Carnegie Mellon to receive $6.5 million for Materials Research Science and Engineering Center

10/04/05

Creating super efficient materials

PITTSBURGH--Carnegie Mellon University's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) will receive $6.5 million over the next six years from the National Science Foundation to continue creating new, super efficient materials for many industry sectors.

"Our goal is to create new paradigms for interdisciplinary work that apply the principles of basic science and engineering to understanding the behavior, development and application of various materials," said Gregory S. Rohrer, head of MRSEC and Carnegie Mellon's Materials Science & Engineering Department.

Since 1996, MRSEC researchers have been working to understand the intricate nature of nanoscale grain boundaries in materials. Most metallic and ceramic materials used in aircraft, automobiles and computers are made up of many microscopic crystals held together by grain boundaries. These materials are called polycrystals.

"We are studying how these nanoscale polycrystals work and what makes them both durable and functional," Rohrer said.

To that end, MRSEC researchers have discovered that materials in this polycrystalline state often behave differently depending on the types of grain boundaries they contain. Familiar materials from gold to plastics display startling new properties when the nanoscale grain boundary structure is altered. Some can display greatly increased strength or resistance to corrosion while others can turn into potent chemical catalysts. What's more, Carnegie Mellon researchers are finding with their newly developed computer-controlled experimental methodology that they can create materials for everything from fortified car fenders to more fuel-efficient aircraft.

"We see our research ultimately making it possible for manufacturers to one day produce smaller, faster computer chips and safer power plants," Rohrer said.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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