University of Chicago Materials Research Center receives $17.2 million grant
The National Science Foundation has renewed funding for the University's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center for another six years with a $17.2 million grant. The Center supports innovative research to produce the design principles for the next generation of materials by investigating materials formed far from equilibrium.
"Most of the things around us are far from equilibrium. It is one of the frontiers of physics," said Materials Research Center Director Sidney Nagel.
The properties of a system in thermal equilibrium can be calculated because they do not change with time. Examples include a small box filled with gas at a fixed temperature, or the single crystal of a solid material at fixed temperature. Systems can be driven far from equilibrium with energy input.
Systems far from equilibrium, like the universe after the big bang, are still evolving toward equilibrium. Living creatures are also far from equilibrium; if they weren't, they would be dead. "In fact, all of biology is geared toward keeping life from reaching bland equilibrium," said Nagel, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics.
The Materials Research Center will harness far-from-equilibrium processes to develop new types of materials processing, new tools needed to create classes of materials, and novel devices at a range of microscopic and macroscopic scales.
The Materials Research Center has research collaborations with universities in Holland and Chile. The Center's senior investigators represent seven departments and five institutes at the University of Chicago, and two divisions at Argonne National Laboratory.
In the course of its work, the Center also trains a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students, and provides scientific inquiry experiences to underserved students in neighboring communities on Chicago's South Side. These include special programs for students and teachers and after-school science clubs.
The Center further provides summer research opportunities to undergraduate students from all over the nation. As part of its outreach to the general public, the center collaborates with Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and the Exploratorium in San Francisco to develop materials science exhibits.
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