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Designing new materials

Breakthrough Star Mani Sockalingam develops composite material systems that could benefit aerospace, automotive, defense sectors

Mani Sockalingam stands in front a building.

Mani Sockalingam’s research supports the development of advanced composite material systems that could find application in the production of lightweight structures for the aerospace, automotive and defense sectors. The mechanical engineering professor seeks to address fundamental scientific challenges at the intersection of materials-mechanics-manufacturing while mentoring students to conduct meaningful research.

Better composites. One of his primary interests is the improvement of the fundamental knowledge and understanding of mechanisms at work during composite material manufacturing and deformation. The impacts of his research reside in the potential to develop energy-efficient, environmentally friendly composites that are stronger, tougher and/or lighter for aerospace and defense applications.

High impact. His preliminary research results on heterogeneous composite material systems with variable fiber orientations show promise for improving impact resistance and damage tolerance. He is now working to characterize processing-structure-property relationships in a broad range of heterogeneous materials for elevated strain rates.

Follow the money. Sockalingam has been awarded a total of $3.13 million in extramural funding from the U.S. Army, Boeing, NSF, NASA and other organizations. Of that total, $2.16 million was awarded for projects on which he is the principal investigator.

Go ARMY. He has established strong collaborations with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to conduct research in support of the Army’s mission. The collaboration provided multiple opportunities for USC students to develop experiments and gain research experiences at the ARL labs.

“I have always been fascinated by composite materials because unlike traditional design where for a given material, geometry is designed, with composite materials one can design materials with specific properties for a particular application.”


Breakthrough Stars

The University of South Carolina’s 2023 Breakthrough Stars represent the very best among the ranks of the university’s assistant and associate professors. Their success will help propel the university for years to come.

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