Development and synthesis of new materials, and processing including forming, joining and strengthening of materials and their interfaces, is fundamental to all materials disciplines. MSE faculty at Rensselaer lead research in the design of new materials of all classes, combining disparate materials at tailored interfaces, and in advanced real-time characterization of structure during synthesis and processing. With this range of expertise, an emergent focus in the department is advanced manufacturing that uses data-driven and machine-learning methods to actively control microstructure and precisely target material properties.
New materials by design require precise synthesis techniques that can control composition, crystal structure as well as microstructure. Research at Rensselaer includes the development of novel techniques for epitaxial growth of crystalline materials that result in extremely low defect concentrations, which are particularly promising for oxide and halide perovskites for opto-electronic applications. Combining sub-wavelength fluorescence imaging with photoresist chemistry may provide a pathway to scalable sub-wavelength optical lithography. Also under investigation are strategies to generate functionality by directed synthesis of bulk materials that are assemblies of nanostructures, and by bringing together dissimilar materials with molecular monolayers that provide adhesion and chemical isolation.
Microstructure also plays a critical role in determining material properties. Facilities at Rensselaer enable advanced characterization and fabrication techniques using electron and ion beams, diffraction and spectroscopies, including real-time in situ capabilities. Combined with data analytics and machine learning, collaborative efforts in the department target next-generation processing techniques that achieve ultra-high efficiencies in polymer manufacturing, and that actively control grain growth kinetics and microstructure in polycrystalline materials.