AMMPI Faculty Member receives 2020 NSF CAREER Award


Dr. Diana Berman, an Assistant Professor in Materials Science & Engineering, is the recipient of a 2020 NSF CAREER Award. According to the NSF website, this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant supports fundamental research to elucidate a new strategy of manufacturing nanoporous ceramic structures with controllable structure and composition and programmable mechanical stability. Nanoporous ceramic materials play a pivotal role in a broad range of emerging technologies, including sensing devices, water purification and filtration systems, and catalytic materials, which are important to national prosperity and welfare. Despite previous efforts on nanoscale patterning of inorganic materials, the limited accessibility to the available surfaces and interfaces remains a central problem in defining the functionality of the material systems. The ability to predict and control location-specific microstructures of materials and correlate this knowledge to their properties greatly extends current manufacturing capabilities for low-temperature processing of ceramics with high customizability, precision, and accuracy that are critically important for their potential use in engineering research and industrial applications. This research is complemented by offering new educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of materials synthesis, mechanics, and surface science, with an emphasis on recruiting and retaining women and under-represented minorities for the next-generation manufacturing workforce. The projected outreach activities increase public awareness and readiness for advanced manufacturing capabilities and materials design concepts.

The specific goal of this research is to discover processing-structure-property relationships in ceramic coatings and heterostructures by providing fundamental insights on the mechanism of liquid phase swelling-based infiltration of spin-coated polymer templates with inorganic precursors and defining the rules that control the resulting structure and, thus, access to various materials? surfaces and interfaces. By in-situ monitoring of the swelling-induced evolution and infiltration of amphiphilic block copolymer templates using a quartz crystal microbalance and grazing-incidence small-angle x-ray scattering techniques, the study investigates the formation mechanisms of organic/inorganic surfaces and interfaces and unravels the guiding principles of ceramic material reconstruction. The structure knowledge that is thus revealed is correlated with the mechanical behavior of the coatings or films towards evaluating the influence of porosity on the stability of these materials and to quantify the damage tolerance of these structures under exposure to different environments and stresses. The accomplishment of the project objectives allows for creating a robust scalable manufacturing approach applicable to the large genome of nanoporous ceramics and other materials.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.