior Brandon Rowell, right, a materials science and engineering major with a biomedical concentration, stands with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital patient Shelby Layman and the 3D printer he has been taking around the facility.

The Tickle College of Engineering and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital have teamed up to entertain and educate patients through the use of a portable 3D printer.

Faculty members and students in the college came up with the idea of creating a mobile science lab to demonstrate science and engineering techniques to children and give back to the community.

One of those students, Brandon Rowell, is a materials science and engineering major with a biomedical concentration. He has volunteered at the hospital since high school and is part of its Childlife program, which is devoted to caring for and enhancing the lives of the children undergoing treatment.

Rowell connected his supervisors at the hospital—Cheryl Allmon and Alexis Niceley—with the college, and both sides agreed to take the device to the pediatric oncology, surgery, and infectious diseases departments.

“Anything that can help them focus on something else for a moment, help pass the time, and maybe take their minds off the stresses of treatment is a win,” said Rowell. “It’s been wonderful to see the reaction of the kids to the printer and their curiosity in how it works.”

The project has been a cross-departmental collaboration and a service-learning activity for students.

Eastman Assistant Professor of Practice Matthew Young and Associate Professor Chad Duty, both of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, had their classes contribute patterns for the team to use.

A printer makes a 3D image of a Halloween ghost for patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

A printer makes a 3D image of a Halloween ghost for patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

As a result, during a visit to the hospital in October, kids could 3D print rockets and dinosaur skulls as well as Halloween-inspired pumpkins and ghosts.

Rowell and Chris Wetteland, a lecturer in materials science and engineering, thought the kids would enjoy personalizing a 3D printed design with their name.

The team hopes to have enough machines that they can leave some at the hospital and provide them in waiting areas as well, and has created a Volstarter page to help reach that goal.

“This is a true team effort, and has helped meet both of those goals and will provide more opportunities for students to get involved moving forward,” Wetteland said.

Visit the project’s Volstarter page

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.