New Center for Materials Science and Engineering

One of Yale’s Molecular Beam Epitaxy Systems. Photo Courtesy of Marvin D. Wint, Department of Applied Physics and Physics.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $13 million grant to establish a Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation (CEMRI) at Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University. Directed by Charles Ahn, William K. Lanman Jr. Professodr of Applied Physics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Physics, this center will support interdisciplinary materials research and educational outreach programs. The grant process was competitive; dozens of universities applied for funding, and only 9 received a CEMRI grant. This new center will double the capacity of the already existing Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP), which was established on a $7.5 million grant in 2005 under the leadership of John Tully, Sterling Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Applied Physics and Physics.

Two main interdisciplinary research groups work simultaneously at the center. A group led by Eric I. Altman, Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, and Sohrab Ismail-Beigi, Associate Professor of Applied Physics and Physics, is currently investigating the unique properties that emerge at interfaces of transition metal oxides. These oxides include ferroelectrics, ferromagnets, and high-temperature superconductors, which are materials that can transmit current with zero resistance. The development of high-temperature superconductors could lead to revolutionary advances in efficient power distribution.

Another group, led by Jan Schroers, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Udo D. Schwarz, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Chemical and Environmental Engineering, is working on the development of novel bulk metallic glasses. These amorphous materials are not only stronger than steel but also as moldable like plastic. By evading the intrinsic size constraints of conventional crystalline metals, the unique structure of bulk metallic glasses allows for their use in various technologies, such as adhesive metal surfaces, biomedical implants, and fuel cells.

The center’s work also reaches out beyond the walls of the laboratory. Partnering with New Haven public schools, the center creates interesting and engaging curricula for children and participates in programs similar to those seen on the PBS television series, NOVA.