Graduate School of Engineering & Management

Palazotto, Anthony


Dr. Anthony N. Palazotto
Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering
Air Force Institute of Technology
Graduate School of Engineering and Management
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Dr. Palazotto has been recognized by the United States Air Force by obtaining the honor of Distinguished Professor Aerospace Engineering in 2011.  The certificate indicated his exceptional leadership in guiding now over 200 thesis and dissertations.  In addition, he has worked with close to a dozen post-doctoral students. He is the author of over six hundred presentations and publications, two hundred and thirty six are archival.  Nationally and internationally, Dr. Palazotto is recognized by becoming a Fellow in four different prestigious engineering societies (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Academy of Mechanics, and the Engineering Mechanics Institute). He received the Aerospace Division Structures and Material Award for exceptional contribution to the advancement of aerospace technology in Civil Engineering in 1986. He further was honored with the Hetanyi Award from the Society of Experimental Mechanics for his paper on fatigue crack growth in 1982.  Dr. Palazotto was also honored by receiving the Outstanding Engineer and Scientist Award from the Affiliate Society of Dayton in 2011, the AIAA Achievement Award in 2004, and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Charles J. Cleary Award for Scientific Achievement in 1981.  Dr. Palazotto is highly involved in technical society activity as chairperson and founder of various committees including the committee on metals and composite materials of the Aerospace Division for the ASCE. He serves on the editorial board of the Aerospace Journal, ASCE, and the Journal of Composite Structures. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Ohio.  He has received over $5 million dollars in Air Force Research funding while at AFIT.  To date, Professor Palazotto has advised over 170 theses in Air Force technology with an additional 29 PhD dissertations. Every topic he has worked on has been sponsored by Air Force directorates in some form or other.  A number of his former students have progressed quite far in their Air Force career.  One of Dr. Palazotto’s former PhD students, Colonel John Cinnamon, has recently been selected as permanent professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics at the United States Air Force Academy. 

Dr. Palazotto is currently researching high velocity impact for the Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT), a ground test facility located at Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), New Mexico.  The HHSTT provides a cost-effective, controlled test environment for high-speed weapons, systems, and components. Full-scale flight tests tend to be more expensive than rail testing and present fewer opportunities to recover the test article for post-test evaluation.  Working with his students, Dr. Palazotto developed a computer program which enables the test track to determine the amount of high velocity wear developed on the 10 miles of rails used to launch rocket-powered test vehicles as they carry out experiments at speeds exceeding Mach 8.  The major thrust of his work was to understand and predict heat transfer, viscoplasticity, and material failure within a micromechanic environment.  Using the computer program to develop a modified test design, Dr. Palazotto’s research enables the team at Holloman AFB to predict the rail’s wear for an experiment.  This information makes the tests more successful and enables the team to modify their test regime if the wear will be too great and avoid expensive test item failures.  An average test at the HHSTT costs customers about $250,000 which is a significant cost saving over conducting a flight test which could run in the millions of dollars.  Research of this type has never been done at these velocities and has resulted in more than a dozen archival papers. The impact of Dr. Palazotto’s ground-breaking research has enabled the HHSTT team to provide better test results and protocols that save the AF millions of dollars per year in testing costs.

His research on high velocity impact for HHSTT began in 1999, when Dr. Palazotto was working in the area of metal mixing called gauging.  This phenomenon is brought about at high velocity by a collision of two metals interacting at an oblique angle of impact.  The end result enabled the track to reach extremely high speeds without failure due to metal interaction by decreasing the tolerance of vertical misalignment.

Dr. Palazotto is also involved with micro air vehicles (MAVs) in support of the AF’s vision to operate insect-sized MAVs by the year 2030. An order of magnitude smaller than current MAVs, these small devices will achieve flight by flapping their wings—unlike their fixed wing, propeller driven predecessors.  The technology has the potential to provide the warfighter with a fly-on-the-wall perspective of urban battlefields as well as the ability to follow foes deep into their subterranean hiding places.  Dr. Palazotto and his team set out to develop a high-fidelity structural model of an insect wing to understand the underlying physics of their aerial maneuvers. Using the hawk moth as the basis for their study, research investigating the viscoelastic components of the moth was conducted along with an evaluation of the energy pattern the specimen displayed. Dr. Palazotto’s research was able to characterize the actual motion of the wing structure used in the moth’s flight through the use of electronic sensors. A physical model was developed which exactly represented the hawk moth’s wing.  The construction consisted of composite material associated with the actual wing geometry.  By using cutting edge photographical measurement techniques, the team has recently uncovered the most compelling evidence to date that the flight of hawk moths is characterized by aeroelastic phenomenon; one in which the wing’s structural response determines its aerodynamics, which in turn determines the wing’s structural response. This is an important finding all in its own since it refutes prior claims that the wing’s response is not aerolastic in nature. Not only does this finding provide better insight into the nature of insect flight, it confirms that similar analysis tools can be used to analyze and test aerodynamic and structural wing response for the design of more sophisticated aircraft.

Dr. Palazotto and his students have made significant contributions related to the development of a lighter than air structure with an interior vacuum.  Current vacuum chambers are massive metal chambers that require a lot of stability and strength to hold a vacuum.  As part of this research, several designs analytically demonstrated the capability of stability and strength needed to withstand one atmosphere of pressure while being light enough to float in air at sea level.  In addition, a Design of Experiment method was incorporated in order to produce the best geometric arrangement possible (a hexakis icosahedron). This is a very unique structure requiring a great deal of nonlinear static and dynamic analysis and experimentation. Potential use for this lighter than air structure within the DoD would be as a sensor platform used for remote observation of hazardous environments inaccessible to ground vehicles.  Work in this area is in the process of being patented.

Another area of current research for Dr. Palazotto is determining the optimum topology of a hard target penetrating warhead via finite element analysis. By removing some of the warhead's exterior case mass and replacing it with an optimized interior support structure, a new warhead design is created that has a greater amount of explosive power as compared to the original structure.  The major part of this work is the design using optimization principals, and building and testing the warhead at velocities ranging up to 500m/sec. This research shows the potential for the design and production of warheads tailored uniquely to their intended targets, which are additively manufactured as needed by operational military forces.  The impact of this research is the development of a warhead that can quickly and accurately destroy a hard and deeply buried target on the battleground.

A further area of research has been pursued for Eglin AFB, in their concept design of a hypersonic ballistic missile.  Dr. Palazotto’s contribution was to evaluate over a dozen metals and composite materials under high temperature. The work required determining the effect of viscoplastic creep at temperatures reaching melt.  The findings allow the design team to characterize materials that will produce success in reaching the target. The research was successful and the sponsor has asked him to research the transonic aeroelasticity of an airfoil made from additive manufactured material.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Palazotto was heavily involved in work related to the area of fatigue and fracture mechanics. A great deal of work directed toward turbine engines was carried out with regard to the damping characteristics produced by ceramic coatings. The issue was to reduce the fatigue of the turbine blade.  It was found that the coatings damped out the vibration within the turbine blade. The results of this research had an impact both within the DoD and industry. Recently, Dr. Palazotto and his student published a paper in the area of mistuning. Mistuning is the geometric imperfection within the manufactured turbine blade which can lead to vibration modes that the blade was not designed for. It was the first paper published with both analysis and experimentation on this topic and led to further understanding of the modern turbine blade.

During that same period, Dr. Palazotto and his student developed a program which traced crack growth under viscoplastic conditions at high temperatures.  In the early 1980s, this was very novel and allowed the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to obtain initial feedback into high temperature environments. High temperature is a very common environment within the turbine engine.  This work was really in conjunction with the effort that the turbine engine community had to consider when they faced a great amount of turbine blade failure during the 80 and 90’s.

In the mid-1970s, Dr. Palazotto’s work was directed toward instability of shells with cutouts for NASA which contributed to the understanding of a cylindrical shell made from either aluminum or composite material. The investigation was directed to the collapse of this type of structure. Researchers at Langley AFB in Virginia continue to investigate this problem today. Several computer programs, based on corotatinal theory, were developed to evaluate the nonlinear reactions of the shell. Dr. Palazotto incorporated part of this research into a textbook entitled “Nonlinear Analysis of Shell Structures” published by AIAA in 1992.  It was one of the first books in this area, and it is still being published today.

Dr. Palazotto earned his PhD in solid mechanics with a minor in mathematics from New York University in 1968 under a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellowship.  Prior to joining AFIT in 1975, Dr. Palazotto was a Chaired Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut where he taught graduate and undergraduate courses, conducted research, and served as the mechanical engineering department chair.

Dr. Palazotto is pictured above in the Mechanics Laboratory testing an Icosahedron frame under compression. The unique structure is approximately seven inches in diameter with 20 equilateral triangles and 12 vertices.  The vertices are designed to touch a spherical radius of seven inches. The frame will eventually be incased in a membrane to form a three dimensional shell-like structure.

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