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Materials Science Research Lecture

Wednesday, March 30, 2022
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Noyes 153 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall)
Macroscopic Materials from Nanoparticle Assembly
Rob MacFarlane, Paul M. Cook Associate Professor, Materials Science, MIT,

Webinar Link:

Webinar ID: 832 7665 2110

NOTE: At this time, in-person APhMS seminars are open to all Caltech students/staff/faculty/visitors with a valid Caltech ID. Outside community members are welcome to join our online event.


One of the promises of nanotechnology in its early developmental stages was the ability to make designer materials with precise control over individual building block composition and organization in 3D space. In recent years, material synthesis methods have advanced to be able to create a multitude of nanoparticles of varying sizes, shapes, and compositions, providing a vast array of building blocks to use as materials fabrication components. Additionally, processing methods have been developed to arrange these nanoparticles into ordered arrays, to dry them into thin films, and even to sinter them into more complex bulk materials. However, the fundamental promise of being able to build a material with controlled structure across the length scales of atomic crystal structure, nanoscale size, shape, and organization, and ultimately material microstructure and macroscopic form has been challenging to realize. A major advancement would therefore be a materials synthesis and processing route that could create free-standing, macroscopic materials or arbitrary three dimensional shapes with precisely controlled nanoparticle positions across the entirety of the material composition. Here, we demonstrate a nanoparticle-based building block called a "Nanocomposite Tecton (NCT)" that enables a self-assembly route to fabricating free-standing solids of arbitrary macroscopic shapes that can utilize a multitude of different nanoparticle compositions and shape, and also possess specifically programmed nanoscale particle arrangements and controlled microstructure. This talk will outline the key synthesis and processing steps that enable this method of making materials with programmed material structure across ~7 orders of magnitude in length scale, thereby realizing a long-standing goal of nanomaterials fabrication.

More about the Speaker:

Rob Macfarlane joined MIT in 2015 as a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, where he is currently the Paul M. Cook Associate Professor. Rob obtained his PhD in chemistry in the lab of Chad Mirkin in 2013 at Northwestern University, and was awarded a Kavli Nanoscience Institute post-doctoral fellowship at Caltech, where he worked with prof. Robert Grubbs and Harry Atwater from 2013-2015. He is the recipient of numerous awards including an NSF CAREER award, AFOSR Young Investigator Award, the ACS Unilever Young investigator Award, and a 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award. He is an expert in the fields of self-assembly, nanocomposites, materials chemistry, and nanomaterials processing, and his research lab sits at the interface of these fields to establish new materials fabrication techniques. His lab's research focuses on developing systems-level approaches to materials synthesis, where structural features at the molecular, nano, and macroscopic length scales act together as integrated design handles to control a material's hierarchical ordering. These materials range from inorganic nanoparticles to synthetic polymers to biomacromolecules like DNA, and the structures have potential utility in diverse applications ranging from energy storage to protective coatings.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Blankenship by email at [email protected].