So the project that we are working on for this Automotive and Energy Research Program (funded by the NSF) is called Thermal Properties of New Composite Materials. Basically, we will be designing an ASTM c1363-11 standard testing apparatus that will measure the heat loss and change in temperature from one side of a panel of material to the other. Using the values that we obtain, we can then calculate (using smarty party heat transfer knowledge) the thermal resistance and R-value of said material. Repeating the same process with a variety of materials, we will be able to compare the thermal properties of each material and determine the efficiency of their use.

What Materials?

We’re not sure yet… We’ve been told that we may be working with a new ceramic foam and some type of concrete with aerogel (solid smoke) mixed in. They will mainly be thermal-insulating materials.


Our project will determine the different thermal properties of new composite materials. This will enable us to compare the new materials with the existing ones to see if they would serve better as thermal insulation, while still being structurally sound, than what is universally accepted and used. For example, buildings today are made out of concrete. Concrete, while very strong and stable, has a low thermal resistivity. This creates a problem when a fire occurs, as heat can easily transfer through the walls and ignite material on the other side of the walls, allowing the fire to spread. One of the materials that can be a possible solution to this problem is a concrete-aerogel composite, which would have the strength of the concrete while having the thermal resistivity of the aerogel. The problem is that there is no existing thermal data for this material. Our job is to find the thermal properties of materials like this to determine its ability to be applied in different areas.

Who all is Involved?

Our advisers are Dr. David Schall and Dr. Chris Kobus.

Our sponsor is Fred Deans from Allied Composite Technologies LLC.

We have three high school students working with us for the first three weeks: Nikita, Amanda, and Rachel.

Soon Dr. Meng Xu and a team of teachers that are a part of the RET Program will join us as well.