Professor W. Craig Carter came to MIT with a research focus in the application of theoretical and computational materials science to microstructural evolution and the relations between material properties and microstructure. He places particular emphasis on the physical analysis of complex processes when possible and the development of numerical algorithms and codes when microstructural simulation is required. In recent years he has brought his interests and skills to the science of battery materials and the electro-chemo-mechanics of phase transitions and fracture of battery electrodes. 


Professor Carter received all his degrees in materials science at the University of California, Berkeley, earning a PhD in 1989. He worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Rockwell Science Center before joining MIT in 1998. Professors Carter and Yet-Ming Chiang have developed a flow battery that utilizes co-suspensions of solid-state electrodes and electronically conductive particulates. They co-founded a company, 24M, to produce grid scale energy storage systems. With Professor Neri Oxman of the MIT Media Lab, Professor Carter has collaborated on several projects that incorporate aspects of materials science, natural design, and mythology. Their work has been shown in exhibitions and added to the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Pompidou Center. His work with Ryo Kobayashi and Jim Warren on continuum models of polycrystals produced the KWC equation which has become widely employed and studied in materials science and mathematics. His work with Rowland Cannon and Ming Tang on transitions at grain boundaries introduced complexions as a type of first-order structural and chemical transition. 

Key Publications

Controlling dendrite propagation in solid-state batteries with engineered stress

Showed how metal filaments called dendrites form in solid-state batteries, and how their damaging effects can be reduced or averted altogether. Dendrites are one of the causes of premature failure of rechargeable batteries.

One way to a safer and lightweight lithium-ion battery is replacing the flammable liquid electrolyte with a thin layer of ceramic solid and one of the electrodes with solid lithium metal. Unfortunately, doing so leads to battery failure by promoting the formation of dendrites at the metal electrode during charging. Understanding the mechanisms that cause dendrite formation can aid in its prevention, extend battery life, and permit batteries to be charged faster.

Learning how rechargeable batteries fail can increase their utility, a key aspect of sustainability initiatives.

Awards & Honors

Outstanding Educator Award, American Ceramic Society
Wolfram Innovator of the Year, Wolfram Research
MacVicar Distinguished Teaching Fellow, MIT
Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, MIT
Richard M. Fulrath Award, American Ceramic Society