NSF grant funds new materials research

9/16/2019 Celeste Bock

Written by Celeste Bock

Soft, elastic solids filled with magnetic or electrically charged fluids have emerged as a promising new class of materials that could enable an array of new technologies. CEE associate professor Oscar Lopez-Pamies will lead fundamental research into these materials over the next four years thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

These solids – or elastomers – could enable a plethora of next generation sensors and actuators capable of exhibiting extreme and unprecedented electro- and magneto-mechanical properties, Lopez-Pamies said. Examples of applications for elastomers filled with electro-sensitive fluid inclusions include soft robots, flexible displays, energy harvesters, microwave waveguides and super lenses. Applications of elastomers filled with magneto-sensitive fluid inclusions include soft robots, haptics and reconfigurable displays.

The project will focus on the mathematical and computational bottom-up analysis and design, and the experimental synthesis and characterization, of the coupled electro- and magneto-mechanical properties of elastomers filled with three broad types of fluid inclusions –electrically charged gas-filled pores, liquid-metal inclusions, and ferrofluid inclusions, Lopez-Pamies said. The objective is to accelerate the pace of fundamental understanding and technological deployment of this promising class of materials.

The grant to support this project, “Elastomers Filled with Electro- and Magneto-Active Fluid Inclusions: A New Paradigm for Soft Active Materials,” is administered under the NSF program Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future, part of the U.S. government’s Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). The MGI is a multi-agency, U.S. government initiative designed to accelerate the pace of discovery and deployment of advanced material systems.

Collaborators include aerospace engineering professor Ioannis Chasiotis of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, mechanical engineering professor Zoubeida Ounaies of Pennsylvania State University, and mathematics professor Gilles Francfort of New York University.

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This story was published September 16, 2019.