The Ohio State University Receives $400,000 Grant from Alcoa Foundation to Research Light-weight, Metal-based, Vehicle Structures

Research will contribute to more energy efficient and green vehicles

COLUMBUS, Ohio--()--The Ohio State University announced today that Alcoa Foundation recently awarded a $400,000 grant to its Institute for Materials Research in support of innovative design and manufacturing technologies that will enable the creation of lighter, more environmentally friendly vehicle structures. The grant is part of Alcoa Foundation’s $4 million “Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions” initiative that funds 10 global sustainability research projects in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia and the United States.

Professor Glenn S. Daehn of Ohio State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering will serve as project lead, with Professor Anthony Luscher in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering serving as co-investigator.

“There is a growing recognition that the lightest weight and most affordable vehicles in the future will not be made from one material, but many different ones,” said Daehn. “Alcoa Foundation is providing us with support for this important research and giving students the opportunity to experience first-hand the challenges and triumphs of materials development in a real world environment.”

Daehn notes a pressing need to reduce the mass of all classes of wheeled vehicles, including light automobiles, trucks, and passenger busses. “Mass reduction directly improves fuel economy and is especially important to electric and alternative powertrains.”

According to Luscher, vehicles in the future will need to have unique structural designs in order to achieve these weight savings. “The Alcoa Foundation grant will allow us to study new and innovative joining strategies that are tailored to each material combination and each loading type,” he said. “The whole system of joints needs to work together to be efficient.”

The Institute for Materials Research, working closely with Profs. Daehn and Luscher, will help engender this industry-wide change by educating engineers-in-training and practicing engineers on a holistic approach to multi-materials structural joining.

Dr. Leo Rusli, a research scientist in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State, recently advised a team of undergraduate students that put the multi-material concept to the test. “We utilized a tie rod made from aluminum tube with steel end pieces for the Baja SAE off-road competition in Kansas and Illinois,” said Rusli. “The course is designed to fail the vehicles, but the tie rods held through the course and the electromagnetically formed joints did not experience failure. The new design results in a weight saving of over 55%.”

“Alcoa and The Ohio State University have a long-standing relationship,” said Kevin Kramer, President, Growth Initiatives, Alcoa. “We are pleased to support this important research with the talented material science students and researchers at the University. “This program will help extend and develop sustainable design and manufacturing technologies that leverage large-scale production.”

Alcoa Foundation funding will also support undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to allow the Ohio State team to develop one-day short courses on forming technology; demonstrations of unconventional, inexpensive, structural and novel manufacturing methods; and the production of archival publications.

In addition to supporting the Ohio State University’s research, Alcoa Foundation’s “Advancing Sustainability Research: Innovative Partnerships for Actionable Solutions” initiative includes the following partners:


Toward Sustainable Landscapes: Phosphorous Management to Protect Wetlands

- Greening Australia

- University of Western Australia

Towards Sustainable Landscapes: Harnessing Bioenergy Markets to Build Resilient Landscapes

- Greening Australia

- University of Adelaide

- CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences


Mangrove Environmental Education and Research

- University of São Paulo


Improved Environmental Footprint Methodology for Life Cycle Assessment

- École Polytechnique de Montréal


Voluntary Emissions Reduction and NGO Participation in China

- China Center for International Economic Exchanges

- Tsinghua University

Chinese Public Policy: Promoting a Low-Carbon Economy

- China Center for International Economic Exchanges


Advanced Research in Energy and Environmental Economics

- University of Vigo

- Economics for Energy


Responsible Water Resources Management for Sustainable Development

- Fund for Sustainable Development

- Institute of Water Problems

- Educational Center for Ecology and Safety

United States

Lightweight Metal-Based Vehicle Structures: Innovative Design and Agile Manufacture

- The Ohio State University – Institute for Materials Research


SMART: New Mobility Solutions for Beijing and Detroit

- University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

- Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

- SMART (Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research & Transformation)


Over the course of two years, partners will create and leverage sustainability research as well as provide opportunities to develop and share solutions worldwide.

About The Department of Materials Science and Engineering
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State focuses on the interrelationships between processing, structure and properties of materials that serve mankind’s needs. In structural materials, the department has signature strengths in welding, corrosion, computational alloy development, advanced electron microscopy as well as the processing of advanced materials.

About the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
The department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has a strong focus on structures, design and manufacturing, and dynamic systems. Shape optimization, structural analysis, and design strategies will be critical aspects of Alcoa Foundation funded research.

About The Institute for Materials Research
The Ohio State University Institute for Materials Research (IMR) was founded in 2006 as the university’s entity to provide leadership, vision and coordination across Ohio State’s expansive, multi-college materials research enterprise. Its primary mission is to enable, coordinate and support campus-wide materials research at Ohio State, build an inclusive community, and create both large and focused multidisciplinary materials collaborations that make meaningful advances for society.

About Alcoa Foundation
Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US$436 million. Founded more than 50 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than US$530 million since 1952. In 2010, Alcoa Foundation contributed nearly US$20 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the world, focusing on promoting environmental stewardship, enabling economic and social sustainability, and preparing tomorrow’s leaders through education and learning. The work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa’s thousands of employee volunteers, who in 2010 gave more than 720,000 service hours. Through the company’s signature Month of Service (October) program, Alcoa employees share their energy, passion and purpose to make a difference in our communities. In 2010, a record 49 percent of Alcoans took part in nearly 1,000 Month of Service events across 24 countries, reaching 59,000 children, serving 17,000 meals, planting 16,000 trees and supporting 3,000 nonprofit organizations. For more information about Alcoa Foundation, please access


The Ohio State University
Jane Carroll, 614-570-7948


The Ohio State University
Jane Carroll, 614-570-7948