As the lead programmer on his high school robotics team, Max Neveau discovered his passion for engineering. Now, as a materials science and engineering undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, Neveau has transitioned from collaborating with engineers after school to researching alongside them at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Interested in a research position, Neveau contacted several UT professors and was led to the Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) Program. In the program, Neveau spends his time outside of class at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located at ORNL with his mentor, Orlando Rios, Ph.D. The two are developing an induction printing system for an aluminum alloy that can be used to create metal parts that are resistant to high temperatures.
“I am designing and implementing a system to direct-write 3D-print a semi-molten aluminum alloy,” Neveau said. “This involves control system programming in LabVIEW, Solidworks design and testing of printed parts using a Scanning Electron Microscope and Electron Dispersive Spectroscopy.”
The goal of the project is to prove the viability of the system using materials tailored to the process. The system uses an Aluminum Cerium alloy developed by the Critical Materials Institute, an alloy that has had great success being used in many processes including this one. While most metal 3D-printing technologies require large and expensive systems to control the material and environment, the proposed system is more cost-effective.
“Anyone in the materials science major gets to do science experiments daily like when we were kids. We come up with ideas and test them,” Neveau said. “The only difference is that we are using some of the most advanced materials testing machines in the world.”
Neveau enjoys sharing his passion for the field with other UT students. Next year, he will step into a new role as co-chair of the materials science group Materials Advantage. Additionally, he will become the treasurer of the co-ed professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Neveau plans to pursue further education to obtain a doctoral degree. Eventually, he hopes to hold a full-time position at a research laboratory and contribute to various publications.
“Researching at ORNL is one of the most positive and helpful choices I have made,” Neveau explained. “I think the experience of learning CAD software, a common programming language, and using tools in the lab have given me skills necessary to research at any laboratory or company,” Neveau said.
The HERE program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.