June 5, 2018 at 11:36 am

Keerti Kappagantula: From Combustion Specialist to Manufacturing Professor

By Raymond Humienny
NQPI editorial intern

One of the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Insitute’s newer members, Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Keerti Kappagantula is a combustion specialist who has had an explosive career since arriving at Ohio University three years ago. But nowadays she is more about building things up now than breaking things down.

“I know ‘combustion’ sounds really exciting and ‘explosions’ sound nice, but it’s only a very small part of the larger things that we do (in mechanical engineering),” Kappagantula said. “The big picture that I’m very interested in is efficient manufacturing, because that actually works toward energy conservation.”

Kappagantula came to OHIO from Texas Tech University, where she began conducting research on nano-energetic materials. These are reactive materials used in redox reactions at the nanoscale level. When the reaction is initiated, the subsequent energy release can be applied to mechanisms such as solders or batteries – or explosives. That is, depending on fast or slow the energy release is.

“My job was to tailor (the reactions) depending on who was applying it and get the combustion dynamics to work for specific applications,” Kappagantula said. “(At OHIO), I still do that, but I do it on the manufacturing side of things.”

Indeed, while explosive research is certainly a conversation piece for Kappagantula, so is the $2.18 trillion manufacturing industry. As of 2016, manufacturing in the United States drives roughly 18 percent of the world’s products, but the costs of operation and labor associated with U.S. manufacturing have risen in tandem with the standard of living. Kappagantula’s position at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology enables her to serve as the facilitator between lab work and industry applications that could possibly make manufacturing more efficient in the United States.

Equally as important, Kappagantula is passionate about teaching the next generation of engineers. She said her former professors from Texas Tech University have helped inspire the pursuit of her current career.

“Even now I keep in touch with my undergrad teachers, and they’ve had a huge, huge influence on how I think and how I function as both a researcher and an engineer,” Kappagantula said. “I want to be somebody who helps another student on that scale.”

This article first appeared in the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute Spring 2018 Newsletter #19.

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