The Institute for Materials Announces Initiative Leads for 2022-23 Academic Year

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Materials research is foundational to the creation of new technologies and economic growth in a variety of areas, which include transportation, energy storage and generation, recyclability, information and communication, infrastructure, and healthcare. Georgia Tech’s Institute for Materials (IMat) brings together researchers from academia and industry to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations in materials research to address the opportunities and challenges in these areas.

To enable this research, IMat leadership launched an initiatives strategy in 2021 to support selected faculty, known as Initiative Leads, to further materials-related research and activities which meet IMat’s goals and objectives. Initiative Leads focus on Georgia Tech’s strengths and gaps in particular materials research domains and recognize overlaps between individual initiatives and group activities. This allows IMat to identify emerging research directions and prepare teams to compete for mid- and large-scale multi-investigator research centers with academic, national laboratory, and industry partners. For example, in FY21, IMat Initiatives submitted numerous large-scale proposals including multiple NSF Science and Technology Centers and an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. In addition, Initiative Leaders worked to increase the campus’ collaborative spirit by working with other Interdisciplinary Research Institutes, campus units, and GTRI to design and support research programs.

Initiative Leads serve for one academic year and may be considered for renewal based on their progress in achieving community building goals and their impact on IMat and the materials innovation ecosystem at Georgia Tech.

Meet the 2022-23 IMat Initiative Leads

Advanced Real-time Materials Characterization | Faisal Alamgir
Faisal Alamgir is a professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. He holds a B.A. in physics and mathematics from Coe College and a Ph.D. in materials science and technology from Lehigh University. His research interests are in designing materials interfaces with atomic-scale precision, fundamental atomic and electronic structure measurements, under in-situ and operando conditions when possible, particularly with materials for energy capture, conversion, and storage.

Alamgir served as an inaugural IMat initiative lead in 2021 and will continue to lead a team effort to transform campus materials characterization facilities on two fronts: turning passive experiments into in-situ/operando ones by designing alternate sample environments that change samples in real time and transforming the type of characterization methods available at GT by leading efforts to bring in fundamentally new types of measurement capabilities to campus.  

Circularity in Civil Infrastructure Materials and Systems | Russell Gentry
Russell Gentry is a professor in the Schools of Architecture and Civil Engineering (by courtesy) and a licensed structural engineer. He teaches graduate courses in building materials and structures, computationally-driven fabrication, and building integration. He is affiliated with the design computation faculty in the School of Architecture and the structural engineering and mechanics of materials faculty in the School of Civil Engineering. Gentry directs the Master of Science programs in the School of Architecture and serves as the Associate Dean of Faculty in the College of Design.

The goal of this initiative is to expand IMat’s focus by including the rather mature material systems of civil infrastructure within IMat’s scope and to expand its scope from the material scale to the system scale. The focus will be on material life cycles with a specific emphasis on re-use and re-cycling of materials and ultimately on circularity in civil infrastructure material systems. This domain complements and builds on the existing initiative led by Kyriaki Kalaitzidou on the circularity of biopolymers and on work ongoing in the Renewable Bioproduct Institute.

Materials and Interfaces for Catalysis and Separations | Marta Hatzell
Marta Hatzell is an associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She earned a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and an M.Eng in environmental engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Her research group focuses on exploring sustainable catalysis and separations with applications spanning from electrofuels and solar fuels to desalination.

To mitigate issues related to climate change, there is a societal push to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Thermal separations and catalysis are the primary sources of carbon emissions in industry today. Thus, there is a growing research focus on developing next-generation materials for net-zero catalysis and separation processes. As Initiative Lead, Hatzell will work to bring faculty together who are working on materials-related issues aimed at decarbonizing industrial separations and catalysis, identifying the bottlenecks for new materials, and assessing their long-term impacts. 

Quantum Responses of Topological and Magnetic Matter | Zhigang Jiang
Zhigang Jiang is a professor in the School of Physics. He holds a B.S. in physics from Beijing University and a Ph.D. in physics from Northwestern University. He was also a postdoctoral research associate at Columbia University jointly with Princeton University and NHMFL from 2005 - 2008. His research interests are in the quantum transport and infrared optical properties of topological and magnetic materials. His current projects include (1) infrared magneto-spectroscopy of topological semimetals, (2) band-engineering topological phases in metamorphic InAsSb ordered alloys, and (3) developing new materials for portable real-time radiation monitoring devices.

The goals of this initiative are two-fold. First, anchor, develop and promote the community of researchers working on the fundamental magnetic properties of quantum materials. Second, connect these researchers to application-centric initiatives led by other science or engineering colleagues across Georgia Tech. The focus of this initiative will be on fundamental research progress in topological and magnetic matter and to communicate their importance, relevance, and significance to Georgia Tech’s research audience. In addition, this initiative aims to leverage fundamental discoveries in quantum materials and explore how these can be translated in their own right into quantum systems with new functionalities for spintronics, qubits, and electronic devices.

Circularity of Biopolymers | Kyriaki Kalaitzidou
Kyriaki Kalaitzidou is the Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. She also holds an adjunct appointment in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. She obtained her Ph.D. in manufacturing and characterization of polymer nanocomposites (PNCs) from Michigan State University. Kalaitzidou also serves as the strategic coordinator on circular materials in the Renewable Bioproducts Institute (RBI) which provides a natural conduit for increased collaboration between RBI and IMat.

Kalaitzidou served as an inaugural IMat Initiative Lead in 2021 and will continue her work in materials upcycling in 2022. She believes that the circularity of materials is an area where Georgia Tech faculty from across units can have a tremendous impact both in terms of fundamentals, such as the design of new polymers for recyclability, and applied research, such as scalable processes for sorting and re(up)cycling of end-of-life plastics, composites, and other materials. Additionally, this strategic theme allows great opportunities for technological innovations that provide positive societal, economic, and environmental impacts.

C.H.I.P.S. Initiative - Electronic and Ferroic Materials | Asif Khan
Asif Khan is an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His group conceptualizes and fabricates solid state electronic devices that leverage interesting physics and novel phenomena in emerging materials (such as ferroelectrics, antiferroelectrics, and strongly correlated/quantum materials) to overcome the fundamental limits in computation and to address the most pressing challenges in the semiconductor industry and the computing paradigms. His work led to the first experimental proof-of-concept demonstration of the negative capacitance — a novel physical phenomenon that can lead to ultra-low power computing and memory platforms by overcoming the fundamental "Boltzmann Limit" of 60 mV/decade subthreshold swing in field-effect transistors.

Khan served as an inaugural IMat Initiative lead in 2021 and will continue in this role in 2022. As the Initiative Lead for Electronic and Ferroic Materials, Khan is working to leverage the unique strengths of Georgia Tech in the broad area of electronic materials to create strategic initiatives in terms of team building and connecting to other players and government agencies. These efforts will prepare Georgia Tech to take a leadership role in the large funding opportunities available in electronic materials as part of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America and Foundries Act (or CHIPS for America Act) to strengthen the country’s semiconductor capacity.

Materials for Energy Storage | Matthew McDowell
Matthew McDowell is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering. McDowell’s research group focuses on materials for next-generation energy storage devices. His group uses in situ experimental techniques to probe how materials inside batteries transform and degrade, and this knowledge is then used to guide the engineering of materials for breakthrough new devices.

McDowell served as an Initiative Lead in 2021 and will continue in this role in 2022. Investment in battery research and technology is rapidly growing, and Georgia Tech’s strong energy storage research community is well positioned to make an impact in the development of next-generation energy storage devices. McDowell foresees that IMat and the Strategic Energy Institute (SEI) could both play important roles in enabling the formation of an energy storage initiative that will bring the community together and provide improved external advertisement of Georgia Tech’s capabilities for energy storage research.

Materials in Extreme Environments | Richard W. Neu
Richard W. Neu is a professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering. His research involves the understanding and prediction of the fatigue behavior of materials and closely related topics, typically when the material must resist degradation and failure in harsh environments. He has investigated a broad range of structural materials including steels, titanium alloys, nickel-base superalloys, metal matrix composites, molybdenum alloys, high entropy alloys, medical device materials, and solder alloys used in electronic packaging. 

As an IMat Initiative Lead, Neu will engage and build an interdisciplinary research community to address the complex issues associated with new materials in extreme environments. These environments include high temperature, high pressure, corrosive, wear/erosion, cyclic loading, high-rate impacts, and radiation. The materials are continuously evolving and deforming in these harsh environments, which presents a roadblock in advancing engineering systems due to the uncertainty in the performance of new materials or new process methods such as additive manufacturing. Managing this risk by predicting the uncertainties, both internal to the material (its structure feature) and external environment, is an important consideration that materials engineering must address.

Materials for Quantum Science and Technology | Chandra Raman
Chandra Raman is a professor in the School of Physics. His research has two thrusts. The first utilizes sophisticated tools to cool atoms to temperatures less than one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Using these tools, the team explores topics ranging from superfluidity in Bose-Einstein condensates to quantum antiferromagnetism in a spinor condensate. In the second thrust he partners with engineers to build cutting-edge atomic quantum sensors on-chip with the potential for scale-up.

Raman served as an Initiative Lead in 2021 and will continue in this role in 2022. He envisions the development of “World-Ready” quantum systems, including room temperature quantum information processing and hybrid platforms combining quantum systems with MEMS and integrated photonics. Raman will seek to connect the vast photonics and MEMS expertise at Georgia Tech with other researchers in the materials domain, both at Georgia Tech and GTRI, to explore novel science and engineering approaches to address the challenges of growing quantum information systems to industrial scale.

Polymer Electronics and Photonics | Natalie Stingelin
Natalie Stingelin is the chair of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on the broad field of functional plastics, including organic electronics; multifunctional inorganic/organic hybrids; smart, advanced optical systems based on organic matter; and bioelectronics.

Stingelin was an inaugural IMat Initiative Lead in 2021 and will continue in this role in 2022. She is working with MSE’s SoftBio Topical Working Group, Georgia Tech’s Polymer Network, the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics, and the Renewable Bioproducts Institute to create a unique materials research environment that is capable to work across traditional material classes and raise the recognition of the materials innovations at Georgia Tech to the international stage. Organic electronics and photonics technology platforms can be expected to have a great societal impact because they promise to open new pathways and opportunities, which include reshaping product development and manufacturing, including flexible, rollable electronics targeted, e.g., for health-care applications, large-area energy harvesting, heat management structures for the building environment towards increased climate resilience.

Materials for Biomedical Systems | W. Hong Yeo
W. Hong Yeo is an Associate Professor and Woodruff Faculty Fellow in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the director of the IEN Center for Human-Centric Interfaces and Engineering (CHCIE) at Georgia Tech. He received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and genome sciences from the University of Washington and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on the areas of nano-microengineering, soft materials, molecular interactions, and biosystems, with an emphasis on nanomembrane bioelectronics and human-machine interfaces.

As an IMat Initiative Lead in Materials for Biomedical Systems (MBS), Yeo plans to foster collaborations between faculty, researchers, and clinicians to advance research in biomaterials and biomedical systems. He believes collaborative research environments between materials science/engineering and medicine will result in fundamental breakthroughs in bioinspired materials, human-centered designs, and integrated biomedical systems, which will significantly advance human healthcare. He also hopes to enhance human health via multidisciplinary materials research to tackle the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge to engineer better medicines in collaboration with both academic and industry partners.

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