Materials Science Research Groups

Harry Atwater

Professor Harry Atwater's group is engaged in fundamental and applied research in the synthesis, properties and processing of electronic materials for use in the electronic and opto-electronic devices and circuits of the 21st century. Electronic materials research is interdisciplinary, involving challenges in applied physics, physics, materials science, electrical and chemical engineering. The members of the Atwater group includes graduate students, research fellows and undergraduates from each of these departments. They also maintain comprehensive experimental facilities for growth and analysis.

Marco Bernardi

Marco Bernardi and his group develop and apply quantum mechanical calculations to study the dynamics of electrons and excited states in materials. Their research combines theory and advanced first principles computational methods, such as density functional theory and related excited-state approaches, which employ the structure of the materials as the only input. Recent work focused on transport and ultrafast dynamics of charge carriers, with application in ultrafast spectroscopy, optoelectronics, and solar energy conversion.

Kaushik Bhattacharya

The research activities of Kaushik Bhattacharya are at the intersection of Mechanics, Materials Science and Applied Mathematics. Concepts in Mechanics and recent methods of Mathematics are used to generate ideas for the design, development, and creation of new materials and the optimization of materials processing.

Katherine Faber

Katherine Faber is interested in the fracture of brittle materials and mechanisms by which such materials can be toughened and strengthened through composite strategies and residual stresses, often using synchrotron radiation for internal stress measurement. Her studies comprise ceramics for energy-related applications including thermal and environmental barrier coatings for power generation components and porous solids for filters and flow. More recently, she has also worked with the Art Institute of Chicago to establish the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts where advanced materials characterization and analytical techniques are used in support of conservation science.

Brent Fultz

Professor Fultz and his group work broadly in the areas of materials science, with emphasis on metals physics, thermodynamics, and kinetics. Experimental work employs elastic and inelastic scattering of neutrons, x-rays, gamma-rays, and electrons. Applied research projects include the development of new materials for electrodes in rechargeable batteries, and rare-earth alloys with giant magnetostriction.

Bill Goddard

Professor Goddard's research group is the Materials and Process Simulation Center (MSC), located in the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. This multidisciplinary center (with ~50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows having expertise in chemistry, materials science, physics, engineering and biotechnology) focuses on the theoretical methods of Quantum Mechanics and molecular dynamics for first principles predictions of the fundamental structures, properties, reactivity, and processing of materials with applications ranging from metal alloys, semiconductors, and ceramics to polymers, proteins, DNA, carbon nanostructures. Current focus is on fuel cells (membranes and catalysts), nanoelectronics, catalysis, and biotechnology plus various materials projects funded directly by industry. He is also director for the Power, Environmental, and Energy, Research (PEER) Center (located off-campus) with a staff of ~20 experimentalists studying problems in petroleum, energy, and environmental technologies.

Julia R. Greer

The main focus in Professor J.R.Greer's research group is on investigating nano-scale material properties. Specifically, we have developed a unique fabrication technique involving the use of Focussed Ion Beam (FIB) to "carve out" single crystal nanopillars ranging in diameter from 100 nm to several microns. Their strengths in uniaxial compression are subsequently measured in the Nanoindenter with a flat punch tip to remove the strain gradient effect from the observed mechanical response. These small pillars exhibit a very strong size effect in FCC and BCC crystals, i.e. smaller pillars are some 50x stronger than bulk, with the strengths at a significant fraction of the ideal shear strength. The group’s efforts are currently concentrated on the development of an in-situ mechanical testing instrument called the "SEMentor" which combines the strengths of two instruments: SEM and the Nanoindenter, allowing for direct visualization of mechanical deformation during testing, local electron beam irradiation, and beyond-compression testing (i.e. tension). The following broad topics are currently available for graduate student research:

  1. Mechanical property evolution during mechanical deformation of nano-scale crystals and metallic glasses in tension and compression.
  2. Dislocation behavior in nano-scale crystals through experiment and computations.
  3. Investigation of local electron irradiation effects on the bandgap and electrical performance of nano-scale semiconductors (i.e. graphene ribbons)

William Johnson

Professor Johnson's group does research on non-equilibrium and metastable materials. During the past decade, they have developed unusual metallic alloys which fail to crystallize during solidification at low cooling rates, thus forming "bulk" glasses. Research on the liquid alloys includes fundamental studies of rheology, atomic diffusion, crystallization kinetics, liquid/liquid phase separation, and the glass transition. Research on the solid "glassy" materials includes studies of elastic properties, and mechanisms of deformation, flow, and fracture. The group has developed composite materials which employ a metallic glass matrix to achieve unusual combinations of properties for structural engineering applications.

Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science