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Q&A with Dennis W. Readey

Author, Kinetics in Materials Science and Engineering

We are pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Dennis.W Readey! Co Author of Kinetics in Materials Science and Engineering, Readey talks about his title and what makes it stand out, which is available for purchase here.

1.  Could you describe your book in one sentence?
Kinetics in Materials Science and Engineering is an advanced undergraduate textbook that models reaction rates and transport processes common to all materials using only familiar elementary calculus and thermodynamics.

2.  Who will be interested in reading your book?
It is written for undergraduate materials science and engineering (MSE) kinetics courses and similar courses in chemistry and chemical engineering.  In addition, there is sufficient material for a beginning graduate-level kinetics course. Quantitative models of processes such as interdiffusion in compounds, the Kirkendall effect in both metals and compounds, the glass transition, and spinodal decomposition are important to the practicing engineer, academic, and research scientist.

3.  What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
Several notable features include: coverage of kinetic phenomena for metals, compounds, and polymers; quantitative models that go beyond those in introductory materials texts; requires only introductory knowledge of materials, calculus, and thermodynamics; develops mathematical models with all of the intermediate mathematical steps presented explicitly—no "black boxes;" and includes several models such as the Kirkendall effect in compounds not found elsewhere.

4.   What is your academic background?
I have a B.S. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and an Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Prior to becoming a professor, I spent two years in the US Army as a Captain doing research on thin films; I was a group leader for Basic Ceramics at Argonne National Laboratory, a group leader for Materials Processing in the Research Division of the Raytheon Company, and a program manager in what is now the US Department of Energy funding and monitoring materials research in universities and national laboratories.  I was chairman of the Ceramic Engineering Department at the Ohio State University and, after that, the Herman F. Coors Distinguished Professor and director of the Colorado Center for Advanced Ceramics until retirement as a University Emeritus Professor of the Colorado School of Mines. In retirement, I spent several years as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I taught a course in materials kinetics in all three academic positions.

5.  Do you have any events lined up? Attending any conferences?
I plan to attend the MS&T (Materials Science and Technology) meeting in Pittsburgh next October.

6.  Are there any relevant world issues that your book relates to?
There are discussions about the potential materials failures that were the proximate causes of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 and the two space shuttle tragedies.  There are several references to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by various materials processes and how these contribute to global warming as first calculated by Arrhenius over 100 years ago.  While discussing nuclear reactions there are references to the biological hazards of various fission products, gaseous diffusion to separate uranium isotopes, the relative ease of chemically separating plutonium, and its use as a space power source: all issues of importance in nuclear power and weapons.

7.  Do you have plans for future books?  What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I have some ideas for future books but will probably take a break from writing another considering the effort to produce this book took about twice as long as I had anticipated.  For now, I plan to concentrate on my hobbies of genealogy and astronomy.

8. Which was the most unusual reading that you curated for this book?
Probably the paper by Svante Arrhenius ("On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature on the Ground," Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Series 5, 41, April 1896, 237-76.) in which he calculates the effect of atmospheric CO2 and its variation with time on the temperature of the earth.

9.  Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching.
I’ve taught kinetics at three separate academic institutions where the department in each had a completely different materials focus: ceramics; metals; and polymers and biomaterials.

10.  What is your favorite example in the book?
My favorite section of the book is the demonstration that marker motion (Kirkendall effect) is possible during interdiffusion in compounds but only occurs under very restrictive conditions.  The favorite example is the explicit demonstration that the chemical vapor deposition of silicon depends on the series steps of both a surface reaction (at low temperatures) and gas diffusion (at high temperatures) and different temperature ranges are actually used in practice to achieve different results.

11.  Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your book; what do you hope resonates with the reader?
I have always had a problem with books that involve mathematical modeling (of anything—most science is modeling of reality) and leave out most of the steps or state ("…it can be shown that…").  For me such "black boxes" have always been an immediate obstacle to going further and actually learning what is trying to be taught. So this book has been written with virtually all of the intermediate mathematical steps used in developing most of the kinetic models explicitly written out even if going from one step to the next requires only a little algebra. I hope this will encourage and enable students to go through a model development without the aid of an instructor.

12.  What sparked your particular interest in this topic?
Probably three summers spent at Argonne National Laboratory as an undergraduate research student studying the sintering of aluminum oxide in a reactive hydrogen atmosphere was the initial spark.  As a result, I became interested in high temperature processing of materials which is all kinetics of one form or another and realized that the same kinetic principles could be applied to all types of materials. Furthermore, understanding processing is important for the production of materials that are actually used to make something useful.  So a large part of my subsequent research and teaching included kinetics.

13.  How do you think the field is evolving today?  What are some ongoing controversies?
Materials research today has three areas of emphasis that were either of less interest or did not exist when I was a student. These are:  computational materials science, nanoscale materials, and biomaterials. Computational materials science models the properties of materials from fundamental atomic and molecular interactions with the emphasis being the prediction of properties of a given material having a certain composition and structure without having to measure the properties experimentally. This usually requires mathematical techniques beyond the undergraduate level and could be considered to be primarily the domain of physics. Although nanoscale materials have been used for centuries (e.g., carbon black and clay) they can have unusual properties because they are mainly surface. I address some of these surface effects in the text. Because of their unusual behavior and critical importance in integrated circuits there is a strong emphasis on making nanoscale materials and investigating their properties. What the eventual commercial impact these materials may have beyond electronic applications remains an open question. However, in the other high value-added field of biomaterials, the sizes of biological molecules and man-made nanomaterials are becoming nearly the same. At the same time, the role of structure in biomaterials is gaining the importance that it has had for over 100 years in materials science and engineering. As a result, there is natural merging of biology, medicine, chemistry, physics, chemical engineering, and materials into the rapidly growing field of biomaterials and an increasing overlap of traditional academic boundaries. This, of course, leads to development of new academic courses and programs and generates questions about how, and where, in the academic community they should be taught, and in which professional societies and journals biomaterials research should be presented. 

14.  When you were first starting out in your studies what did you personally find to be the most challenging aspect of your research?
Not only when first starting, but throughout my period of academic research there was always the question of what equipment and research tools were available for a given research project.  Not all universities are large or wealthy enough to have all of the modern tools available today.  Frequently, the scope of a project was determined by equipment available locally either at the institution itself or at some local industrial or government laboratory.  If a graduate student's research required a significant amount of time off campus at another laboratory, because of differences in goals between the academic institution and off-campus laboratory, issues about the scope of the research and who was directing it can arise. This makes life more difficult for the student.

15.  How has the book evolved over time?
It grew! After seeing the initial reviewers' comments, it was clear that the presentation could be improved with some expansion of existing topics and addition of new topics. What was intended to be a book covering a one-semester course has grown into one that could be used for two semesters. Furthermore, many other topics could have been included but were not due to size constraints.

16. What first attracted you to this topic as an area of study?
As mentioned above, probably the greatest attraction of this field was that improved understanding of what controls the rates of reactions is essential to the control of industrial processes used to make materials that are critical importance to all manufacturing. The subject is not purely academic! However, with the evolution of programs with a specific material focus into combined materials science and engineering programs, the main part of the material specific programs—processing—was eliminated or reduced. To satisfy this deficiency, courses on kinetics were developed and this book strives to serve as a text for these all-inclusive materials kinetics courses.

17.  Did anything take you by surprise or was completely new when researching the book?
On investigating interdiffusion in compounds I convinced myself that marker movement or a Kirkendall effect is indeed possible. Others had come to this conclusion in the literature, but to my knowledge the model that shows this is not available in another text. However, given typical values for the transport coefficients involved, the effect is likely to be always small.  Furthermore, the result leads to an "Of course!" moment in that what the model shows, should have been intuitively obvious.

18.  Is there one piece of research included in the book that really surprised you or challenged your previous understanding of the topic?
When developing models for reactions that have back reactions and do not go to completion but to equilibrium, I discovered that if both of the reactions were not first order, the models are more complex than I had originally assumed. However, they still can be solved by rather elementary calculus techniques.


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Prof. Dennis Readey
Prof. Dennis Readey


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