MechE Colloquium: Granular and Building Materials in Space


Event details

Date 16.05.2023
Hour 12:0013:00
Speaker Prof. Matthias Sperl, Institute of Materials Physics in Space, German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
Abstract: Granular matter presents a challenge to its physical description because granular particles lose energy upon collision among each other and can hence only be found in a steady dynamical state under continuous agitation. Granular matter is therefore at the same time a fundamental example of non-equilibrium physics as well as a highly relevant system for applications in industrial processes and for space exploration.

For the reasons above, granular matter benefits in multiple ways from investigations in low and zero gravity for widely different densities one may call granular gases, fluids, and solid packings. In addition, grains form the raw material for future space exploration to planetary bodies, most prominently the Moon. Here, many engineering processes need to be in part reinvented with additional physical insight to allow for utilization of resources found on site.

Back on Earth, these investigations shall help clarify some foundations for building materials such as concrete which is responsible for more CO2 emission than aviation. The talk shall address the three pillars of research in microgravity, Lunar exploration, as well as applications on Earth.

Biography: Matthias Sperl studied physics at the Technical University of Munich with stays at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the Santa Fe Institute. He graduated with a PhD from the Technical University of Munich in 2003 about theories of glass-transition singularities predicting novel amorphous states that were later identified in both computer simulations and experiments. 2004-2006 Matthias Sperl did an experimental postdoc at Duke University, USA, moving on from thermal disordered systems (glasses) towards athermal granular media. After a stay as guest researcher at the University of Göttingen in 2006/2007 where he also returned as a temporary professor in 2009, he moved to Cologne, Germany, joining the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in 2007 and the faculty of the University of Cologne in 2016 as professor of theoretical physics. At DLR he heads a group performing theory, numerical simulations as well as experiments in the laboratory and on microgravity platforms. He has performed experiments personally on more than 500 parabolas, executed launches in drop towers and on sounding rockets, and is the principal investigator of several instruments on the International Space Station (ISS). He was awarded the Robert-Wichard-Pohl Medal for excellence in teaching in 2009; he led the efforts of the European Space Agency in 2016 and again in 2020 for the roadmaps in soft-matter in space. For the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) in 2020/2021 he served in the gap analysis group for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free



MechE Colloquium: Granular and Building Materials in Space