Department Head: Robert Hull
Undergraduate Advising: Daniel Gall
Graduate Recruiting: Pawel Keblinski
Graduate Advising: Minoru Tomozawa
Department Home Page: http://www.eng.rpi.edu/dept/mse/
Progress in modern technology is often limited by the availability of suitable solid materials. The materials engineer must produce materials to meet the demands of the designers of jet engines and rocket boosters, microelectronic devices, optical components, medical prostheses, and many other products.
The principles that govern the processing and structure of materials to produce optimum mechanical and physical properties and performance are embodied in the materials engineering curriculum. The program is designed to produce engineers and scientists whose degrees represent useful specialization coupled with a broad background in all classes of materials.
Undergraduate students wishing to extend their education can undertake specialized study in a range of fields. These include research in ceramics, polymers, composites, nanostructured materials, high-temperature alloys, solidification, corrosion, deformation processing, welding, high-strength high-modulus materials, biomaterials, electronic materials, surface and molecular kinetics, glass science, and the origin of mechanical and physical properties in many different types of materials. Graduate students, in addition to pursuing classroom courses, conduct research in a variety of areas described below and write their theses based on this research. Extensive laboratories containing modern and sophisticated equipment are available.
For the student who likes to innovate and who wants to apply knowledge to the real problems of a modern technological society, materials science and engineering provides a broad range of exciting opportunities.
Research and Innovation Initiatives
Major research programs include fundamental studies of the solidification process and the effect of solidification under reduced gravity on the formation of dendritic structures, and practically oriented programs in the extrusion processing of aluminum alloys. In the latter program, studies of the complex interactions among stress, strain rate, and temperature during forming processes have made it possible to apply advanced software models to the control of metalworking operations. Studies of powder processing have made possible the extrusion processing of composite materials, while research on joining processes has led to synergistic coupling of adhesive bonding and spot welding technology in automotive sheet metal fabrication. Broad efforts focused on the synthesis, processing, and properties of nanostructured materials are expanding the capabilities of materials engineering and nanotechnology into additional areas including ceramics, metals, polymers, composites, and biomaterials. Novel applications of carbon nanotubes for device and chemical applications are under investigation, along with chemical, electrical, and mechanical isolation engineering using nanocomposites.
Materials for Microelectronic Systems
This research spans multiple fields including the development of epitaxial semiconductor materials for new electronic applications, exploration of new semiconductor nanostructural architectures for new nanoelectronic device concepts, development of new methods for material characterization and fabrication at the nanoscale, and materials problems associated with the interconnections between integrated circuit elements. Included are the growth of thin films of metals, semiconductors, polymer and ceramic materials, advances in the patterning and etching processes necessary for the fabrication of multilayer devices, and the application of state-of-the-art ion and electron beam lithography and microscopy methods.
Glasses and Ceramics
Research efforts focus on factors influencing the useful lifetime of glass components and the effect of environments, especially aqueous environments, on glass failure. In addition to the conventional applications such as windows and bottles, glasses are used as optical components such as optical communication fibers. Specifically, variation of the glass surface structure with time and its influence on glass properties are under investigation. Another emphasis is the development of nonoxide glasses, primarily those based on fluorides, as the transmitting medium in optical fibers for communications purposes.
Composite materials are made up of at least two distinct materials that when combined yield superior properties compared to the starting materials. Traditional examples of composite materials are carbon fiber reinforced polymers, glass fiber reinforced polymers, metal matrix composites, engineered woods, etc. Nanocomposite materials are those in which one of the components has a nanoscale dimensions. For example, carbon nanotubes, organoclay sheets (organically modified clay), silica nanoparticles, graphene (individual graphite layers), etc. When nanoscale materials are combined with, for example, polymers, the resulting material provides improvements and control over multiple properties such as electrical, optical, thermal, thermo-mechanical, mechanical, environmental, etc. Research at Rensselaer spans all types of nanoscale materials and their nanocomposites mainly with polymeric materials. Examples include silica, alumina, titania, zinc oxide, organoclay, graphene, single and multi walled carbon nanotube filled polymers.
Computational Materials Science
A number of MSE faculty focus on computational materials science and have expertise ranging from electronic structure calculation via classical molecular dynamics methods and mesoscale-level techniques, to continuum-level analysis and calculations. The main goal of the computational and theoretical research is to provide a framework for understanding the detailed role of individual parameters such as microstructural size, surface structure and chemistry, nature of defects and their distribution in material synthesis, processing and properties. Specific research areas include mass and heat transport, phase diagram and phase change modeling, chemical and thermal processes in energy materials, and ceramic and metallic glasses.
Nanostructured materials are being widely studied by faculty, postdoctoral, and student researchers in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Rensselaer. For example, polymer nanocomposites containing inorganic nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes are being made that have potential applications that combine novel electrical, optical, or mechanical responses. Rensselaer’s Materials Science and Engineering investigators involved in the NSF-funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC) for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures have put significant research effort into exploring the design of polymer nanocomposites with controlled dispersions of nanoparticle fillers and how these alter the various material properties of the host polymer. NSEC researchers in the department also investigate the conformation and activity of biopolymers (such as proteins) near (or adsorbed onto) highly curved nanoparticle surfaces and their effects on biological function as well as the ability to create new materials.
The field of biomaterials focuses on understanding the interactions of materials with biological systems, particularly within the human body, and applying this understanding to advancing human health. Research efforts focus on new methods and materials for automated cell-by-cell fabrication to produce idealized tissue constructs for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and to study drug interactions and intercellular signaling. Other efforts involve using cellular machinery in a synthetic environment for bionanofabrication; in particular, immobilized microtubules on AFM tips and motor proteins functionalized with moieties of biomedical interest. Additionally, biosensing is being pursued using cell- and tissue-based biosensors. Magnetic nanoparticles are also being used in combination with tissue constructs to study the effects of inductive thermoablation for cancer therapy.
Chrisey, D.B.—Ph.D. (University of Virginia); nanoscale materials; thin film electronic materials; nanofabrication; thin film growth; biomaterials; tissue engineering; biomimetic processing, accelerator technology; laser processing.
Duquette, D.J.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); environmental and surface effects on the mechanical behavior of metals, corrosion, stress corrosion fatigue (John Tod Horton Distinguished Professor in Materials Engineering).
Hull, R.—Ph.D. (Oxford University); Nanoscaled materials, electronic materials, semiconductors, interfaces, crystalline defects, nanofabrication, materials characterization, electron microscopy and focused ion beams (Henry Burlage Jr. Professor of Engineering and Department Head).
Keblinski, P.—Ph.D. (Pennsylvania State University); atomic-level computational modeling of interfacial processes; structure-property correlations; heat flow at nanoscale, polymer nanocomposites.
Messler, R.W., Jr.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); materials in manufacturing, welding.
Ramanath, G.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois); thin film electronic materials; interconnects, diffusion barriers, low-k dielectrics; characterization of interfacial reactions, kinetics, and mechanisms of microstructure and phase evolution during deposition and annealing; processing self-organized structures for microelectronics applications.
Schadler, L.S.—Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania); mechanical, electrical and optical properties of polymer nanocomposites with an emphasis on designed interfaces to control macroscopic properties.
Siegel, R.W.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois); synthesis, processing, structure, and properties of functional nanostructured materials including metals, ceramics, and composites; biomaterials; atomic-scale defects and diffusion in materials (Robert W. Hunt Professor).
Tomozawa, M.—Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania); electrical properties of glasses, X-ray and light scattering, phase separation, mechanical properties of glasses.
Wright, R.N.—Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); metal forming and fabrication, mechanical behavior of metals.
Gall, D.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); thin film and nanostructure growth, electronic properties of materials, protective coatings, energy materials, electronic materials, single crystal layer deposition.
Ozisik, R.—Ph.D. (The University of Akron, Ohio); multiscale simulations of polymers and polymer nanocomposites, role of interface and confinement on the properties of nanocomposites, supercritical carbon dioxide assisted processing of polymers and polymer nanocomposites, polymeric foams.
Steinbruchel, C.—Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); thin films, electronic materials, plasma processing, ion beam and ultra-high vacuum techniques.
Huang, L.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); computational and experimental techniques, oxide glasses and ceramics with superior properties, nanostructured materials for energy, environment and biology-related applications.
Lewis, D.J.—Ph.D. (Lehigh University); solidification and diffusion in multicomponent solids, modeling of phase transformations, understanding long term degradation in fuel cells.
Shi, Y.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor); computational material science, molecular motors, nanoporous materials, energetic materials, metallic glasses, and metal-semiconductor interfaces.
Chung, C.I.—Ph.D. (Rutgers University); polymer processing, polymer melt theology, relaxation behavior in polymer solids.
Ficalora, P.J.—Ph.D. (Pennsylvania State University); kinetics and thermodynamics of heterogeneous reactions, chemisorption effects on electronic materials.
Hudson, J.B.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); adsorption on solid surfaces, structure and reactivity of solids, physics and chemistry of surfaces, nanocrystal growth.
MacCrone, R.J.—D.Phil. (University of Oxford); electric properties of polymers and oxides, polarons, electron paramagnetic resonance and magnetic behavior of glasses, phase transformations, nucleation, electrical properties of thin oxide and nitride films, one-dimensional conductivity.
Moynihan, C.T.—Ph.D. (Princeton University); ionic transport in glass, infrared transmission in glasses and glass ceramics, thermodynamic properties of glasses.
Murarka, S.P.—Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); Ph.D. (University of Agra); metallization for deep submicron silicon integrated circuits, low temperature and localized processes, thin dielectric films, diffusion and defects (Elaine S. and Jack S. Parker Chair in Engineering).
Sternstein, S.S.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); high-performance composites; physical properties of polymers; rubber elasticity theory; fracture, yielding, and craze formation in glassy polymers and composites, viscoelastic properties; swelling in filled elastomers (William Weightman Walker Professor of Polymer Engineering).
Stoloff, N.S.—Ph.D. (Columbia University); mechanical behavior of crystals, order-disorder reactions, fracture, stress corrosion.
Manager of Electron Microscopy Laboratories
Manager of Instructional Laboratories
Van Steele, D.
Manager of Materials Analysis Laboratories
* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2011 Board of Trustees meeting.
Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum
While certain objectives of an undergraduate education in engineering are common to all programs, there are subtle but important differences that require some subset of objectives specific to ensuring that all graduates have specialized technical knowledge in their chosen field.
In this regard, the graduates of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s baccalaureate program will be prepared for entry-level positions as materials engineers or for graduate school. In particular, graduates will:
- be able to use their broad knowledge of all classes of materials, and their background in mathematics and science, to contribute effectively to the solution of engineering problems, including problems involving design.
- be especially aware of the interdependence of the structure, properties, processing, and performance of materials.
- be broadly educated and thus capable of dealing with engineering problems and their societal consequences.
- be experienced in working with multi-disciplinary teams and in communicating clearly and convincingly in a variety of contexts.
- recognize the need for continued future learning and have a desire to engage in such learning.
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering offers programs leading to the M.S., M.Eng., and Ph.D. degrees.
Both the M.S. and M. Eng. degrees require completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours. The M.S. degree requires a written thesis as well as an oral presentation to the scientific community. A three-credit capstone independent study project is required for the M. Eng. degree.
The Ph.D. degree requires completion of 72 credit hours. Students must complete at least 27 credits of course work, the remainder being credits for research work leading to a Ph.D. thesis. The program must include 18 credits from the five core graduate courses (Advanced Mechanical Properties (4 credits), Advanced Thermodynamics (4 credits), Advanced Electronic Properties (3 credits), Advanced Structure of Materials (4 credits), and Advanced Kinetics of Materials Reactions (3 credits). The first three courses are offered each fall semester, and the latter two courses each spring semester. The program must also include at least nine additional credits from three graduate level (6000-level) courses in the School of Engineering or the School of Science. The student must pass an oral preliminary examination covering the five core subjects, an oral candidacy examination, as well as the final examination on the Ph.D. thesis.
Courses directly related to the Materials Engineering curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog primarily under the department code MTLE.