Carl Thompson, the Stavros Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, is the co-director of the newly organized Materials Research Laboratory at MIT. MRL is the combination of MIT's long-established Materials Processing Center with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering.
Inside a high-performance integrated circuit, the copper wiring is tens of nanometers in diameter, with a coating that is a few nanometers thick. “If you took all this wiring and connected it and stretched it out, it would be about 20 kilometers long,” says Carl Thompson, MIT professor of materials science and engineering. “And it all has to work, and it has to work for years.”
That’s just one sample, from his own work, of the challenges MIT’s enormous spectrum of materials research — ranging from quantum devices all the way to buildings and roads. “There’s one researcher in metallurgy who makes objects that weigh a ton, in the same laboratory where people make objects that weigh nanograms,” Thompson notes.
Formed in 2017 by combining two longstanding MIT centers, the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) acts as an umbrella for this work. About 70 faculty members are directly involved in the MRL. The total materials research community at MIT includes about 150 faculty, from all departments in the School of Engineering and many in the School of Science.