Tailoring the properties of materials has gone hand-in-hand with structure and tool design throughout history. The revolution in structural engineering in the early 20th century, embodied by skyscrapers and suspension bridges, was enabled by steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, with vastly superior structural design properties to concrete and cast iron. In the early 21st century, cell phone screens that do not scratch or crack were enabled by glass that is specially treated for toughness by chemical and thermal processes. The MMD lab is focused on establishing nano to millimeter scale structure-function relations to drive materials innovations that improve society.
Engineered Living Materials
. . . utilizing biology to grow engineering materials that are both more functional and more environmentally friendly than current synthetic options. Plant, fungus, bacteria, and yeast species can be engineered and grown in conjunction to produce viable living materials that are structural, sense, respond and adapt to the environment, and self-repair damage.
. . . a broadly adaptable class of material, typically light weight and low cost, that is ubiquitous in every day life. Common examples range from car tires to safety glasses to cell phone cases. Polymers are intriguing from a material mechanics viewpoint because of the wide spread of pertinent time and size scales that result naturally from their microstructural inhomogeneity.
. . . using mechanics to drive chemistry. This phenomena is rampant in biological systems where mechanical motions and forces are transduced to chemical signals. Over the last two decades mechanochemistry has been increasingly developed in synthetic materials. We work on developing the framework to predict the chemical response these synthetic mechano-responsive polymers will have to mechanical loading and then synthesize these materials to realize advanced functionality.
. . . creating new polymers and polymer composites. We use a combined experimental and theoretical approach to developing microstructurally-based models. These models can be used to predict the behavior of existing materials and guide the design of new materials.
. . . where math meets thermodynamics. Continuum mechanics is an essential tool that allows us to describe our material theories in a computationally tenable fashion. We work with commercial finite element packages to implement our theories and validate them with respect to experiments.