University of Pittsburgh
April 1, 2001


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, April 2 -- Judith C. Yang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, will lead a team studying the degradation of materials in low Earth orbit through the Department of Defense's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The grant, for $250,000 per year, is for three years, with a possible two-year renewal, for a total of $1.25 million.

"As the air and space forces evolve in the 21st century, the need for increased numbers of spacecraft, including manned vehicles and satellites, with continually improving capabilities and durability, becomes imperative," said Yang. "Our aim is to predict materials and surface degradation in the low Earth orbit environment through a unified effort combining theory directly with experiments where primary degradation mechanisms are investigated in situ."

The team will study atomic oxygen surface reactions with ultra-high vacuum transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, and surface science techniques at Pitt's Surface Science Center. These new experiments will be correlated with theoretical modeling and simulations of these interactions to provide a unique opportunity to advance substantially the knowledge base of the fundamental mechanisms of degradation in space environments.

The program represents a unified effort by Yang and John T. Yates, the R.K. Mellon Professor at Pitt; Lisa Porter and Marek Skowronski of Carnegie Mellon University's materials science and engineering department; Robert Averback and Ian Robinson of the materials science and physics departments, respectively, at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; and Christopher Roland and Jerry Bernholc of North Carolina State University's physics department. In addition, research will be conducted at national laboratories including Wright Patterson Air Force Base and NASA.

Yang, who as an associate professor is one of the few junior faculty named principal investigator in the MURI program, joined Pitt's faculty in January 1999.

She received her Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in October 1993. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Metallforschung in Stuttgart, Germany for nearly two years. Afterwards, she was a post-doctoral research associate and visiting lecturer at the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Yang's research interests include gas-metal reactions, oxidation, high temperature corrosion, surface chemistry and physics, interfaces, catalysis, nanoparticles, and nanostructured materials, as well as the use and development of advanced electron microscopy techniques.