Researchers of Two Universities Develop Technique to Gain Control over Internal Structure of Self-Assembled Composite Materials

January 20 2020

Composites made from self-assembling inorganic materials are valued for their unique strength and thermal, optical and magnetic properties. However, because self-assembly can be difficult to control, the structures formed can be highly disordered, leading to defects during large-scale production. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan have developed a templating technique that instills greater order and gives rise to new 3D structures in a special class of materials, called eutectics, to form new, high-performance materials.

"Having a single melting point has advantages in composite materials processing," said Paul Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Materials Research Lab at the U. of I., who led the project. "Instead of depositing layers of material individually, we start with a liquid that self-assembles as it solidifies. This can speed up production and allows us to make larger volumes at one time." However, self-assembly can lead to problems, he said, as its uncontrolled nature can form defects. The researchers will explore how the new microstructures influence the physical properties of a wide range of eutectic materials.

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