The rapid advances in nanotechnology, nanomaterials and nanomechanics offer huge potentials in private industry, homeland security, and national defense. An emphasis on nanoscale design of materials will make our manufacturing technologies and infrastructure more sustainable in terms of reduced energy usage and environmental pollution.
In this short course, we first present the concepts of bio-mimetics and bio-inspiration as a guide to future materials that would be based on the hierarchical ordering achieved in many natural materials (seashells, bone, teeth, wood, others) but having synthetic components. The advantages of the structures that nature has evolved will be discussed, and we will see that nature has achieved remarkably low density and high toughness over the long trial and error time period that evolution provides. We then turn to topics related to “smart materials” such as self-healing materials, and how sensing and self-healing might function in man-made materials. Topics such as mechanics of individual nanostructures that have function in devices or when embedded into composite systems, will be presented. There are great challenges in configuring experiments of individual nanostructures such as carbon nanotubes or graphene sheets, including establishing appropriate boundary conditions, and applying and reading out relatively small mechanical forces.
In parallel with the discussion of characterization of materials or nanostructures and measurement of their mechanics, will be several presentations related to modeling and theory, including of quantum mechanics, molecular dynamics, statistical physics, FEM and multiple-scale methods based on coupling the atomistic and continuum models. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each modeling technique via research examples. The strengths and limitations of the small number of currently available multiple-scale techniques are explored. We then turn to an example of bioinspiration (bioadhesion) applied to new materials to achieve exceptional adhesion properties. Laboratory tours and demonstrations are designed to complement lecture topics.