Nanomechanics is the study and characterization of the mechanical behavior of individual atoms, systems and structures in response to various types of forces and loading conditions.
Nanomechanics is multidisciplinary, and many research groups are located in mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, physics, and chemistry departments.
We utilize nanoindentation and atomic force microscopy to measure mechanical properties of thin films, coatings, nanostructures, polymers, and soft biological tissues. These approaches are combined with electron microscopy, and various spectroscopy techniques to discover deformation mechanisms, structure, and other details of new materials.
In order to enable production of new technologies from recent scientific discoveries and advances in understanding matter at the micro- and nanoscale in the biological, chemical, electrical, mechanical, optical and other domains—new paradigms in manufacturing are needed.
To address this critical need, the lab’s research focus is in the development of novel manufacturing technologies, nanomanufacturing processes and tools, and experimental mechanics of materials.
Soft Matter Manufacturing
Our team of researchers (Tommy Angelini and Greg Sawyer) have developed a hydrogel matrix that acts as a solid support system for objects made with three-dimensional printing, yet the gel is almost entirely liquid. We have printed a variety of soft materials—such as polymers and living cells—inside this hydrogel to create arbitrarily complex structures that keep their shape. The hydrogel bolsters the ability of 3-D printers to create soft, functional structures, potentially including living tissue.
Teams of researchers led by Curtis Taylor in engineering and Frank Bova in neurosurgery are working out the details of creating soft matter surrogates for human organs so that doctors can practice as part of prepping for surgery.
The goal is something like this: A patient with a brain tumor is admitted to the hospital. The patient’s brain is scanned, and from that scan, a 3-D model is produced that includes not only the brain and the brain tumor, but the patient’s personal brain architecture, complete with neurons and blood vessels. Several models could be manufactured, giving the doctor many opportunities to practice the surgery before the first incision on a patient.
For more information visit soft matter engineering.