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Dr. Ramprasad Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Fellowship

Dr. Ramamurthy (“Rampi”) Ramprasad, an associate professor in the Chemical, Materials & Biomolecular Engineering Department, has been awarded an Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Foundation Fellowship. The award will enable him to conduct research at the Fritz-Haber-Institut of the famed Max Planck Society, in Berlin, Germany.

Dr. Ramprasad plans to spend a full sabbatical year at the Fritz-Haber-Institut commencing in the fall of 2010. The AvH Foundation promotes academic cooperation between German researchers and top scientists and scholars from across the globe. The organization’s fellowships and awards allow recipients to conduct research in Germany, and also enable German scientists and scholars to carry out research with Humboldt Foundation alumni worldwide.

rampi2.jpgDr. Ramprasad noted that he is deeply honored to receive this distinguished fellowship, and is thankful to his German host, Dr. Matthias Scheffler, who directs the Theory Department at the Fritz-Haber-Institut.

He and several colleagues are in the process of articulating the technological challenge that will drive their research efforts in Germany. His collaborators will include Dr. Scheffler, Dr. Chunguang Tang, a former graduate student who earned his Ph.D. at UConn and is now conducting study at the Fritz-Haber-Institut on a Max Planck Society post-doctoral fellowship, and other industrial and academic researchers in Germany and the US. Named for a German Nobel laureate, the Fritz-Haber-Institut is among the world’s most respected laboratories in the Physical & Chemical Sciences.

While at the Fritz-Haber-Institut, Dr. Ramprasad’s research will focus upon understanding — at a fundamental level — why ceramic coatings used on turbine blades are so effective in protecting the blades from the extremes of temperature, pressure and high-speed debris. Turbine blades are found in diverse applications, from jet engines to power plants. “Jet engines, for example, are subjected to extraordinary extremes of temperatures during flight, particularly during takeoff and landing. In fact, they are subjected to temperatures beyond the melting point of the metal blades. Only the insulating ceramic coatings keep them intact.”

He remarked, “This is one of the cases where commercialization has outpaced science. Outstanding coatings have been developed, but we’re not certain how they function. We want to gain an atomic-level understanding of how these coatings protect the blades. If we can understand how they work, we can improve upon them.” Dr. Ramprasad’s research will span computational and modeling studies of the coatings, which have properties of low thermal conductivity.

Dr. Ramprasad received his Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining UConn, he was employed with Motorola’s R&D laboratories at Tempe, AZ, as a Principal Staff Scientist. Earlier in the year, Dr. Ramprasad was awarded a Max Planck Society Fellowship for Distinguished Scientists.