Everything Is a Materials Problem

Our group studies the interplay between mechanics and architecture at the nanoscale to create new classes of nanoarchitected materials with unprecedented mechanical properties. Our goal is to utilize the exceptional behaviors of nanomaterials — like ultrahigh strength and toughness, radiation damage tolerance, and enhanced ductility — using a range of micro- and nanoscale fabrication and testing methods. We have shown that nanoarchitected materials can attain remarkable properties. Examples include ceramics that are able to bounce back after compression to over 50% strain and fractal-like architectures that can localize failure to tune the mechanical response.

Our work is often bioinspired in nature, as the techniques we use can approach and replicate the length scale and complexity of natural materials. We are currently interested in the general areas of materials for extreme environments (irradiation, high temperature, ballistic impact, etc), multifunctional materials with combined mechanical, electrical and thermal performance, and biocompatible materials for operation in medical devices.

We use two approaches in conducting our research:

Materials from the bottom up

We use a suite of advanced 3D micro- and nanofabrication techniques to create new materials with features that are controllable on ~10nm length scales. We apply these nano-“building blocks” to make architectures starting at fundamental material length scales and investigate how this can bring about novel behaviors at micro-, meso- and bulk scales. Our research utilizes the Washington Nanofabrication Facility (WNF) and Molecular Analysis Facility (MAF) at UW along with a set of custom-built equipment. This topic encompasses work on nanolattices, tough nanoarchitectures and metamaterials.

Materials from the top down

The properties of natural and engineering materials are governed by a complex interaction of materials and architecture starting at the nanoscale and moving up. Unraveling the nature of these multi-scale interactions is a fundamental problem in material science. Our work studies the mechanics of materials starting from their nanoscale constituents and investigates how their structure (or architecture) at nano-, micro- and meso-scales affects their large-scale properties. This topic encompasses work on carbon fiber composites, biomaterials and artificial tissues.



Team Members: Zainab Patel, Santhosh Sridhar, Kush Dwivedi, Madeline Waite, Chester Wong, Bassam Khan, Kellan Yoshikawa, Ryleigh Weston

Funding Agency: NSF Award #2032539

Primary Goal: To understand why nanofoams are tougher than microfoams. We use experiments at the macro- and microscale paired with numerical modeling to understand the physics of why nanofoams are more resistant to cracking.

Broader Impacts: Lighter, tougher plastics means less plastic waste. Understanding why they are tough means we can apply that learning to other materials (like biodegradable polymers). There are many technological applications of these materials from medical meshes to filters to coffee cups.

Nanoscale Tensegrity-Based Metamaterials

Team Members: Caelan Wisont, Robert Verdoes, Zainab Patel, Nishita Anandan, Matt Leahy, Reese Taylor, Amitha Rani

Primary Goal: Create prestressed tensegrity architectures at the nanoscale. This method would allow for the creation of controllable stress networks within parts.

Broader Impacts: Prestress can be used to control mechanical properties (stiffness of tensegrities) and mechanical resilience (high strength tempered glass or gorilla glass). We are developing a method that can be broadly applied to new materials systems that display size-affected shrinkage.

Nanotough Mechanisms in  Bioinspired Nanoarchitected Materials

Team Members: Zainab Patel, Abdulaziz Alrashed, Kush Dwivedi, Kevin Nakahara, Ganesh Swaminathan

Collaboration Partners: Brad Boyce, Ben White, Bryan Kern

Funding Agency: Sandia CINT User Facility Grant

Published Works: Toughness Amplification via Controlled Nanostructure in Lightweight Nano-Bouligand Materials

Primary Goal: Uncover the relationship between toughness and nanostructure. Develop nanoarchitectures that use nanomaterials with size-enhanced properties to improve their toughness.

Broader Impacts: This work creates fundamental knowledge into how materials break starting at the nanoscale. It helps us to understand everything from tough engineered materials to natural nanostructured materials.

Nanoarchitected Metamaterials with Engineered Recovery

Team Members: Andrea Exil, Amitha Rani, Camila Kang, Hallie Wall

Primary Goals: Use origami at the nanoscale to create flexible nanostructured materials. Understand emergent bistability in origami without a soft hinge.

Broader Impacts: Origami provides a framework for flexible and deployable structures. By utilizing principles of origami at the nanoscale, we can create resilient and flexible nanostructures for “smart” materials that can change shape and store mechanical memory.

Spinodal Metamaterials

Team Members: Nishita Anandan, Colin Wilson, Emily Nguyen

Funding Agency: PACCAR and UW RRF

Primary Goals: Understand how gradient shell architectures can be designed to resist fracture, especially under extreme environments like ultrahigh temperature or shock.

Broader Impacts: These will be used for more resilient coatings and thermal barriers to insulate in extreme environments and protect against mechanical damage. For example, these could be used in combustion engines and exhaust lines, as space shuttle tile shields and as the lining for jet engines.

Parameterization of Pyrolysis

Team Members: Robert Verdoes

Primary Goals: Investigate how to better control the pyrolyzing process to affect shrinkage and enhance mechanical properties such as strength-density ratios and ultralight weights through pyrolysis-induced pretensioning.

Broader Impacts: Two-photon lithography can be used to create 3D polymeric structures with control of features at the nanoscale. Pyrolyzing these polymer structures converts them into pure carbon and causes them to undergo as much as 80% shrinkage. This process not only decreases weight and improves feature sizes, but it allows for nanoarchitectures to be made from ultrahigh strength nano-carbon.

CFRP Support Tube to house the ATLAS Inner Detector

Team Members: Sumedh Shahane

Funding Agency: CERN

Primary Goals: Design and run parametric studies with ABAQUS scripting to determine the laminate stacking for a support tube to house the Inner Detector of the ATLAS experiment.

Broader Impacts: Support the upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) to be able to see the decay products of the particle collisions in experiments to gather more data and observe rare new phenomena.

FlexCut Biopsy Device for In-Situ Endoscopic Tissue Sampling

Team Members: Malay Patel

Primary Goals: Design, model, and test a microscale biliary biopsy thin walled cylindrical prototype tool. Verify the method and magnitude of actuation in terms of displacement and the ability to withstand the cutting force.

Broader Impacts: Biliary biopsy procedure is conducted to obtain cell/tissue samples from the inside of the bile duct to predict the presence of malignant tissues. This biopsy process is performed conventionally by brush cytology and needle with or without forceps. The FlexCut tool may be able to aid in producing the required tissue yield, increasing the sensitivity, and limiting the invasive nature.

FEM Precision Assembly

Team Members: Alison Clark, Nathan Shah

Funding Agency: The Boeing Company

Primary Goal: Develop a software tool to predict and compensate drill and fill elongation of metallic and composite airplane wing parts (spars) arising from interference fit fasteners. Validate the compensation with experimental tests and test data from 777x and 787 spars.

Broader Impacts: Enable full-scale determinate assembly (FSDA) of large aerostructures.

Nano-origami Shape Memory Hydrogels

Team Members: Amitha Mulastham

Primary Goals: Design and fabricate unique metamaterials with architectures based on the waterbomb origami structure. Hydrogels exhibiting shape memory through reversible cross-links that are sensitive to stimuli and switch between two stable configurations upon the application or release of a compressive force. 

Broader Impacts: Successful replication of this behavior would enable us to use this technology in stimuli-triggered actuation, drug delivery, and production of membranes with variable permeability.

CRFP Metamaterials

Team Members: Tom Mikolyuk, Blaze White

Primary Goal: Using the anisotropic shrinkage of fiber composites to create shape morphing metamaterials.

Broader Impacts: We can create autonomous shape morphing materials with high strength and stiffness that can be actuated using an external field (like temperature) and don’t need physical actuation. This can be applied for deployable space structures or morphing aerosurfaces for planes.