Nanoporous gold structure under the scanning electron microscope.
Hybrid Materials Systems
Applications of advanced, high added-value materials increasingly emphasise the combination of strength with functionality. Examples are light structural materials incorporating functionality such as sensing, actuation, or self healing. As a closely related issue, mechanical stress or strain and chemical or electrochemical phenomena are simultaneously relevant and closely coupled in modern energy storage materials. The Institute of Materials Mechanics’ Hybrid Materials Systems Group explores design strategies aimed at combining such very different phenomena into integrated materials concepts.
The approach towards hybrid structural and functional materials rests on two principles:
- the impact of interfacial phenomena is maximised by working with nanomaterials with an extremely large surface area
- the material is designed as a composite in which the combination of the components affords control over the interfacial behaviour through external signals
For instance, a network of fluid electrolyte veins in a porous metal can transport ions and allow the interfaces to be polarised, modifying their mechanical, electrical, or optical properties. Hybrid materials here combine two very different components – such as a low viscosity fluid and a high strength metal skeleton structure – to achieve new functional behaviour.