At A Glance

As one of the world’s leading experts in advanced lightweighting and sustainable composites, Srikanth Pilla’s work spans industries to create a sustainable, fuel-efficient future. He works extensively with industry for applied engineering and commercial manufacturing, which includes a $5.81M project with the U.S. Department of Energy and Honda R&D Americas to engineer an ultralightweight carbon fiber vehicle door to be 42.5 percent lighter than the baseline and 100 percent recyclable. Pilla’s expertise spans sustainable vehicle design, Industry 4.0, advanced manufacturing technologies and circular economy trends.


An advanced lightweight and sustainable materials researcher, Pilla’s experience is in high-performance advanced materials including fundamental science and material synthesis to functional prototyping and manufacturing planning.

Pilla’s research is focused on engineering advanced, multifunctional structural polymers and foams for a variety of uses in the automotive, aerospace, defense and specialty component industries. His work includes vehicle lightweighting – the replacement of traditional materials with lighter, stronger materials to boost fuel efficiency and sustainability. 

He is the founding director of the Clemson Composites Center, a full-spectrum innovation facility focused on the development and application of advanced composite materials. Driven by industry, the $6M facility includes state-of-the-art equipment and offers a wide range of services. 

One of Pilla’s most notable projects is a $5.81M research project aimed at developing a carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic ultralightweight car door to help automakers meet federal fuel economy standard. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and Honda R&D Americas, the re-engineered door must achieve a 42.5 percent weight reduction, meet or exceed all safety performance targets, incur no more than $5 per pound saved in production cost, be scalable to 20,000 production units annually, and be 100 percent recyclable. 

In addition to private industry experience at SC Johnson and SuGanit Biorenewables, Pilla serves as a materials and manufacturing consultant to several industries, including OEMs such as BMW, Honda, Mater Power Transmission, Maher and Associates, among others.

Pilla’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA, in addition to industry partners such as automotive OEMs and suppliers. His research has created $16.36M of funding. 

He currently serves as the editor-in-chief of “SAE International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, Energy, Environment and Policy,” associate editor of “SAE International Journal of Materials and Manufacturing,” editorial board member of the “Journal of Renewable Materials,” editorial board member of the “Journal of Composites Science,” board member of the SPE Injection Molding division and board member of the SPE Bioplastics division. Pilla also serves as faculty adviser to the Clemson University Society of Plastics Engineers student chapter.

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The average person doesn’t care about lightweighting; they care about how much their car is and what mileage they can get. From the manufacturing standpoint, however, if a component is lighter and has fewer total parts, that means fewer parts to assemble, shorter production times and overall cost savings – all of which can be passed to the consumer in addition to getting more miles to the gallon.

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    • Advanced and future materials development
    • Sustainable technologies for circular engineering – materials, processes and methods
    • Component lightweighting and re-engineering for the automotive and specialty industries
    • Applied engineering, commercial manufacturing
    • Advanced joining method, manufacturing for dissimilar and hybrid materials

    Degrees, Institutions

    • Postdoctoral training, Stanford University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    • M.S., University of Toledo
    • B.S., JNT University India