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Materials Science Student Honored

Doctoral recipient wins Colburn Prize for best dissertation in math and engineering

Article by Diane Kukich; 8:05 a.m., June 1, 2011

Gaurav Nilakantan, who completed his doctorate in materials science and engineering at the University of Delaware in 2010, has won the Allan P. Colburn Prize for his dissertation, “Modeling the Impact of Flexible Textile Composites through Multiscale and Probabilistic Methods.” The prize is given annually to recognize the best dissertation in engineering and mathematical sciences.

Nilakantan was advised by John W. (Jack) Gillespie, Jr., Donald C. Phillips Professor and director of UD's Center for Composite Materials, and Michael Keefe, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Funded by the Army Research Laboratory, Nilakantan’s dissertation focused on flexible textile fabrics made of Kevlar that are used as an important component of body armor. The purpose of the fabric is to arrest and absorb the impact energy of projectiles without major trauma to the soldier. Nilakantan developed advanced computational models to shed light on the fundamental interactions and energy-dissipating mechanisms that occur when these fabrics are subjected to extreme dynamic loading.

“A large part of this understanding comes from bridging the various length scales from the filament to the fabric level,” says Gillespie. “Gaurav’s work provides researchers with a probabilistic predictive capability to assess the penetration response of fabrics, previously possible only through destructive testing.”

Gillespie adds, “The insight gained from his research has established a material-by-design approach for the development of next-generation multifunctional materials and architectures  for textile composites, and his work also makes an important contribution to science and national security.”

Nilakantan’s work has resulted in seven first-author journal publications and a patent application. He has won a number of awards including the American Society for Composites Ph.D. Research Scholarship award. He also founded his own company, Nilakantan Composites.

Nilakantan is currently a research associate at CCM.