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Rios Shares Experience and Spirit with Our Material World

By Randall Brown.

Orlando Rios joined the department in August 2020 as an assistant professor, bringing with him a decade of experience as a staff scientist at ORNL. He already has an established history of collaboration with faculty at UT. He both directed dissertations of doctoral students in UT’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education and sat on the doctoral committees of MSE students.

Rios also brings his ardent entrepreneurial spirit to the MSE fold. He is a UT-Battelle Distinguished Inventor with 26 issued patents—four issued just over this past summer. He has successfully licensed several technologies and was active in a wide variety of materials discovery projects while at ORNL.

Rios brings a unique industry perspective that is complementary to UT’s growing research portfolio and appealing to undergraduate students who crave “real world” materials insight. He endeavors to find material solutions to industrial-scale manufacturing issues.

He worked over the summer to install his laboratory at the Joint Institute of Advanced Materials (JIAM), ensuring that a new team of students, post-doctoral researchers, and staff were in place to hit the ground running for UT’s fall semester.

“I look forward to working with the distinguished faculty at UT and focusing on academics,” said Rios. “We already have a great group and we are excited to dive into the research and learning.”

He is initiating programs at UT on the development of high-performance aluminum alloys produced from low-cost feedstocks. The aluminum-cerium based alloys are produced using elements that are a co-product/by-product of rare earth element mining. His diverse research portfolio goes beyond metals—he is also initiating research in stimuli-responsive polymer with high degrees of order.

“The expertise and capabilities in MSE, JIAM, and TCE are amazing and enable our group to dive deeply into innovative materials science,” he said. “I hope to more strongly incorporate computational materials sciences into all of my research.”

Rios was successful earlier this year in adding UT as a partner to the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) of the US Department of Energy, which is led out of Ames Laboratory, and he is leading CMI tasks at UT through a three-year grant. The projects involve research to enable Al-Ce alloy in diverse value chain products, developing and assessing the use of Ce in Al alloys to enhance recyclability and advanced manufacturing.

As his first course at UT, Rios teaches the Principles of Polymeric Materials to MSE juniors. He will maintain offices both at JIAM and in Ferris Hall.