The development of lightweight metal alloys is pivotal for enhancing public welfare and national defense, facilitating the production of materials that offer superior strength without adding excessive weight. From applications in vehicles and protective gear to space exploration, these alloys play a critical role in various domains. This project aims to revolutionize the manufacturing processes of such alloys by delving into the fundamental understanding of atomic structures and their response to extreme conditions.

The NSF-funded project employs a multidisciplinary approach combining experimental techniques such as Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy (in collaboration with Washington State University), Atom Probe Tomography (in collaboration with PNNL and NIST), Transmission Electron Microscopy (in collaboration with PNNL), and Focused Ion Beam (in collaboration with PNNL and NIST) with advanced computational methodologies such as Molecular Dynamics and Monte Carlo Simulations.


The primary objective of this research program is to accelerate the development of new light alloys and processing routes by expanding our fundamental understanding of how vacancy supersaturation alters the thermodynamics of vacancy clustering, vacancy-solute complex formation, and void nucleation. Specifically, the project aims to:

  1. Investigate how atomic structures respond to extreme conditions of temperature and strain, leading to the formation of defects known as vacancies.
  2. Understand the mechanisms behind vacancy clustering and vacancy-solute clustering.
  3. Explore the impact of vacancy supersaturation on thermodynamic processes such as solute clustering and intermetallic precipitation, thereby influencing the overall properties of the alloy.
  4. Develop a comprehensive thermodynamic understanding of key processes, departing from classical nucleation theory assumptions in out-of-equilibrium systems.

Expected Outcome:

The outcomes of this research program are expected to have significant implications:

  1. Advancement in lightweight metal alloy development, leading to materials with enhanced properties for various applications.
  2. Contribution to national defense by producing stronger yet lighter materials for protective equipment and aerospace technologies.
  3. Enhancement of simulation capabilities, paving the way for more accurate materials science and engineering predictions.


Prof. Michael Falk

Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education, Whiting School of Engineering

Johns Hopkins University


Dr. Arun Devaraj

Chief Materials Scientist – Physical Metallurgy

Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate,

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Dr. David LaVan

Group Leader, Nanomechanical Properties Group

Materials Measurement Science Division, Material Measurement Laboratory 

National Institute of Standards and Technology


Dr. Mark McLean

Materials Research Scientist, Nanomechanical Properties Group

Materials Measurement Science Division, Material Measurement Laboratory 

National Institute of Standards and Technology


Dr. Marc Weber

Research Scientist

Insititute of Materials Research

Washington State University