Multifunctional Composites Laboratory


Dr. Erik T. Thostenson

Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Delaware

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As scientists and engineers seek to make practical materials and devices from nanostructures, understanding material behavior across length scales from the atomistic to macroscopic levels is required. Knowledge of how the nanoscale structure influences the nanotube properties as well as how nanotubes interact when embedded in a composite is needed to realize the potential for nanoscale structures, such as carbon nanotubes, as reinforcement in composites.

The Multifunctional Composites Laboratory, headed by Dr. Erik Thostenson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware, seeks to obtain a fundamental understanding of the processing-structure-property relations in nanostructured materials and composites. Key initiatives include experimental and theoretical research in processing, characterization and predictive modeling of nanocomposites and atomistic modeling of the static and dynamic behavior of nanostructures.

In composite materials, where distinct phases are combined together for reinforcement, the opportunity exists to design composites for specific properties at various levels of scale. For example, in traditional fibrous composites the engineer not only designs the geometric shape of the part but can prescribe the ply stacking sequence for lay-up, utilize different fibers to create hybrid composites, or bend and twist fibers together using textile techniques. At the microscopic scale, we are tailoring the local stiffness, strength, toughness and other properties through controlling the fiber orientation, type, and volume fraction. Recent advances in producing nanostructured materials with novel material properties have stimulated research to create macroscopic engineering materials by designing the structure at the nanoscale.

The change in reinforcement scale from microns of traditional fiber reinforcements to nanometers poses fundamentally new challenges in the processing, characterization and modeling of these materials.

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