NU-based materials design center receives $25 million grant


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Hogan Biological Sciences Building, where the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design is located. The center’s primary goal is to accelerate the process of developing new materials while lowering manufacturing costs.

Cameron Cook, Assistant Campus Editor

The Center for Hierarchical Materials Design received a $25 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to fund its next five years, according to a Tuesday news release.

The center, which is located on Northwestern’s Evanston campus, develops new tools, databases and experimental techniques to accelerate the design of novel materials — which according to the center’s website, is a primary goal of the U.S. Government’s Materials Genome Initiative. The initiative works toward developing new substances.

Since its founding in 2014, researchers from the center and from NIST have developed new materials for things such as batteries, precision nanofabrication, electronics, inks for 3D printing and structures to withstand extreme environments, the release said.

The center is co-directed by McCormick Prof. Peter Voorhees, McCormick Prof. Gregory Olson and Juan de Pablo, a professor at the University of Chicago.

One of their primary goals is to “realize the promise” of the Materials Genome Initiative, Voorhees said in the release.

“We are designing new materials, ranging from polymers for nanoelectronics to high-temperature metal alloys with the aim to facilitate a faster industrial design cycle of these materials while lowering manufacturing costs,” he said.

Those new materials — known as hierarchical materials — “exploit distinct structural details to achieve special, enhanced properties,” the release said.

Materials design draws on physical theory, computer models, materials properties databases and complex calculations to speed up the designing process, which can sometimes last up to 20 years from laboratory discovery to commercial use, the release said. The Materials Genome Initiative aims to cut that down to 10 years.

Olson said in the release that he looks forward to continuing the work he and his colleagues have done in the past five years “by applying our fundamental databases to the creation of novel, high-performance materials for applications ranging from electronics to space travel.”

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Twitter: @cam_e_cook

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