Chris Wolverton

Senior Technical Specialist, Ford Research Laboratory


The Role of Quantum Mechanics in "Virtual Aluminum Castings"
Increasing demands to further reduce emissions and simultaneously improve fuel economy in automobiles has expanded the need for lightweight materials
(such as Al, Mg, and their alloys).  In order to optimize alloy design and processing conditions to quickly achieve Al-alloy castings with suitable
mechanical properties, researchers at Ford Research Laboratory are developing the Virtual Aluminum Castings methodology: a suite of predictive computational
tools that span length scales from atomistic to macroscopic to describe alloy microstructure, precipitation, solidification, and ultimately, mechanical

The role of first-principles atomistic computations in the Virtual Aluminum Castings methodology will be described, as will the connection between these
atomistic methods and other computational approaches (phase-field microstructural models, computational thermodynamics methods, cluster expansion methods,
etc.).  Because of their highly accurate and predictive nature, there is a growing desire to use these types of theoretical approaches to predict
properties of new, experimentally unexplored, or difficult-to-synthesize solids.  Application to problems of precipitation, thermal growth, and
microstructure evolution during heat treatment has proved very fruitful.  Combining these quantum-mechanical results with other modeling and
experimental efforts, one can suggest heat treatments which optimize thermal stability and hardness of industrial alloys.