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 four 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 especially at the micro- and nano- scale, 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: Jamming and Slow Relaxation in Materials Far from Equilibrium

This IRG considers the factors that cause flowing systems to become jammed and therefore form a rigid material trapped far from equilibrium. The research endeavors to unify the understanding and control of such materials by analyzing manifestations of rigidity onset across a wide range of seemingly different systems. Studying these systems under a unifying umbrella allows the cross-pollination of ideas about structure and dynamics at the macro-, meso-, and microscopic levels. Applying the paradigm of jamming, we plan to pursue new types of material processing that exploits the effects of aging and memory common to jammed and glassy materials. Read more »

IRG II: Dynamic Transitions of Material Sheets

IRG2 focuses on the nonlinear interplay between a deformable boundary and imposed stresses, an outstanding issue in engineering and materials processing. The IRG will investigate shape transitions involving deformations of thin sheets of material and explore extreme states of forcing where current understanding is meager. We benefit from the unprecedented availability of high-resolution, high-speed image processing as well as our recent discovery that meory effects can dominate new classes of transition dynamics often appearing as instabilities. These instablilities represent opportunities, using far-from equilibrium dynamics, to shape materials in ways that can be more effective than explicit constraints to create structure on the mm and nm scale, where explicit shaping is impractical. Read more »

IRG III: Rational Design of Nanoparticle and Molecule-Based Functional Materials

This IRG aims to develop the tools needed to create a new class of materials based on the highly-diverse assortment of nanometer-sized particles that are now available. In order to produce new materials with specialized functions, we focus on elucidating the rules by which these entities can be assembled using thermodynamics and out-of-equilibrium dynamics into functional materials. Although an astonishing variety of structures can be assembled, the principles by which theses systems form are unknown. Critical goals include understanding the fundamentals of nanoparticle self-organization and tuning the array properties systematically. This IRG also provides a source of materials that will be examined in the other IRGs. Read more »

IRG IV: Macroscopic Quantum Coherence

IRG4 attempts to establish quantum control of materials by addressing fundamental issues in quantum materials engineering. We are at the start of a new era in electronic materials in which macroscopic quantum coherence will play an essential role in their design and function. The goal is to create and then manipulate these macroscopically coherent states in a broad class of new materials. We focus on model systems that can be finely tuned, thus enabling the precise control of associated complex quantum dynamics. Our initiative will provide new paradigms for how novel quantum states can be implemented into useful devices.  Read more »