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Keppens Named Department of Materials Science and Engineering Head

Veerle Keppens

Veerle Keppens

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will have a familiar face as its head for the foreseeable future.

Veerle Keppens, who had been serving as interim head since the June 2015 retirement of Kurt Sickafus, assumed the position on a permanent basis on October 1 following an internal search for candidates.
Keppens, a longtime member of the department, has also served as associate dean for faculty affairs and was recently appointed a 50 percent role as director of the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, a key partner facility for materials scientists at UT.

“Dr. Keppens is an excellent choice that has been made by the faculty and the search committee and brings a wealth of experience with her,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the College of Engineering. “The departmental head and director position at JIAM are closely linked since so many faculty members from the department also work at JIAM.”

The department heads in the college each serve in five-year renewable appointments.

For Keppens, the role as continued leader of the department comes with both challenges and rewards.

“Materials science has played an important role in some of the key scientific breakthroughs in recent years as new fibers and alloys have replaced traditional materials,” said Keppens. “The importance of the research we do is reflected in that growth, but it also shows the work that remains to be done and the possibilities that are still out there.

“I’m very honored to be in this position of heading a department that can have such wide-ranging impact.”

Keppens came to UT’s College of Engineering in 2003. She has authored or co-authored more than 80 technical papers and contributed to more than 70 technical presentations at national and international conferences, with her main area of expertise being the elastic properties and lattice dynamics of novel materials.

A native of Belgium, she earned her both her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, just east of Brussels.

Her work in materials science has led to accolades and honors including the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship; Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship; countless university, college, and departmental awards; and being named a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America. She also leads the Resonant Ultrasound Spectroscopy Group at UT.

With her acceptance of the full-time role as department head and split leadership of JIAM, she will relinquish her associate dean position.

Davis said a search to fill that position will begin soon, with hopes of having someone in place by January.

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UT’s Physicists and ORNL Engineers Collaborations Lead to a New Apparatus Design for High Temperature (up to 950 °C) Quasi-Elastic Neutron Scattering in a Controlled Gaseous Environment

Amal al-Wahish is a former student in Dr. David Mandrus‘ research group in the department of Material Science and Engineering. Her doctoral dissertation studied Phosphate Proton Conductors at elevated temperature using Quasi-Elastic Neutron Scattering. The operation of these proton conductors needs a sample environment running at temperatures exceeding 300 °C. At that time, the available sample environment for experiments at Backscattering Spectrometer Spallation Neutron Scattering could only accommodate temperatures well below that.

Amal had two choices: to either change her dissertation topic or design and build a new apparatus. She took up the challenge of building the apparatus. Working together with a brilliant ORNL staff (D. Armitage, N. Jalarvo , B. Hill, and R. Mills), the apparatus was built in 2011 and has been in use since that time at ORNL for the purpose of conducting quasi-elastic neutron scattering studies. It is a versatile system capable of studying neutron dynamics in situ under operational conditions similar to solid oxide fuel cells with the ability to control humid and dry gas flow under various environmental conditions and over a wide range of temperatures reaching up to 950 °C, enabling the user to measure chemical, dynamical and physical changes in situ. The setup has proven especially effective in studies of high temperature Quasi-elastic neutron scattering, where it reveals information about microscopic scale under dry and humid conditions, but the apparatus can potentially be used in many different neutron experiments with suitable sample can material.

In Fall 2015, Amal al-Wahish, David Mandrus, and their colleagues at ORNL and Berry college published an article in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments (Vol.86, Issue 9) with the title “A new apparatus design for high temperature (up to 950 °C) quasi-elastic neutron scattering in a controlled gaseous environment.”

The team included Amal al-Wahish, D. Armitage, U. al-Binni, B. Hill, R. Mills, N. Jalarvo, L. Santodonato, K. W. Herwig, and D. Mandrus.

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UT-ORNL Breakthrough Aims to Improve Tech Gadgets, TVs

Phones, tablets, computers, and even televisions use touchscreen technology, which relies on substances that contain rare and costly elements. Now, thanks to a breakthrough led by UT’s College of Engineering and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, that problem could soon be in the past.

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