Lorna J. Gibson

  • Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • MacVicar Fellow
  • BASc University of Toronto, 1978
  • PhD University of Cambridge, 1981

Mechanical Behavior of Materials

Lorna J. Gibson


Many materials have a cellular structure, with either a two-dimensional array of prismatic cells, as in a honeycomb, or a three-dimensional array of polyhedral cells, as in a foam. Engineering honeycombs and foams can now be made from nearly any material: polymers, metals, ceramics, glasses and composites, with pore sizes ranging from nanometers to millimeters. Their cellular structure gives rise to a unique combination of properties which are exploited in engineering design: their low weight make them attractive for structural sandwich panels, their ability to undergo large deformations at relatively low stresses make them ideal for absorbing the energy of impacts, their low thermal conductivity make them excellent insulators, and their high specific surface area make them attractive for substrates for catalysts for chemical reactions. Cellular materials are increasingly used in biomedical applications. Open-cell titantium foams are being developed to replace trabecular bone. Porous scaffolds for regeneration of damaged or diseased tissues often resemble an open-cell foam. Cellular materials are also widespread in nature in plant and animal tissues: examples include wood, cork, plant parenchyma, trabecular bone and lung alveoli.

Our group has contributed to the understanding of the mechanics of cellular solids, as well as to their use in many of the above applications. Recently completed projects include: the design and characterization of osteochondral scaffolds for the regeneration of cartilage as well as the underlying bone; the mechanics of fluid flow through open-cell foams for protection from impacts; and low thermal conductivity aerogels for building applications.  Current project include: structural bamboo products and the mechanics of balsa and balsa-inspired engineering materials.

Recent News

2017 Fall Wulff Lecture

  Fantastic Feather: Form and Function When we think of birds, we think of feathers. Feathers give birds their color, from the bright red of a male Cardinal to the iridescent reds and greens of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Feathers keep birds warm and dry: down…  

School of Engineering awards for 2017

Lorna Gibson, the Matoula S. Salapatas Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and a professor of mechanical engineering, won the Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching, given to a faculty member whose contributions have been characterized by dedication, care, and creativity. Mary…  

MIT Awards Ceremony 2017

  Laya and Jerome B. Wiesner Student Art AwardsRachel Osmundsen ‘ 17  Earll M. Murman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising - Elsa Olivetti Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching…  

Architected ceramics

MIT and Professor Lorna Gibson collaborated with two Engineering departments at Harvard University to develop a new method to 3D-print materials with significant absorbency using a ceramic foam ink. …  

Professor Lorna Gibson receives Ellen Swallow Richards award from TMS

The 2017 TMS Ellen Swallow Richards Diversity Award will be presented to Professor Lorna Gibson at a conference this coming spring. This award recognizes an individual who, in the remarkable pioneering spirit of Ellen Swallow Richards, has helped or inspired others to overcome personal,…  

Built to Peck

Lorna Gibson’s twin passions for birding and innovative instruction have generated a “first” for MITx: an eight-part, short-form video series designed for public viewing. “I’ve long wanted to do a project on how birds work from an engineering perspective,” says Gibson, a…