Materials & Nanotechnology

Material Science Research

Materials chemists invent high performance materials and composites that are key to the development of new technologies ranging from electronics to energy storage and conversion.  Through understanding molecular forces and how electrons move at the nanoscale, researchers are creating the next generation of materials for the high-tech industry.

Graduates go on to work in electronics, aerospace, defense and comodity chemical companies.  

Material Science Research Projects

Current research in the area of materials science and nanotechnology...

Nanoparticle synthesis:  Nanotechnology is the next industrial revolution. An increasing number of commercial products and industrial processes involve particles on the nano-size scale (bigger than a molecule, smaller than a living cell). Interest in nanomaterials is due to not just their small size but also their unique properties that change with the size of the particle. By controlling the size of the particle, chemists can control the properties of the material itself.  Dr. Knight and Dr. Winkelmann are developing wet chemistry synthetic methods for the preparation of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles with controlled size distribution and high stability.

Scanning tunneling microscopy and atomic scale characterization:  Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) provides unpresidented resolution allowing the investigation of matter on the molecular and sub-molecular scale. This capability allows the observation of the geometric and electronic behaviors of individual molecules.  Dr. Olson and Dr. Baum are pioneering new techniques that use a combination of the electronic and sub-molecular information with novel computational approaches to study molecules that are of interest for their potential medicinal or catalytic behaviors.

High performance foams, polymers and nanocomposites:  Current materials science research emphasizes sustainability and innovation. Developing high performance polymeric materials to meet both properties and environmental requirements is a key trend in polymer science.  Dr. Nelson and Dr. Yang are developing high performance organic materials through novel environmental friendly approaches: organic/inorganic nanocomposites, high performance carbon fiber reinforced composites for specialty applications, as well as multifunctional nanostructured materials with unique properties.  For example, they are working on new foams with a bound-in non-halogen flame retardant package. The goal is to achieve flame retardancy exceeding NASA SOFI foams with a non-halogen non-migrating system.

Conducting polymers and nanocomposites for electronics, optics and sensing:  Organic materials provide a range of opportunities for developing electronics that operate through new mechanisms that can reduce size and cost, and increase the ease of manufacturing through inkjet and 3-D printing technologies.  Dr. Freund's group is working on new conducting polymers and composites for creating field driven redox memory which can be electrodeposited on exiting CMOS chip structures and should have better scaling properties.  Dr. Liao is working on smart polymer materials that change their chemical, physical and biological properties under visible light based on photo-induced proton transfer achieved using metastable-state photoacids.  These materials have great potential in industrial, biomedical and defense applications. Research in this area could lead to artificial muscles, multifunctional coating, drug delivery materials, novel phontonics, and high density data storage.

Focus Areas