Qassim UniversityEngineering the future with advanced materials

Engineering the future with advanced materials

At Qassim University, multidisciplinary research projects are taking advanced materials out of the lab and into the real world, with implications for medicine, aviation and beyond

Developing new materials to shape the world’s future requires expertise across all fields of science and engineering. How such research endeavours are coordinated across disciplines, and between internal and external partners, is key to their success. At Qassim University, Hany Ammar, an associate professor from the mechanical engineering department who also serves as director of scientific research and innovation unit in the college of engineering, says that facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration is a central aspect of the university’s strategy.

“One of the important points is that there is no one who can say, ‘I can do this research myself’,” Ammar says. “These are multidisciplinary projects and research areas that are linked with many research fields. We have collaborations with the college of science, the college of dentistry and with some medical colleges. We have some external cooperation with universities in Canada, India, South Korea and with internal universities, like King Saud University, so we are not isolated. These days, the research obligates us to have this kind of collaboration.”

Like many higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia, Qassim University’s strategic goals are linked to the Vision 2030 initiative – a social reform blueprint to modernise and transform Saudi Arabian society. And the government is keen to support its research efforts, supporting projects with funds administered via the deanship of scientific research.

Academic talent is marshalled into research groups according to areas of interest, and these groups are provided with access to state-of-the-art tools to develop advanced materials and, crucially, find an application for them. One of the college’s current projects in advanced materials involves developing biodegradable materials that can be used in surgery. The prospects look good.

“The target is to use these biodegradable materials that would not need any further surgery in the future,” Ammar says. “Usually, after the first surgery to fix broken bones, for example, the patient will need one more surgery to remove these insertions – such as screws and plates – and our target is to develop new materials that can function for whatever the medical target is and, after a while, they will degrade or dissolve in the human body. But at this point, we have to make sure about the toxicity, the biocompatibility, their strength and other mechanical properties. We have already got some good bulk materials that are currently under final evaluation for this purpose.”

Other projects include the development of nanocomposite materials and the development of high-entropy alloys with mechanical properties that could revolutionise aviation, and critical applications in which temperature-resistant materials are required. “High-entropy alloys are not very famous now but will be in future,” says Subbarayan Sivasankaran, associate professor at Qassim University’s mechanical engineering department. “Because, when we go to high-temperature applications – especially for aircraft, spacecraft applications and for other critical applications – we need to retain the strength [of the material].” 

Composite materials are another promising avenue of research, with scientists at Qassim working on thermoplastics with properties that could make them invaluable in several contexts. “We got some interesting behaviours and properties, and we have suggested them for many structural applications,” Sivasankaran says. “We have good facilities. We are doing a lot of impact studies in composite materials and high-temperature testing.” 

Qassim University maintains close links with the private sector, which is the end user of many of its innovations. Assisting industry partners in the research and development of new materials not only helps fund the university’s research, but can also enhance the social impact of its work in Saudi Arabia and internationally.

Find out more about Qassim University.

Brought to you by