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Inman named CIMSS director

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 05 - September 25, 1997

Daniel J. Inman, the Samuel Herrick endowed professor of engineering science and mechanics (ESM) at Virginia Tech, has been named director of the university's Center for Intelligent Materials Science and Structures (CIMSS), which for a decade has been in the vanguard of research and development in the field of "smart" materials.

CIMSS, one of the first research facilities of its kind in the world, was established in 1987 by the Tech College of Engineering and founding director Craig Rogers, a former Tech mechanical-engineering professor who now is dean of engineering at the University of South Carolina.

Inman said CIMSS research will continue to focus on the design and modeling of smart materials, such as actuators and damping devices, as well as on health monitoring and diagnostics using smart structures and materials. "My own background is in vibration analysis and this will have an effect on our research focus," said Inman, who in 1984 was one of only 15 engineering faculty members in the U.S. to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award. "Our intent is to perform basic research while at the same time trying to serve the needs of practicing engineers."

Active research projects include various aspects of damage detection, flutter suppression in aircraft, actuator characterization for machine tools, active damping for auto interiors, control of unmanned underwater vehicles, vibration reduction in washing machines, and general modeling of piezoceramic and viscoelastic materials.

CIMSS sponsors include the NSF, Army Research Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Civil Engineering Research Labs, Office of Naval Research, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and United Technologies Research Center. "We hope to maintain a high state, national and international profile and to start cooperative programs with other labs and centers here at Virginia Tech," Inman said.

CIMSS has a strong tradition of outreach as well as research, and Inman said that will continue. "In addition to our current programs offering research experiences for middle-school girls, summer internship programs, and symposiums for grades K-12," he said, "new outreach programs will target practicing engineers and beginning researchers in the areas of active mechanical systems and smart materials for solving vibration problems. We will continue to offer our course in smart structures--one of the few offered in the nation--and increase our undergraduate summer internships."

Inman said Beth Howell will continue as program manager, working with Explore Tech and other outreach programs, including an active technical-workshop program. "We hope to take a more direct role in helping Virginia industries take advantage of smart-structures technology," he said. One planned event is a short course on engineering with smart structures that will be presented by CIMSS and professors Romesh Batra of ESM and Richard Claus, director of the Fiber & Electro-Optics Research Center.

Mechanical engineering Professor Harley Cudney will act as CIMSS associate director and will have technical responsibility for a diagnostics program and will administer outreach programs. Currently, CIMSS has about 15 graduate students and three visiting faculty members. "We hope to attract other faculty members in cooperative programs and plan to increase the number of visitors coming to the center," Inman said.

CIMSS also maintains what Inman said might be the only web site in the world on smart structures and materials. In addition to information about the center, it provides technical information regarding smart structures for those who want to learn more about this area of research. "We plan to expand this to include information relevant to Virginia companies--actually any company--that would like to try to use smart structures and material systems in their products or development," Inman said.