Prof. Bart Raeymaekers together with collaborator Prof. Fernando Guevara Vasquez (U of U Mathematics Dept.) has received a three-year $394k grant from the Army Research Office (ARO) to conduct research on “Synthesis of multi-functional materials with tailored properties using scalable ultrasound directed self-assembly and additive manufacturing”. 

The ability to design and manufacture multi-functional materials with tailored properties, including optical, thermal, electrical, acoustic, and/or mechanical properties, is of interest to the scientific community because of the game-changing impact it may have on many engineering applications. Such materials have been implemented on the microscale by creating user-specified patterns or structures of micro- or nanoparticles embedded in a matrix material. The interaction between the particles and the host medium defines the bulk properties of the material and its response to an external field. Designing the properties of the host medium and the pattern of particles then allows tailoring the properties of the bulk material, which is an active research area. The critical problem that inhibits fabricating macroscale multi-functional materials based on patterns of particles embedded in a matrix material, is the lack of knowledge of how to organize large amounts of (nano)particles dispersed in a polymer matrix material, into three-dimensional user-specified patterns.

This research aims to implement a scalable three-dimensional fabrication method, based on bulk ultrasound waves, to arrange (nano)particles dispersed in a macroscale volume of liquid polymer, into user-specified patterns. Furthermore, the project will integrate this directed self-assembly method with stereolithography additive manufacturing to enable layer-by-layer fabrication of macroscale multi-functional material specimens. This will expedite processing of multi-functional materials with tailored properties, and enable implementing these materials in engineering applications. Successfully completing this research will yield the knowledge to synthesize and process a new class of engineered multi-functional materials with tailored properties based on user-specified patterns of nanoparticles, and with broad application in multiple engineering areas. This knowledge will be made available to the scientific community through a user-friendly software tool that enables materials researchers to fabricate macroscale specimens of novel material designs.