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Research Topics


For centuries, friction and where have been described using empirical relationships. Coulomb's Law of Friction gave us the friction coefficient. The Archard wear equation gave us K. What if we could predict these coefficients long before two surfaces ever came into contact? Our lab is advancing the science behind friction and wear at the atomic level, utilizing nanotechnology, materials science, chemistry, and thermodynamics to understand how friction and wear evolve in complex interfaces and bring us a little closer to the rational design and control of interfacial mechanics.


Industrial chemical synthesis is a multi-trillion dollar industry that globally represents 7% of all income, producing nearly a billion tons of products each year. Within the ~ $1T sub-sector of specialty chemicals, reactions are largely carried out in liquid solvents, requiring upwards of 30 tons of solvent for a 1 ton yield of useful product, resulting in over 5B gallons/yr of costly and toxic solvent waste. How can we make the molecules for better medicines, electronics, and structural materials without costly and wasteful solvent? Our group is developing mechanochemical reactors that synthesize molecules by smashing them together, with little or no solvent involved. In particular, we seek to turn the chaotic processes today into controllable and predictable reactions. Temperature control is vital to thermochemistry, and we think force control will be vital for mechanochemistry.

Thermal Transport and Storage

As the world seeks to find economical ways to generate, transport, and store energy, thermal energy transport and storage has become an increasingly vital component of our energy portfolio. The critical challenge that underpins all of these systems, is the fact that materials are either good at transporting heat, or storing heat, but not both. Our group is working to develop composite systems that offer both high energy density and high power density, through the rationale design and manufacture of phase change based thermal storage systems.


Today, nearly all micro- and nano-engineered systems are made from a wide range of group III,IV,V semiconductors and metals. One element glaringly absent is Carbon. Despite the expansive development of carbon based materials of the last century with properties that rival or exceed their more traditional counterparts, they have largely failed to make their way into device architectures. So how do you integrate carbon based materials into manufacturing processes that were designed for carbon to be sacrificed and destroyed? Our group is advancing the science and technology of tip-based nanomanufacturing techniques to integrate carbon materials into the next generations of micro- and nano-architectures.

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