Department of Materials Science and Engineering
NanoMechanical Technology Laboratory
Masachusetts Institute of Technology

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NanoLab research

Nanoindentation. Mechanical probing of a sample with a diamond, measuring the load and penetration depth simultaneously. The maximum penetration depth is hundreds of nanometers, three orders of magnitude smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Nanoscale plasticity. Nanoindentation can be used to understand how materials deform permanently, or plastically. We can measure the exact loads at which permanent deformation occurs, and use computer models to image the movement of atoms during indentation.

Computational simulations of nanoindentation. Materials can be idealized as uniform bodies or discretized into groups of atoms. Modeling indentation with both of these concepts of materials allows us to understand better how materials respond to nanocontact.

Computational simulations of surface absorption. Quantum mechanics can be used to model the absorption of a molecule onto a surface.

Cell-mediated contraction. Cell force monitors have been designed to measure the loads at which cells contract a biomaterial scaffold to which they are attached. One common biomaterial scaffold is "artificial skin" into which new skin cells migrate and regenerate tissue.

Deformation of block copolymers. Uniaxial stretching of block copolymers shows that the alignment of the molecules actually changes during deformation.

Nanoscale magnetic recording media. Magnetic metals and polymers can be grown on patterned substrates so they can be used efficiently in data storage devices.

Mechanical testing of small scale structures. New machines have been designed to test small structures such as fibers, thin films and materials available only in small quantities due to cost or processing challenges.

Atomic force microsopy. By applying very small loads to a sample with a cantilever, the surface of a sample can be imaged with resolution better than a nanometer.