Computational Materials Science tools, based in chemistry and physics, give us: (i) Qualitative frameworks for thinking about atomistic processes and mechanisms, (ii) Quantitative understanding of thermodynamic driving forces, and (iii) Prediction of properties or molecular architectures for engineering design. Often, we will want to know the structure of a few atoms in a material (e.g., defect or reactive sites), and quantum mechanics allows us to calculate these structures and associated electronic energies to high accuracy. However, we ultimately need to predict multi-scale properties that can be compared with experimental data, so we use statistical mechanics to perform temporal or spatial averages over a large number of simulations to obtain these macroscopic observables. We thus develop predictive insight that may be used to guide experimental design of new materials.
Energy is the underpinning of all technological progress our society makes. Tapping into energy sources and converting and storing energy into useful forms are challenges humans face within the constraints of limited natural resources and an increasing global demand. Materials lie at the heart of this challenge. By creating novel materials with unique structure, properties and better processes, scientists and engineers in IMSE are creating exciting opportunities to address the grand energy challenge.
The IMSE Materials for Regenerative Medicine research concentration comprises two areas:
- Synthesis of bio-inspired materials
- Understanding the material properties of tissues and biomaterials
Combining an impressive array of properties, including extraordinary tensile strength (~2-4 GPa), large elastic deflections (~2% elastic strain), and excellent wear and corrosion resistance, bulk metallic glasses (BMG) have been touted as revolutionary structural materials for more than a decade. Indeed, they have been implemented in a number of "boutique" applications, such as military weapons systems and sporting goods. Recently, focus has turned to BMGs' remarkable ability to be thermoplastically formed into complex shapes easily and inexpensively in the supercooled liquid regime, a capability traditionally limited to low-strength plastics. This combination of both outstanding mechanical properties and ease of processing opens the door for BMGs to truly become the transformational materials they promised to be. However, the lack of long-range atomic order in these alloys both dictates their unique mechanical behavior and processing characteristics and presents a challenge for understanding the relationships among structure, processing, and properties in BMGs within a consistent physical framework.
Materials science intersects with the fields of environmental science and sustainability in a variety of ways. This involves both developing new materials and conducting basic science research to understand processes governing the behavior of the materials. Specific research areas with emphasis in IMSE include: carbon dioxide capture and conversion (to metal carbonates and other products), treatment for removal of aqueous-phase contaminants, and the surface chemistry of environmental materials from natural and engineered systems.