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Douglas M. Matson
Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Research

Solidification Processes, Thermal Manufacturing, Machine Design

Dr. Matson's research interests include solidification modeling, materials process control, space processing of materials, alloy characterization for the hydrogen economy, sustainable engineering and selection of appropriate technology for the developing world. The common thread to this work is trying to provide the optimal material for a specific engineering need within the constraints imposed by the desire to minimize economic and environmental costs while maximizing the ability to manufacture the product in a sustainable manner.

 

Structural metallic materials are often fabricated into complex shapes through the use of solidification techniques such as casting, welding and spray forming. The resulting properties often vary within single parts based on differences in local thermal processing conditions. For example, steel alloys competitively form ferrite or austenite crystallographic structures and the distribution of each phase dramatically influences material performance. Designing optimized thermal processes requires control of phase selection and Dr. Matson is working with NASA to identify how melt convection influences microstructural evolution. Testing is conducted using the Tufts University electromagnetic levitation facility, the NASA electrostatic levitation facility at Marshall Space Flight Center, and aboard the International Space Station in collaboration with an international working group coordinated through the European Space Agency.

Hydrogen often significantly degrades the performance of structural materials and the Department of Energy at the Sandia National Laboratory in Livermore CA is working with Tufts University to investigate how hydrogen impacts the fatigue performance of materials to be used in support of the hydrogen economy. Dr. Matson is developing new test techniques to screen candidate materials to be used in developing the infrastructure required to build safe, economical hydrogen storage and distribution facilities for urban transportation systems.

 

One of the cornerstones of the Tufts undergraduate experience is an appreciation of the impact of technology on people's lives and the importance of understanding how cultural differences influence problem solving. In the developing world it is particularly important to allow communities to select appropriate technologies that enable members to produce sustainable changes that will endure long after aid workers have moved on. Dr. Matson is one of the founding faculty members of the Tufts student chapter of Engineers Without Borders and has led student groups to Asia and South America in an effort to promote community education. Currently, he leads a group of students in a project to advance community health through improvements in local water quality by assisting in the design and testing of a water filtration system in rural Ecuador.