Center for Materials Science and Engineering

The Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE), an interdepartmental center at MIT, continues to be an innovative and dynamic program in interdisciplinary materials research and education. Funded since 1994, CMSE is one of the largest of a nation-wide network of twenty-eight Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). MIT has a large and diverse materials community with over 110 faculty in 12 departments in the schools of science and engineering. CMSE plays a central role in providing focus and critical infrastructure to materials research and educational activities by creating a dynamic research environment in which interdisciplinary collaborations and innovation are encouraged and the best research is funded. To this end, we have adopted the following strategic goals:

Much of the research at MIT addresses intermediate term engineering problems, often with the participation and support of industry. However, the longer range problems, especially those that require a multi-investigator approach, are often overlooked. In this environment CMSE has a special mission: to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research and education in the fundamental science of materials and in the engineering of materials for long range applications that will meet the needs of society. To accomplish this, CMSE promotes collaboration among MIT faculty and between MIT researchers and the researchers of other universities, industry, and government and nonprofit laboratories.

Collaborative research is encouraged through several mechanisms: interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs), shared experimental facilities (SEFs), and outreach programs. The IRGs, described below, are composed of MIT faculty who, with their students and postdoctoral associates, investigate fundamental scientific questions and pathways to reach significant technological goals that can only be properly explored in a collaborative, multidisciplinary mode. These problems are too large in scope to be addressed by individual faculty members and their students. Collaboration is essential for materials related science and engineering, even for individual investigators, because such research requires very sophisticated equipment. CMSE provides a mechanism for the purchase and supervision of such equipment in its SEFs. The equipment is made available to the members of the IRGs, individual MIT investigators, and researchers from other university, industrial, government, and nonprofit laboratories.

CMSE also provides seed and initiative funds. While preference is given to young faculty, CMSE uses seed and initiative funds to support research that has the potential of redefining the direction of an existing IRG or leading to the creation of a completely new IRG. Seed funding provides CMSE with the flexibility necessary to initiate high-risk research.

Administration, Management and Research

The director of CMSE reports to the vice president and dean for research, who reports jointly to the provost and the chancellor, the chief academic officers of MIT. There is an external advisory committee as well as internal committees, the most important of which is the Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) that advises the director about major decisions. The IAC is composed of the IRG leaders, and the faculty education and shared experimental facilities leaders. The Center is administered and staffed by an assistant director/administrative officer, a SEF technical manager, a senior program administrator, a financial administrator, a facilities manager, an administrative staff assistant and an administrative assistant.

Much of this past year was spent on proposal preparation and submission. Not only did we submit a non-competing continuation for our current funding but we also submitted a competitive renewal for the MRSEC contract that funds the entire center. Our administrative staff has stabilized over the past year with everyone becoming more proficient at their jobs. Major renovation of the air handler in building 13 was completed over the past year.

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Interdisciplinary Research Groups

Microphotonic Materials and Structures

In the past 50 years, semiconductor technology has come to play a vital role in almost every aspect of our daily lives. In the next 50 years, our technology may be just as thoroughly revolutionized by the replacement of electrons with photons (i.e. light) as the carrier of information. Photons have several advantages over electrons, including greater speed, greater information carrying ability, and greater energy efficiency. The key to achieving this advance, and the principal goal of this IRG, is the development of an exciting new class of materials, called photonic crystals, which will allow control of the confinement and propagation of light in very small dimensions, thereby enabling the design and integration of a large number and variety of optical microdevices on a single chip.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: H. A. Haus, E. P. Ippen, L. A. Kolodziejski, and H. I. Smith (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science); L. C. Kimerling (Materials Science and Engineering); and J. D. Joannopoulos (Physics).

Nanostructured Polymers

This group seeks to gain a fundamental understanding of the factors that control the way complex, electronically active polymer systems organize at the molecular level. The knowledge obtained from this work is expected to make it possible to control and significantly enhance the performance of electronic, magnetic, and optical devices based on these materials. The objective of this IRG is to develop the chemistry and processing needed to control the composition and spatial arrangement of constituents of multicomponent polymeric materials with novel electrical and optical properties.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: R. E. Cohen (Chemical Engineering); M. Bawendi, R. R. Schrock, and R. J. Silbey (Chemistry); and A. Mayes, M. F. Rubner, and E. L. Thomas (Materials Science and Engineering).

Electronic Transport in Mesoscopic Semiconductor Structures

The steady decrease in the size of semiconductor structures that has brought about the information age has also made it possible to study new electronic transport phenomena. Whereas classical transport theory describes the behavior of electrons in macroscopic systems (like conventional transistors), and the quantum mechanics of microscopic systems (like atoms) is reasonably well understood, the intermediate regime, termed mesoscopic, continues to reveal surprises and opportunities for novel electronic devices. In particular, whereas some mesoscopic effects are subtle, those resulting from confining electrons to reduced dimensions (in quantum dots, for example) are very dramatic. It is the goal of this IRG to understand the fundamental physical principles governing transport through and between semiconductor nanostructures created by both self-assembly and lithography techniques.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: R. Ashoori, M. A. Kastner, P. Lee, L. Levitov, and X.-G. Wen (Physics); M. G. Bawendi (Chemistry); and E. A. Fitzgerald (Materials Science and Engineering).

Microstructure and Mechanical Performance of Polymeric Materials

It is widely recognized by polymeric material producers that the key to polymer penetration into new product markets is through the optimization of industrial polymers on the market today. Thermoplastics offer major advantages in load bearing applications because they are inexpensive, light weight, easily processed into desired form, and recyclable. However, their mechanical properties limit their applicability. Recent advances in the ability to study material microstructure and deformation at multiple length scales have created tremendous new opportunities for developing methodologies for truly designing polymeric material systems. The goal of this IRG is to provide a mechanistic basis for tailoring polymer microstructure in order to achieve dramatic improvements in multiple mechanical properties by exploring and exploiting connections among microstructure, mechanisms and mechanical performance. This IRG will be phased out over the coming year in order to make way for the Lithium Battery initiative to take its place.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: A. S. Argon, M. C. Boyce, and D. M. Parks (Mechanical Engineering); and R. E. Cohen, K. K. Gleason, and G. C. Rutledge (Chemical Engineering).

Doped Mott Insulators

Several of the most interesting phenomena discovered in materials science in the past decade occur in a class of substances called Mott insulators. For example, high critical temperature (Tc) superconductivity occurs when certain copper oxide Mott insulators are doped to make them conducting. The effect of doping on the electronic and magnetic properties of Mott insulators is one of the great unsolved problems in condensed matter physics. The members of this IRG believe that the understanding of high Tc superconductivity, in particular, will require the solution of this larger problem. Apart from the intrinsic scientific interest, a deeper understanding of doped Mott insulators will pave the way for the exploitation and control of this technologically interesting class of materials

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: M. A. Kastner, T. Imai, and P. A. Lee (Physics); F. C. Chou (Research Scientist, CMSE); and R. J. Cava (Chemistry, Princeton University). Due to a reduction in NSF funding this IRG will be phased out in 2002–2003.

During the past year, we supported eight seeds and one initiative on lithium batteries. Our initiative on Heteropolymers and Gels was phased out due to the death of the initiative leader, Professor Tanaka. Five of our seed investigators were junior faculty and a number of them will be promoted to IRG status soon, including one that has been made a full IRG member this past year; Professor Ross was made a full member of IRG-II. In the coming year, two of our existing seed investigators will be promoted to IRG status: Professors Nelson and Fink will be moved into IRG-I. Our initiative and seed projects funded during the 2001–2002 year are listed below.

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Initiative Project

Lithium Batteries (G. Ceder, D. Sadoway, A. Mayes, Y.-M. Chiang, R. Smith) Rechargeable Li batteries with a solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) could be the ultimate power storage device due to their high potential energy density and low cost. Li-SPE imposes no limitations on the shape of the battery and is inexpensive to process, in contrast to current battery technology based on liquid electrolytes. Development is impeded by materials problems that are difficult because of the interaction between electronic, chemical and mechanical phenomena. The members of this initiative have expertise in electrochemistry polymer synthesis and characterization, oxide synthesis and first-principles electronic structure calculations. The objective is to develop the basic science behind rechargeable Li batteries, and use it to develop superior materials for this application. Initially, the focus will be on the development of a block copolymer solid electrolyte (BCE), and a high energy density, low cost, intercalation oxide for the cathode. With block copolymers, a microstructure can be formed that is locally liquid-like (allowing high ionic conductivity), but globally solid-like (giving the material mechanical rigidity). To design a novel cathode intercalation oxide, the group will use first principles calculations to determine the factors that influence the phase stability of the intercalation oxide. This project will be turned into an IRG for the next funding period.

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Seed Projects

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Collaboration with Industry and Other Sectors

MIT was chartered with a mission of collaboration with industry and has therefore established a variety of mechanisms to encourage this. CMSE works in concert with a number of MIT industrial programs and centers to facilitate the transfer of the fundamental knowledge generated within the program to industry. MIT's Materials Processing Center (MPC) and Industrial Liaison Program (ILP), for example, work cooperatively to connect industry to the research carried out within the MRSEC program. The MPC, in collaboration with the ILP, will frequently invite members from industry (the ILP has 185 member companies) to come to MIT to review recent developments by CMSE researchers. This is done on an individual company basis or in the form of workshops and colloquia that are attended by representatives from many different companies.

Our IRG researchers have ongoing industrial collaborations and interactions with many industrial researchers, including collaborations with Advanced Cerametrics, AmberWave Systems Corporation, Analog Devices, Bayer, Bell Labs , Bluefin Robotics, CibaVision, Coatue Corporation, Confluent Photonics, Continuum Control Corporation, Draper Labs, Dupont, Eastman Chemical, Energizer, Exxon/Mobil, Ford Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Honeywell, Huber Corporation, IBM, Intel Corporation, Intronics, Inc., Lord Foundation & Corporation, Lucent Technologies, LumiLEDs, Mars Corporation, Motorola, National Semiconductors, Nomadics, Inc., Novellus Systems, NTT, Pall Corporation, Photran, Inc., Pratt & Whitney, Quantum Dot Corporation, Rockwell, Seagate, Talking Lights, TDK-USA, Union Minière, Universal Display Corporation, and Valence Technologies.

The SEFs are a critical feature of CMSE's collaborations with non-MIT personnel. The facilities are made available to any researcher from a nonprofit institution and to industrial researchers when equivalent facilities are not available commercially. Several of the IRGs participate in direct research collaboration with industry and other sectors. This is important for exchange of knowledge and the education of graduate students, for it provides them with direct experience of industrial research. CMSE currently maintains the following SEFs: Electron Microscopy, Analytical Crystal Growth, X-ray Scattering and Neutron Scattering.

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Education, Human Resources, Outreach, and Affirmative Action

The education, human resources, and outreach effort of the center has been expanded significantly during the past year. CMSE offers a range of programs for students from pre-college to the graduate level, as well as to middle and high school science teachers. This portfolio of programs is managed by a full time education officer, who works closely with a faculty education program leader (S. Leeb), the center director and MRSEC faculty to create and maintain outreach activities. We regularly review our educational activities to insure their effectiveness. During the past year, a new educational committee was formed. Its membership is comprised of personnel from outside of the MRSEC program who are actively involved in educational outreach at MIT. The role of the committee is to consult on the direction of CMSE's educational programs and to coordinate the center's programs with other outreach efforts on campus. The committee is considering opportunities for further collaboration between CMSE and the other MIT units involved. Besides involvement in the formal education and outreach activities outlined below, our MRSEC-supported faculty and graduate students frequently engage in various outreach activities with local schools, religious and minority organizations, and professional organizations. A recent survey, for example, revealed that over the past year, MRSEC-supported faculty worked with ten different outside organizations on various educational outreach activities, with contributions totaling more than 400 hours.

Pre-College Education

Science and Engineering Program for Middle School Students

CMSE continues to operate a science and engineering program that targets seventh and eighth grade students who attend two nearby Cambridge public schools. The objectives of the program are to familiarize the students with the field of materials science and engineering, demonstrate that science and engineering are fun and interesting, introduce students to a college environment, and expose them to some of the exciting resources at MIT. The program includes a full summer week of hands on and inquiry based activities in science and engineering for each school, plus several after-school sessions during the academic year. Because the students are on campus from 8:00am–3:00pm each day, meals are provided to participants. The Center also provides bus transportation between the schools and MIT.

Participants in the 2001 program included a total of 11 students from the Morse and Fletcher Elementary Schools. Of these, four were girls and seven were boys. Eight of the students were from underrepresented minority groups. The science teachers from the two schools attended with their students. As the teachers know their students personally, they were responsible, with the assistance of other school staff, for selecting the participants. Program activities were designed and presented by four MIT faculty members, seven staff members, a graduate student, a postdoctoral associate, and three undergraduates.

Activity periods were 90 minutes long, and included a wide range of topics. The 2001 program involved glassblowing, metal casting, polymer chemistry demonstrations, building an electric circuit that simulates a traffic light, building a simple motor, computer design and programming of mini-robots, and designing and fabricating a machine to shoot a marble through a hoop. The program concluded with a "shoot the hoop" design competition, which was attended by the families of the program participants. The activities offered are continually evaluated by Professor Leeb, the two teachers, and the faculty, staff, and MIT students who work on the program. New projects are developed regularly, and the faculty and staff who lead activities vary from year to year.

MIT's Edgerton Center, the MIT Museum, and the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, EECS, and DMSE have all collaborated with CMSE in conducting projects with the middle school students while they were on campus. The Edgerton Center and CMSE share an undergraduate student who develops, refines and presents educational outreach projects during the summer. CMSE activities are incorporated into the Edgerton Center's outreach offerings, just as the Edgerton Center offers activities it develops to participants in CMSE's program.

Materials Research Experience for Teachers (MRET)

During the past three summers, the center has grown a very successful Materials Research Experience for Teachers (MRET) program. High school and middle school teachers spend seven weeks in the summer performing research with CMSE faculty and students. The number of participants (eight) more than doubled during the past year, and now includes teachers who participate for two successive summers. Applicants to the program are solicited from the Cambridge School Department and from alumni of the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers (totaling about 500 members). They provide information on their teaching experience, subjects taught, and research interests. Once on campus, Professors Rubner and Leeb work with the teachers to match them up with appropriate research projects.

The MRET program has been enhanced by two additional features over the past year. First, each Friday afternoon during the summer was dedicated to an introduction to the operation, capabilities, and applications of the state of the art equipment in CMSE's Shared Experimental Facilities. The second exciting new component of the program is a deliberate focus on having the teachers design lesson plans, lab kits, and other tools to transfer their research experience at MIT to their students in the classroom. A further goal is to share these materials with other educators to broaden the impact beyond direct MRET participants. For instance, on November 9th, two RET participants presented a high school module they developed on fabricating light emitting thin film devices to teachers at the annual convention of the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers. A companion paper is being prepared for publication in a science education journal. Other, informal, partnerships between the teachers and CMSE have been formed. While on campus, teachers have identified opportunities for their students at MIT and have involved CMSE research group members in school visits and science fairs.

During the summer of 2001, five new teachers spent seven weeks immersed in research on campus. Michael Doherty, a high school physics teacher in Andover, MA, and Lea Lewis-Santos, a middle school teacher from Cambridge, MA, worked on magnetic actuators in Professor Leeb's lab. Daniel Menelly, an eighth-grade teacher from the United Nations International School, joined Professor Rubner's group studying light-emitting thin-films. He also worked informally with Professor Bulovic on his research project.  Rebekah Ravgiala, a high school biology and physics teacher in Merrimack, New Hampshire, collaborated with an REU student and a graduate student in the labs of Professors Cohen and Hammond to work on the polyelectrolyte multilayer assembly of bio-active polymers. The fifth teacher, Bill McDonald, a middle school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied baroplastic polymers with Professor Mayes' research group. Three former MRET participants, Hannah Sevian, Sean Müller, and Raymond Sleeper, returned this past summer to develop tools for the transfer of their research experience to the classroom.

CMSE extended its outreach to K–12 science teachers in another new effort this year. In collaboration with MIT's Council on Primary and Secondary Education, CMSE faculty presented their current research to 75 participants in the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers, a week long, intensive enrichment program for teachers held on campus in June. In addition, the center sponsored a full day workshop for about 30 members of the Network of Educators in Science and Technology. This day focused on CMSE research, with an emphasis on how teachers can utilize this cutting edge material to support and enhance their classroom curriculum.

Undergraduate Education


MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) provides an ideal mechanism for formalizing undergraduate involvement in CMSE research, and the Center intends to continue to offer this experience to approximately 15 undergraduates in the coming year. Students work a maximum of ten hours per week during the fall and spring semesters, and forty hours per week during January and the summer months. Students are required to submit written proposals to Professor Leeb for review prior to each semester of UROP research. CMSE faculty advise the students about the technical content of these proposals and oversee the conduct of the research. At the end of each term, UROP students write reports outlining the results of their work and evaluating their experiences. During the past year, 17 students participated in the UROP program with support from CMSE. Eleven of them were men, six were women, and two were members of underrepresented minority groups. Three students took advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of CMSE's research program to work with faculty members outside of their own academic departments. In addition to the students funded by CMSE, the center benefited from the work of 27 undergraduates who were supported by other funds or who received academic credit for their MRSEC research. CMSE's UROP program provides unique opportunities for undergraduates to work closely with research teams of faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers on materials science and engineering projects.

Summer Research Internship Program

In collaboration with MIT's Materials Processing Center, CMSE operates a Summer Research Internship Program (REU). The two centers intend to continue this collaboration for the summer of 2002. The goal of the program is to offer materials research experiences to undergraduates. It also offers students considering graduate study a chance to test their interest by participating in a research team of faculty, research staff, and graduate students. An additional objective is to encourage outstanding students to pursue an advanced degree and career in science or engineering.

In 2001, the internship program essentially doubled in size. The program attracts approximately 150 applicants a year. In the past we have accepted 10 students each year. This year we accepted 20, 17 of whom elected to participate. Interns are selected on the basis of their academic performance, statement of interest, and faculty references. The program is open to US citizens and permanent residents who will be juniors or seniors the following fall. Applications are reviewed by a committee consisting of staff members from both centers, with final review by the directors. The 17 participants in the program during the summer of 2001 included six women and twelve men.

The program begins with a three-day symposium featuring faculty presentations on their research and tours of their labs. Twenty-four faculty participated last summer. After hearing about current research options, the interns met with Professor Rubner and Dr. George Kenney of the MPC to select appropriate projects for the summer. The students are paid stipends and work full-time for ten weeks. Most of them live in a dormitory on campus. Weekly meetings are devoted to research discussions and informal seminars with guest speakers on topics such as the graduate school admissions process, research funding, and intellectual property. This summer, for the first time, the program concluded with a poster session rather than oral presentations. This was very effective and extremely well attended, so we intend to maintain this format. An evaluation survey was completed by each intern before leaving in August. Overall, they were happy with their experiences in the program.

Graduate Education

IRGs, initiatives, and seed projects supported by CMSE include research assistantships for graduate students. CMSE provides additional funds to support two or three assistantships per year for graduate students who are from underrepresented minority groups. The center currently funds a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering who is working on IRG research and one in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who is performing initiative research. An additional student working on IRG research receives summer support from CMSE to bridge his academic year funding. By providing research assistantships specifically earmarked for minority students, CMSE aims to increase minority student participation in MRSEC research programs. Because the support for a minority student is supplemental to a faculty member's existing CMSE research funds, CMSE provides additional incentive for its faculty to seek minority students as research assistants.

The center's SEFs play a special role in the training of MIT graduate and undergraduate students. CMSE investigators use these facilities to carry out MRSEC research, and often this requires skilled use of state-of-the-art equipment by graduate and undergraduate student researchers. SEF staff and MRSEC-affiliated faculty provide training for new users and, in some cases, extensive graduate courses are offered on a particular technique, such as electron microscopy. Educational use of SEFs is an integral part of laboratory subjects in the DMSE's undergraduate program. Each SEF offers at least one mini-course during MIT's Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January to train students to operate the equipment and apply the latest techniques to their research problems. The SEF staff taught seven such courses during January of 2002.


CMSE continues its colloquium series focusing on MRSEC research. The objectives of the colloquium series are to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of CMSE's research; to provide an opportunity for faculty, research staff, and students from different disciplines to meet on a regular basis to discuss their approaches to materials problems; and to inform the greater MIT community about materials research. A special feature during the past year was a special colloquium devoted to the center's educational outreach efforts.

Michael F. Rubner
TDK Professor of Polymer Materials Science and Engineering

More information about the Center for Materials Science and Engineering can be found on the web at


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