Research Thrusts

Faculty in the Department of MSE focus on five primary research thrusts.

Optical Materials:

Optical materialsResearch in this theme is articulated around three aspects of materials-light interaction.

  • The first aspect consists in the development of novel materials for control of electromagnetic waves over a wide spectrum of wavelength.  This includes development of glasses that transmit light in the far infrared or of nanocomposite materials for improving the absorption characteristics of photovoltaic systems.
  • The second aspect deals with the use of photons to synthesize and fabricate new materials such as exploiting photofluidity or photodirected molecular assembly.
  • Finally,   the third aspect extends the functionality of optical materials to other physical excitations such as electrons, phonons, magnons, etc. as well as to their coupling leading to tunable multifunctional materials.

 

Integrated Computational Materials Science and Engineering (ICMSE):

Computational MaterialsMSE expertise in this field ranges from first-principle computational methods based on quantum mechanics/chemistry, atomistic simulations such as molecular dynamics or Monte Carlo methods, to mesoscopic approaches such as phase field methods to continuum modeling techniques including finite difference time domain, finite element, and peridynamics methods.  The department of MSE also has extensive expertise in multiphysics and multiscale methods that can bridge models which differ by their fundamental theories or by their treatment of the scales of materials.  These modeling and simulation methods are put to work to develop and study novel carbon allotrope nanostructures, thermal materials, nanocomposites with high strength and hardness, ionic fluids for battery applications, or to optimize materials processing conditions in reaction/transport processes.

 

Materials Synthesis, Processing and Fabrication:

Five classes of materials are covered in this theme, namely ceramic, semiconductor, metals and alloys, polymers and glasses. The MSE Department is at the forefront of the processing of high-temperature ceramics for aerospace applications. In collaboration with the SRC/SEMATECH Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing (ERC) in the College of Engineering, MSE faculty are exploring novel ways to process semiconductor materials including Chemical Mechanical Planarization (CMP) or technologies for removing micro and nano contaminants from semiconductor surfaces. Modeling and simulation methods are put to work to optimize the microstructure and morphology of metals and alloys processed via casting and solidification. Space-based experiments are unraveling the effect of microgravity on microstructure.  New approaches such as sol-gel polymerization are being developed to synthesize better polymer-based membranes for water treatment, fuel cells, etc.

 

Materials for Energy:

Faculty are actively following several research paths toward developing solutions to today’s energy problems.  Cutting-edge research conducted to improve the efficiency of Photovoltaics, the life-time of materials used in the fabrication of solar-energy devices and systems. Since more than 50% of the energy produced and transmitted is lost in the form of heat, several research projects are focusing on new more efficient nanostructured thermoelectric materials that can convert heat into electricity. Other faculty members are engaged in addressing the issue of intermittency of renewable energy by exploring cost-effective approaches to energy storage.  These approaches include materials for thermal storage, compressed air energy storage or electrochemical storage.

An affiliated global institution rooted in the innovation of solar energy solutions and built on multidisciplinary partnerships that span academia and industry is AzRISE.

 

Heritage Conservation:

Materials processing and fabrication are at the core of the development of human civilizations. Faculty in the Department work closely in collaboration with the Arizona State Museum as well as museums across the world to unravel the techniques used by ancient civilizations to fabricate a wide range of artifacts utilizing ceramics, metals, or organic materials. Advanced imaging methods originally developed for materials characterization are used to understand chronology and to characterize, categorize and catalog the works of art of master painters.

University of Arizona College of Engineering