Research Highlights

The Chicago Materials Research Center (MRSEC) has established a highly successful, multidisciplinary approach to issues of technological importance at the forefront of materials research. The overarching goal, common to all of our Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs), is to produce the design principles for the next generation of materials. Each of the three IRGs addresses a fundamental issue applicable to a broad class of materials. Our ambitious programs attack some of the deepest challenges of materials research. Common themes include investigating materials formed far from equilibrium, exploring new paradigms for materials fabrication and response, and exploiting feedback between structure and dynamics. These themes, reappearing in each IRG described below, deal with important basic problems exploring design principles that are far from conventional and whose prospects are far from certain. See highlights »

IRG I: Dynamics at Soft Interfaces

This IRG focuses on both scientific challenges and technological opportunities that arise from controlling 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 paprameters can guide the interface dynamics, the research endeavors to establish the link between interface dynamics and the properties of the material as a whole.  Establishing such a link will open up opportunities for designing specific material responses and will provide a pathway towards innovative applications.  Read more »

IRG II: Spatiotemporal Control of Active Materials

IRG2 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 thi 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. Read more »

IRG III: Engineering Quantum Materials and Interactions

This IRG 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 coerence in materials over a large range of length scales, from individual quantum centers to macroscopically entangled materials.  The proposed research directly advance applications in quantum sensing, fabricate materials for quantum information as well as create the next generation of characterization tools for traditional materials. Read more »