By David Goddard | UTK News
KNOXVILLE— The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have once again teamed up on a breakthrough technology—this time with a research idea inspired by a pair of high school students.
Under the direction of engineering teacher Melinda Hamby, Max Lamantia and Devin Schafer, seniors at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, came up with the concept of a new type of nail to solve the issue of nails’ tendency to work themselves out of wood over time. The problem, as old as nails themselves, stems from natural fluctuations of the material the nails are hammered into due to factors such as heat and humidity.
“We had heard a couple of complaints from our friends and families about their wooden patio nails coming out and being dangerous to walk around on,” said Lamantia. “We decided that there had to be an easy fix for this that was faster and less expensive than using screws.”
The students’ new design, called a self-locking nail, mimics the shape and style of a hollow-point bullet.
After studying previous designs of such a nail, Lamantia and Schafer added a vital second component: a ring of teeth around the nail’s striking edge.
“When we compared different ideas, we had two that we really liked,” said Schafer. “We decided to combine the both of them for our finished product.”
Lamantia participated in the 2015 Governor’s School for Engineering, which is hosted by UT, where he met professors Kurt Sickafus and Tai-Gang Nieh of the Department of Materials Science.
With that connection, Lamantia and Schafer contacted the two professors in January for input on how to begin prototyping, testing, and making their new nails.
“This successful collaboration between Central Magnet School, UT and ORNL demonstrates how the College of Engineering’s Governor’s School program is highly effective at promoting the development of our next generation of engineers and technical professionals right here in Tennessee,” said Sickafus.
With Sickafus and Nieh serving as co-mentors on the project, the group considered that 3-D printing might be the best avenue to develop a prototype and approached joint UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing Suresh Babu, an expert in that area.
Babu, along with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, UT grad student Sarah Jane Foster, and ORNL research and development staff member Fred List III and tech intern Keith Carver, took on the challenge. A technique called selective laser melting produced a stainless steel prototype of what is now called the Lamantia-Schafer self-locking nail.
“Partnering with UT and ORNL has been invaluable for our students and our school,” said Hamby. “Not only has it helped Devin and Max through mentorship and prototype production, it has also brought validation to the design process that we teach in our engineering program here at Central Magnet.”
The next steps in the project are to complete performance tests on the prototype nails and perform a materials selection analysis to optimize locking nail functionality.
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