Disciplines

Research in materials science and engineering may focus on a discipline which could be a specific material or category of material (steel or magnetic materials, for example) or on a theme which could be an approach (such as computational science), a process (such as welding), or a principle common to many materials (corrosion, for example). Below is a list of some of the areas of research currently underway in MIT's DMSE.

Biomaterials

Biomaterials interact with a biological system. Some materials scientists performing biomaterials research are working with medical researchers on implants, stents, or grafts; others are studying how natural materials work in order to mimic their self-assembly or structure.

Biomolecular Materials

The Biomolecular Materials Group encourages simple organisms to grow and assemble technologically important materials and devices for energy, the environment, and medicine. These hybrid organic-inorganic electronic and magnetic materials have been used in applications as varied as solar cells, batteries, medical diagnostics and basic single molecule interactions related to disease.

Biophysics

Biophysics studies biological systems, starting at the molecular level, using the toolkit of a physical scientist.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology utilizes living organisms and bioprocesses, often in manufacturing.

Ceramics are inorganic, nonmetallic solids processed or used at high temperatures.

Computational Materials Science involves and enables the visualization of concepts and materials processes which are otherwise difficult to describe or even imagine. Among other things, this field of allows materials to be designed and tested efficiently.

This is the study of physical properties of condensed phases of matter.

Chemical reactions causing movement of electrons.

Electronic materials are used in devices, circuits, memory storage, cables, and other applications. 

Energy research addresses creating and improving power supplies, working with alternative power sources, and improving materials processing and recycling.

Energy Storage

DMSE faculty are exploring many aspects of energy storage, including large-scale grid storage, solar cells, car batteries, and batteries for devices.

Study to use science and engineering to improve the environment and provide solutions to pollution and sanitation problems.

Corrosion and Environmental Effects

The H.H. Uhlig Lab investigates the causes of failure in materials and the prevention of failure in materials, with an emphasis on nuclear materials.

Economics of Materials

Research into the life cycle and impact of materials, from design to production to distribution to use to recycling or disposal.

Manufacturing

Materials science is integral to manufacturing, from the small scale of a 3D Printer to the choices made in design and production of automobiles, electronic devices, and medical implants.

Materials Processing

The steps or operations to ready a material for use, whether as a finished product or in another application. "Processing" is one of the points of the Materials Tetrahedron, and it influences "Structure," "Performance," and "Properties."

Materials Systems and Analysis

The study of selection of materials from concept through design, manufacturing, use, and recycling. Factors include not only performance but also cost, availability, location, and environmental impact.

Experts in this area have direct knowledge of large-scale and small-scale materials and their reasons for mechanical failure. Their studies range from building collapse to consumer device breakdowns.

Magnetic materials are used in data storage, sensors, transformers, and generators. For thousands of years, people have been finding new uses for these materials.

Material Culture is the study of the structure and properties of materials associated with human activity. Plant and animal food remains, human skeletal material, as well as metal, ceramic, stone, bone, and fiber artifacts are the objects of study, along with the environments within which these materials were produced and used. MIT's Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE) is renowned for their work in this area.

Chemistry-based approaches to research in processing, structure, and properties of materials. This field often addresses polymers, thin films, and biomaterials.

How forces and displacement affect a material's properties, including stresses, bending, buckling, strains, and more.

There are many different medical applications of materials research: new methods to administer vaccines, small implantable devices that monitor cancer, alloys used in hip or knee replacements, fibers that carry lasers for delicate surgeries, and more. 

Cancer

Some materials scientists are developing new systems of drug delivery to attack cancers, others are designing monitoring systems to track tumor growth and shrinkage, others have created new surgical instruments to remove tumors without harm to the surrounding body.

Implants

Use of materials for medical implants, such as knee and hip replacements, dental implants, and bone grafts.

Vaccines

Creating materials that provide controlled release of vaccines or allow vaccines to target specific areas of the body.

Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, are miniaturized mechanical or electro-mechanical devices and structures.

DMSE originated as a Department of Metallurgy and Mining, producing graduates whose work in ore refining and steel production led to a great expansion of industry and transportation in the late 19th century. In the modern age, metallurgists are interested in developing new alloys that are stronger, new refining techniques that are less environmentally harmful, and new manufacturing methods.

This research covers projects ranging from atomic-level manipulation (e.g., nanocrystals) to the micro-scale (e.g., MEMS devices). These new developments promise to enhance our way of life in areas such as communication, healthcare, and transportation, among others. DMSE is active in nanotechnology research, some working in MIT.nano

Nanomechanics

One DMSE facility performing research in this area is the NanoMechanical Technology Lab (the NanoLab).

Phase transformations are changes in a material's structure after processing — specifically after transitions from gas to liquid to solid. Understanding these transformations leads to better control of a material's structure, and therefore of its properties.

Photonic materials interact with light and are used in devices, computer chips, solar cells, sensors, and more.

Not just a synonym for "plastics." Polymer science examines the chemistry, physics, characterization, and applications of long-chain molecules or macromolecules. In materials science, polymers are often studied in connection with chemical engineering and biomaterials.

Natural materials are a perfect example of self assembly; shells, trees, bones, and more build themselves with no direction. Materials scientists are creating molecules that can come together to build a more complex, defined arrangement or functional unit.

Semiconductors are elements or compounds with electrical conductivity between that of a metal and that of an insulator, and they are commonly used in computers and other electronic devices. Silicon's dominance in the semiconductor industry has led to the term "Silicon Age" in describing the current era. 

Structural materials are of interest because of their mechanical properties.

Composites

Composites are two or more materials that take properties from both.

These two-dimensional structures occur at the boundaries of materials or between two media. 

Application of the laws of thermodynamics to the properties of materials, including chemical reactions, magnetism, polarizability, and elasticity.

Understanding transport phenomena, including solid-state diffusion, homogeneous and heterogeneous chemical reactions, and spinodal decomposition, leads to better structure for the desired performance of a material.