In the past three decades much effort has been devoted to design and fabricate various metal matrix composites with nanoparticle reinforcements, with the hope that the fabricated composites can reach exceptional mechanical performance similar to their nanoparticle constituent elements. Among these materials, graphene-metal composites are amongst the most efficient systems for transferring the exceptional mechanical properties of nano-sized reinforcement (graphene) to the bulk material (metal matrix). Despite extensive computational and experimental researches which has been recently reported, the mechanical properties of fabricated composites are still far bellow the expected values. In Future Materials Lab, we have developed a novel framework to design and fabricate a new generation of graphene-metal composites.
Additively Manufactured Metals
Additive Manufacturing (AM) has the most appeal for fabricating highly customized metallic parts with complex geometries that cannot be easily produced by the conventional methods. Despite this unique property, the full potential of AM to provide new means for manufacturing load bearing parts is not yet fully realized. This challenge originates from multiple sources, but with no doubt the major reason is the weakness of mechanical properties of 3D printed metallic parts, compared to the parts fabricated by the other conventional methods. In the Future Materials lab we target investigating this challenge from an unexplored perspective, in which the nano and microstructures are studied as the basis for all the mechanical properties at the bulk level.
We use computational methods, mainly relying on Molecular Dynamics, to study the mechanical properties for various polymer-based structures. The main goal of our study is to investigate the interconnection between the structure of the polymers at the atomistic scale and the properties at the bulk level. One unique study that we perform is investigating the effect of size on the mechanical properties of the polymeric nanofibers and thin films. An investigation which is very difficult to be revealed only by using experimental methods or traditional continuum-based models. We also have developed an unprecedented framework for destining and fabricating a new class of shape memory polymers which can be stimulated remotely. In Future Materials Lab we use a combination of experiments and computational works in the field for studying the mechanical behavior of polymers.
A recently developed Aluminum-Cerium (Al-Ce) alloy has shown a significant potential to cast microchannel heat exchangers (HXs) with an exceptional performance. In Future Material Lab, in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we target: (i) using computational methods to model the casting process, (ii) characterizing the thermal and mechanical properties of the alloy and fabricated HXs, and (iii) developing a computational framework to discover the interconnections between the microstructure of the material and its thermal and mechanical properties.
Metallic Thin Films
Metallic thin films are one of the most interesting structures in the materials science, mainly because of two reasons: (i) they have extensive unique applications, and (ii) they play a prominent role in the development and study of materials with new and unique properties. In Future Materials Lab we use sputtering techniques to fabricate thin films, and particularly control their nanostructure by tailoring the processing parameters. In parallel, we implement computational methods to study the mechanical properties of these films at the atomistic scale. By performing characterization experiments we have constructed a framework to design and fabricate various thin films, particularly Nickel-Titanium films, with controllable properties.
Mechanics of Cells
In Future Materials Lab, we study the mechanical properties of cells, both by performing micro channel experiments, and also utilizing continuum-based computational modeling. In order to calculate the mechanical properties of the cells, micro channels are used and the deformation of the cell is recorded using high speed cameras. By tracking the shape of the cell when it passes the channel, and combining the results with theoretical/computational studies, we calculate the mechanical properties of the cells. In the computational studies, we model cells as incompressible visco-hyperelastic materials, and the serial microfluidic device is modeled in a finite element framework using rigid surfaces. The fluid in the channels is explicitly modeled using 3D Eulerian elements, with water properties, interacting with the cell and the rigid walls in the channel. The fluid flow in the model causes the driving force to propel the cell through the channel. We are performing these studies to characterize the unknown mechanical properties of cancerous cells.
In Future Materials Lab, in all of our researches, we utilize a combination of cutting-edge experiments, and novel computational studies. In our computational works we perform a complementary set of Ab-initio studies, using VASP, molecular dynamics modelings, using LAMMPS, and finite element simulations, using ABAQUS.