The Laser Materials Processing Lab at the University of Iowa is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of material processing technology and science. Our research focuses on several key areas of innovation:

  1. High Throughput Nanostructuring for Superhydrophobic or Superwicking Surfaces: We are developing novel techniques with wide-ranging applications in fields such as aerospace, automotive, naval, biomedical engineering, and energy.
  2. Laser Processing of Tunable THz Metamaterials: We are investigating laser-based techniques for processing tunable THz metamaterials, with the aim of creating new opportunities in sensing and imaging technologies.
  3. Development of New Manufacturing Technologies: We are creating efficient and effective processing technologies for metals, composites, and polymers through the use of laser, 3D printing, ultrasonic, and friction stir processes.
  4. Data-Driven Modeling and Simulations: We use advanced models and simulations to optimize material processing parameters and better understand material behavior in fields ranging from engineering design to manufacturing.

The lab is directed by Prof. Hongtao Ding


Group News

  • April 2023 - We would like to extend our warm congratulations to Wuji Huang for successfully completing his comprehensive exam, entitled "Quantitative Analysis & Laser Applications of Superhydrophobic Metal Surfaces," in Spring 2023. Wuji's expertise in laser materials processing has been a great asset to his research, which focuses on exploring the intricacies of superhydrophobic metal surfaces. Wuji has already made significant contributions to the field, with several publications as the lead author. In recognition of his achievements, Wuji was awarded the prestigious Ray L. and Edna P. Sweigert Memorial Fellowship from the University of Iowa in Fall 2022. We are proud to have Wuji as a member of our group and look forward to his future contributions to the field.


  • March 2023 - We are thrilled to congratulate Ryan Mullennex on the successful defense of his MS thesis, “Surface Wettability Effects on the Behavior of Air Bubbles Injected into Water Flows”. Ryan's research combined laser material processing technology with experimental and computational fluid mechanics to gain deeper insights into the behavior of fluids on surface-modified materials. His work has significant implications for fields such as naval materials, aerospace, automotive, and energy, where optimizing fluid flow is crucial for performance and efficiency. We are proud of Ryan's achievements and hope for the best in his position at Caterpillar.


  • June 2022 - Steven Tian joins the group as an undergraduate summer research intern.  Steven is a rising sophomore studying mechanical engineering from Columbia University. His research interests include novel surface engineering and manufacturing techniques and airframe icing. In his free time, he enjoys photography, tennis, piano, and DIY projects.


  • July 2021 - Despite their excellent strength-to-weight ratio, wider use of magnesium (Mg) alloys for light-weight applications is limited by their poor corrosion resistance, especially in chloride-containing environments. The present study shows improved corrosion resistance imparted by nanosecond laser surface processing of a commercial AZ31 (Mg-3Al-1Zn) alloy. Electrochemical studies and salt spray testing (ASTM B117) indicate substantial enhancement of corrosion resistance. This research is from an ongoing collaborative effort with Drs. S. Jana and A. Rohatgi at PNNL. The work is published in Corrosion Science.


  • June 2021 - An abiding goal in electrochemical energy storage and electrosynthetic systems is to design stable electrocatalysts that offer good control over chemical reactivity and product selectivity. Traditionally this has been accomplished by controlling the electronic structure of the electrocatalyst surface by defect engineering, alloying, or doping. Recently, we developed a novel laser surface engineering method for electrocatalyst surfaces to control the activity and selectivity of chemical transformations involved. This research is from an ongoing collaborative effort with Mubeen’s group. The work is published in Chemical Communications by the Royal Society of Chemistry.


  • June 2021 - Avik Samanta has joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as a Postdoctoral researcher in June 2021. Best wishes to your research career!



  • Jan. 2021 Ben Nelson has joined the group as a new PhD student. Ben earned his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University.  He has worked in both industry manufacturing environments and R&D.  He is currently the Senior Research Engineer at the Quad City Manufacturing Lab.


  • Jan. 2021 - Our group and Benxin Wu research lab at Purdue University have codeveloped a new Ultrasonic Impact-assisted Laser Metal Deposition process. The research demonstrates a in situ surface enhancement to reduce porosity defects for 3D metal printing processes. It is published by ASME Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering and can be read from this Link.


  • December 2020 Ultrasonic metal welding has been widely applied as a high throughput solid-state joining technology for multilayers of sheet metal. There is a great challenge in modeling and simulating the whole ultrasonic welding process using knurl-patterned tools. Our group has collaborated with the team led by Dr. Wayne Cai at GM R&D and developed high-fidelity and computationally efficient finite element models to simulate the multilayer UMW process. These models are the most comprehensive solution to date and help provide engineering guidance for the design of UMW applications. Read the paper here through this link


  • October 2020 - Our recent project on droplet surface drying has been featured by Iowa Technology Institute (ITI).  The seed grant we received from ITI helped bolster the study on the virus survivability on surfaces under different environmental conditions. See Martell and Avik conducting surface processing experiments, by courtesy of Professor Ching-Long Lin



  • June 2020 - Martell Bell is joining our group for his graduate study! Martell earned his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the UI and received the 2019 Outstanding Senior Award (see photo below with Dean Scranton). He taught the Manufacturing Processes laboratory when he was a undergraduate teaching assistant. Martell established the Iowa Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). The mission of NSBE is to increase the number of black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact their community.

  • June 2020 - Congratulations to our very own ME 2020 Graduate, Michael Ojemudia who was selected to play for the Denver Broncos in the 2020 NFL Draft! Michael graduated with his BSE in Mechanical Engineering!  We know you will do big things in your future career and we cannot wait to be cheering on the Broncos in the next upcoming seasons! Photo credit: the Daily Iowan


Journal of Manufacturing Processes is to exchange current and future directions of manufacturing processes research, development and implementation, and to publish archival scholarly literature with a view to advancing state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and encouraging innovation for developing new and efficient processes. It is an official journal of SME, in cooperation with the North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME (NAMRI/SME).


  • June 2020 - Undergraduate researcher Songwei Li graduated with honors in Mechanical Engineering in Spring 2020. He is also named on the 2020 Spring UI President's ListCongratulations! Songwei worked on Laser Metasurface Fabrication for Highly Flexible Optoelectronic Devices.


Manufacturing Letters is an online, rapid-publication journal providing a home for short, high-quality papers from the international academic and industry community on important advances from all interdisciplinary research areas impacting manufacturing. It is an official journal of SME, in cooperation with the North American Manufacturing Research Institution of SME (NAMRI/SME).


  • May 2020 - Avik Samanta successfully defended his PhD thesis in Spring 2020. Congratulations! Thesis title: "Surface Nanostructuring Principles and Design of Extreme Wetting Treatment for Laser Textured Metal Alloys.”


  • April 2020 - The Daily Iowan reports our research on droplet surface drying process and coronavirus survivability on surfaces.

Read the article from here.  


  • April 2020 - Our review paper entitled “Roles of chemistry modification for laser textured metal alloys to achieve extreme surface wetting behaviors” is published at Materials & Design

Laser surface texturing/processing to achieve extreme wetting conditions of metals and alloys attracts considerable attention as the laser technologies advance at a rapid rate in the last decade. Although the wetting behavior of a laser textured metal surface is a complex combination of surface chemistry and surface topography, most of the existing literature only explore the generation of physical topographical changes, i.e., micro-/nano-scale surface structures by lasersA significant knowledge gap exists in the current literature on the role of surface chemistry on those laser-textured surface structures. This review article will provide a systematic understanding of the interdependence of surface chemistry modification and surface structures during the laser-based surface engineering methods. Our review article is, as a matter of fact, a very first review work to systematically discuss the role of surface chemistry and the methods for surface chemistry modification for laser surface texturing of metals. It provides a guideline for the design of laser texturing methods and fabrication of extreme wetting surfaces for metal alloys.


Professors Udaykumar and Ding have received a $200k, 1-year grant from NSF to study how droplets containing viruses dry on solid surfaces. SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily by inhaling viruses suspended in aerosol form or by touching surfaces on which virus-laden droplets have deposited. This work will deliver knowledge to answer this question: how does the survivability of viruses inside droplets depend on surfaces and across seasons? This project will address survivability of viruses inside droplets and its relationship to droplet size, type of surface and ambient conditions representing seasonal variations. By bringing together engineers and biomedical scientists with expertise in viral infections, the project will seek new insights and knowledge to improve our ability to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2.


  • March 2020 - Our recent paper entitled “Design of Chemical Surface Treatment for Laser Textured Metal Alloy to Achieve Extreme Wetting Behavior” is published at the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Fundamentally, extreme wettability of metal alloys depends on both surface structure and surface chemistry. However, compared with the generation of physical topology on the surface, the role of surface chemistry is less explored for the laser texturing processes of metal alloys to tune the wettability. This work introduces a systematic design approach to modify the surface chemistry of laser textured metal alloys to achieve various extreme wettabilities, including superhydrophobicity/superoleophobicity, superhydrophilicity/superoleophilicity, and co-existence of superoleophobicity and superhydrophilicity.


  • March 2020Qinghua 'Nicholas' Wang successfully defended his PhD thesis in Spring 2020. Congratulations! Thesis title: "Laser Engineering Methods of Novel Multi-Functional Surfaces”


  • January 2020 - Undergraduate Researcher Lujie Cai is named on the 2019 Fall UI President's ListThe president’s list was established in 1983 to recognize academic excellence. In order to be included on the list, a student must have a minimum 4.0 grade-point average (4.0 is an A) in all academic subjects for the preceding two semesters.  


  • January 2020 - Avik Samanta is featured in University of Iowa Dare to Discover campaign which showcases researchers, scholars, and creators from across the University of Iowa on banners throughout downtown Iowa City. The campaign is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Iowa.

  • December 2019 - At the end of 2019, our paper on nHSN is published by the journal of Applied Surface ScienceWe have been working on the topic for the past couple of years. This new paper shows the process development for this innovative surface nanostructuring process. More papers on nHSN will come in 2020!


  • November 2019 - Prof. Ding receives College of Engineering Seed Grant to develop Superwicking Heat Pipe using Fast Laser/Chemical Surface Nanostructuring Method.

  • November 2019 - Our THz metamaterials review paper is featured as the Frontispiece in Laser & Photonics Reviews.


  • October 2019 - Avik and Nicholas are featured in the latest UI ME Newsletter.



  • September 2019 - Qinghua ‘Nicholas’ Wang presented the paper with title "A Novel Laser Patterning Process for Highly Flexible Transparent Conducting Heater’ at the 3rd World Congress on Micro and Nano Manufacturing held at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.


  • August 2019 - Wuji Huang join our group. Wuji earned his BS in Materials Physics from Fudan University, PRC and MS in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Florida.Welcome!



  • July 2019 - Qinghua 'Nicholas' Wang starts a 6-month project at GM R&D as a visiting scientist.




  • June 2019 - Prof. Ding receives CCAD CRISP Genesis Award to develop dynamically tunable metamaterial for THz spectroscopy.



  • May 2019 - Prof. Ding receives the Career Kudos Award from the University of Iowa.






  • April 2019 - Congratulations to Avik Samanta for receiving the 2018- 2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the University of Iowa. He is a doctoral candidate and has served as a teaching assistant for several courses. He is very dedicated, enthusiastic and enjoys working with the students.


  • March 2019We recently published a paper in Optics and Lasers in Engineering for our research in Laser Keyhole Cutting of CFRP. For the first time, a keyhole mode cutting is achieved for CFRP materials using a long-pulse nanosecond laser. A high-quality machined surface can be produced with a limited heat-affected zone and little fiber pull-out. The paper can be read from here.



  • March 2019Qinghua 'Nicholas' Wang received the 2019 Student Innovator Award from the University of Iowa. Congratulations!



  • February 2019 -Our recent research is published in Scientific Reports on laser fabrication of new terahertz bandpass ultrathin metamaterials


  • December 2018 - Qinghua 'Nicholas' Wang and Avik Samanta successfully passed their respective comprehensive exam in Fall 2018. Congratulations!


  • October 2018 - Our group attended the 37th International Congress on Aplications of Lasers & Electro-Optics (ICALEO) at Orlando, Florida, USA.
    • Qinghua 'Nicholas' Wang presented the paper for the title of "A Novel Laser Surface Patterning Process for Fabrication of Transparent Conducting Ultra-thin Metal Film".
    • Avik Samanta presented the poster for the title of "Enhancement of Laser Textured Surface Nanostructuring to Achieve Superhydrophobicity on Engineering Metal Surface".


  • May 2018 - Ninggang ‘George’ Shen receives his PhD degree at  2018 Spring University of Iowa Graduate College Doctoral Commencement Ceremony at the Hancher Auditorium. Congratulations!


  • May 2018Prof. Ding Receives NSF Grant to Study a Fast Laser-based Surface Nanostructuring Method. 


  • April 2018 - Avik Samanta wins the Rajyalakshmi & Shankar N Planjery Award in Spring 2018. Congratulations!








  • MForesight article about our laser-based composites processing research







At the University of Iowa, we have an immediate Research Assistantship (RA) opening for a project on wind turbine manufacturing, machining and surface treatment. We are looking for highly motivated students with background in one or more of the following areas: Solid mechanics, materials & mechanical behaviors, computer modeling (FEM, dislocation dynamics, MD, or phase field simulation), materials processing (e.g., machining), wind energy, and laser based manufacturing. PhD students in their first year or MS students who intend to continue PhD are preferred. Interested applicants are welcomed to contact Dr. Ding with a resume and a letter summarizing their research experience and research accomplishments.