The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Chicago incubates innovative research to produce the design principles for the next generation of materials. The research is focused on investigating materials formed far from equilibrium, exploring new paradigms for materials fabrication and response, and exploiting feedback between structure and dynamics. Senior investigators represent seven departments at the University of Chicago,the City College of New York, and Argonne National Laboratory.
Each of our three IRGs addresses a fundamental issue applicable to a broad class of materials. The IRG on Dynamics at Soft Interfaces focus on both scientific challenges and technological opportunities that arise from controlling and manipulating how much or how fast a soft interface forms or deforms, with systems ranging from nanoscale colloids to macroscopic field-activated suspensions. By examining how stress variations at an interface can alter properties in the bulk and, conversely, how tailoring bulk parameters can guide the interface dynamics, the research endeavors to establish the link between the interface dynamics and the properties of the material as a whole. Establishing such a link opens up opportunities for designing specific material responses and provides a pathway towards innovative applications. The IRG on Spatiotemporal Control of Active Materials represents an ambitious effort to understand, design, and synthesize materials containing distributed molecular elements that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. Drawing on the myriad ways that biological systems have evolved to construct materials with specific responses to applied stimuli, this IRG aspires to achieve control of active materials and ultimately to create novel molecular assemblies for robust tunable shape change. Success of the IRG would result in the identification of minimal combinations of elements capable of programmable amorphous shape changes, autonomous movement and collective behavior, and such a material could be tailored to environments and situations beyond the reach of biological systems. The IRG on Engineering Quantum Materials and Interactions seeks to elucidate the critical issues of control and coherence in both individual and in collective-mode quantum systems, with the goal of manipulating and exploiting quantum coherence in materials over a large range of length scales, from individual quantum centers to macroscopically entangled materials. This research is expected to directly advance applications in quantum sensing, fabricate materials for quantum information as well as create the next generation of characterization tools for traditional materials.
In addition to training a diverse group of post graduate, graduate and undergraduate students, the Chicago MRSEC brings science inquiry experiences to underserved students in neighboring communities on Chicago's south side including special programs for students and teachers and after-school science clubs. The MRSEC provides summer research opportunities to undergraduate students from all over the U.S. As part of its outreach to the general public, the MRSEC collaborates with Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and the Exploratorium in San Francisco to develop materials science exhibits. The MRSEC collaborates with a number of international institutions, interacts with industry, and runs a suite of shared facilities.