Materials research at Georgia Tech is comprehensive, addressing all major technologies that can improve our lives in the next century and beyond. In addition to fundamental research, emerging technologies are routinely being exploited at Tech in terms of patents and new product development/enhancement ideas. Materials Council Representatives have grouped materials research within the following categories:
Biomaterials is an area of explosive growth in which new materials are being developed for many different purposes. Georgia Tech is pursuing excellence in this area through a broad network of research involving various Colleges within Georgia Tech, as well as a key connection to Emory University in Atlanta, led by the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (http://www.bme.gatech.edu/). Biomaterials research intrinsically involves biology, physiology, chemistry, and engineering, among other fields. Examples of current research include:
Georgia Tech is one of the world leaders in nanoscience and nanotechnology research. As the southeast US node in the NSF-supported National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network., the Nanotechnology Research Center (NRC) at Georgia Tech (http://www.mirc.gatech.edu/) serves nearly 600 researchers per year, with more than one-third of these coming from other universities, colleges, companies, and government labs. Researchers from any science or engineering discipline are invited to take advantage of our infrastructure, facilities, equipment and expertise to enable and facilitate interdisciplinary research in micro- and nano-fabrication and characterization. As stated by the NRC Director, “…The prospectus for microelectronics continuing to achieve exponential productivity advances and thus serve as the principal driver of the information revolution during the early 21st century is promising.”
Nanomaterials are created by manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular scale, or by guided or predicted self-assembly of structures of nanoscopic dimensions that can be tailored through thermomechanical processing and compositional variation. Nanomaterials differ from bulk materials in terms of grain size, surface/interface-to-volume ratio and grain shapes, which are the origin of their unique electrical, optical, thermodynamic, mechanical and chemical properties. It is envisioned by many that significant future advances in a wide range of miniaturized consumer products will rely on controlled and designed synthesis of nanomaterials as well as their integration with microsystems and biotechnology. Tailoring of nanostructured surfaces is vitally important for many applications.
Nanotechnology has the potential to provide unprecedented understanding of atomic scale control of materials. It holds the prospect of impacting every aspect of our lives, from health care to energy and to our environment. Research in nanotechnology is multidisciplinary, involving but not limited to mechanics, materials science, electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and biomedical engineering. The future of materials science and engineering lies in the integration of engineering, physics, chemistry, and biology. This complex task requires not only innovative research and development themes, but also new educational protocols for training future scientists and engineers.
Advances in electronics, rehabilitation of manufacturing and transportation infrastructure, and breakthroughs in new technologies for transportation, energy and security depend largely on our ability to "engineer" new effective and affordable structural materials. Concurrently, existing materials are pushed to the limit of their capabilities. Georgia Tech plays a key national role in the development, characterization and modeling of structural materials. Materials scientists and mechanics faculty interact within the Mechanical Properties Research Laboratory (http://mprl.me.gatech.edu/), among the nation's best-equipped university laboratories for mechanical testing and characterization of structural materials such as advanced metallic/ceramic alloys and composites. Creep, fatigue and fracture experiments conducted in vacuum and other environments permit assessment of micro- and macro-scale models and microstructure/property relations for a variety of materials. Multiscale computational methods are used to link information from different time and length scales to form a basis of predicting material response in components and enabling design of materials for multiple performance requirements, providing a supporting role for designing materials. Research in processing structural materials for a wide range of applications is modeling the deformation and failure behavior of structural materials is widespread across campus. Various structural testing, nondestructive evaluation, x-ray, electron microscopy, optical microscopy and quantitative image analysis facilities are available.
Materials Physics and Chemistry
Common interests abound between faculty in Physics and other disciplines such as Electrical and Computer Engineering in growth and characteristics of compound semiconductor thin films, high quality superconducting thin films, deposition of ferroelectric thin films, the theory of epitaxy, first principles and molecular dynamics as tools for understanding atomic and nanoscale phenomena and devices, and materials such as metallic hydrides and graphene. Located in the School of Physics, the Computational Materials Science Center is producing leading edge results concerning the structure of thin films using principles of molecular dynamics. Likewise, chemistry is an essential aspect of materials, since surface reactions and non-equilibrium behaviors are commonplace. Research is carried out in the Schools of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, etc. in the areas of electro-active materials, including conductive polymers, organized assemblies and surface modification of semiconductors, thin organic films, use of molecules as discrete devices, detection of near-molecular thresholds by chemical and biosensors and development of high performance materials that are stable under combined stress, temperature and radiation environments. The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Georgia Tech (http://www.mrsec.gatech.edu/) is exploring epitaxial grapheme (EG) as a replacement for silicon, the material of choice for electronic devices since the 1960s; EG has extraordinary electronic properties that offer the possibility of greatly enhanced speed and performance relative to silicon, and hence may serve as the successor to silicon in integrated circuits and microelectronic devices.