Volkswagen Group of America; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the UT Research Foundation; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory today announced a partnership to create Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm.
The partnership is leveraging the expertise of ORNL scientists and several faculty members within the Tickle College of Engineering at UT to develop lighter vehicle components made from composite materials and to electrify vehicles—two areas where UT is at the forefront of research and expertise.
“Working with the University of Tennessee is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president and chief engineering officer for Volkswagen’s North American region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”
The work—some of the most innovative applied research of its kind being done anywhere in the world—is being led by UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering. His team is focused on several research and development activities to support prototyping, develop a sheet molding compound, and evaluate materials and their properties for use in Volkswagen vehicle components.
From CEE, Peebles Professor Dayakar Penumadu is providing his expertise in materials characterization for lightweight composites.
As part of the partnership, Volkswagen has awarded fellowships to doctoral students Andrew Foote and Nathan Strain from EECS and William Henken from CEE.
“The collaboration is providing unique opportunities for our undergraduate and graduate students and researchers in advanced materials and additive manufacturing. Working alongside Volkswagen engineers and managers in this real-world experience is extremely valuable for their career paths,” said Vaidya.