Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Martin Harmer earns a lifetime achievement award

In one project, Harmer and his students are examining the grain-boundary complexions in the ceramic alumina.

Martin Harmer, the director of Lehigh’s Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, has been chosen to receive a lifetime achievement award from the American Ceramic Society (ACerS).

Harmer will receive the 2010 W. David Kingery Award from ACerS at the society’s 112th annual meeting in October in Houston.

Kingery, a professor at M.I.T. and the University of Arizona, died in 2000. He was credited by The New York Times with “building upon advances in high polymers, solid-state physics and crystallography to bring ceramics into the era of aerospace and electronics engineering.”

Kingery was the first recipient, in 1998, of the award that is named for him. The award recognizes “distinguished lifelong achievements involving multidisciplinary and global contributions to ceramic technology, science, education and art.”

A shared passion for the open seas

Harmer, the Alcoa Foundation Professor of materials science and engineering, joined the Lehigh faculty in 1980 and has earned international acclaim for his studies of the properties of structural and electronic ceramic materials and their control at the micro- and nanoscale. In 2006, he was awarded a Humboldt Research Award for senior scientists by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The honor is one of the most prestigious given by Germany.

In 2008, Harmer received ACerS’ Robert B. Sosman Award, the top honor in ceramics, which is named for the 20th- century physical chemist who helped develop optical materials and made major discoveries about the phases of silica. The award is given annually to the person judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field of ceramics.

Also in 2008, Harmer was elected to the World Academy of Ceramics and named editor of Acta Materialia, one of the most prestigious journals in materials science and engineering.

In one recent project, Harmer and his students identified six grain-boundary “complexions” in the ceramic alumina, each characterized by a distinct rate of grain growth. The complexions can be controlled by making changes, often subtle, in chemistry and temperature, Harmer says.

The discovery could help engineers fine-tune the properties of ceramics, Harmer says, as grain boundaries play a key role in the creation of ceramic solids from powders and in the mechanical, chemical and other properties of the larger bulk material.

Outside the lab, Harmer shares one passion with Kingery. Kingery started the Massachusetts to Bermuda Yacht Race in 1975 for amateurs, and many of his former students joined him on the run. Harmer often takes his students fishing off the New Jersey coast in his 35-foot boat, the “Cheeky Monkey 2.”

Harmer holds a Ph.D. from Leeds University in England, which also awarded him a Doctor of Science degree in recognition of his postdoctoral research accomplishments.


Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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