Materials research at UCSD can be divided into primarily four broad classifications based on the type of material investigated:
Magnetic and Nano Materials
Research in the area of magnetic materials is carried out by faculty in many departments. Efforts range from extremely basic to practical research on materials and modeling for next generation magnetic recording, such as research at the Center for Magnetic Recording Research (CMRR). CMRR is supported by a group of industrial affiliates, as well as federal funding. Graduate students are actively involved in industrial contacts. As a result, the job placement of these students in industrial R&D labs has historically been excellent.
A particular area of emphasis, not just here but worldwide, has been on magnetic information storage, magnetotransport, spintronics, magnetooptic properties, and novel processing and characterization techniques for study of physical properties of bulk, thin film and nanoscale magnetic material. These are important both for basic studies of the effects of dimensionality and interactions, and for the future of magnetic recording: ultra-high density information storage.
Nano materials such as carbon nanotubes, nano particles, quantum dots, nano-porous structures, and nano-electronics device materials are the essential parts of the current and future nano-based technologies, as well as for the emerging branch of (nano + bio) technologies. The unique electronic, photonic, magnetic, and bio-interaction characteristics associated with the nanoscale dimension of the materials make the study of these subjects exciting and worthwhile.
Research and applications of structural materials by several faculty members in the Materials Science & Engineering Program cover general mechanical structures, aerospace materials, civil infrastructure, automotive and marine areas. Recent work includes research on the understanding and development of a nanoscale and microscale composites, multilayer metallic materials, surface treatments on fibers to aid in processing and performance, fiber reinforced composites. Research efforts include design and fabrication of materials, and characterization with emphasis on mechanical strength, toughness, dynamic behavior on high strain rates, determination of long-term durability, and effects of damage, as well as the tailoring of these materials for overall damage tolerance within application specific environments. Dynamic performance of materials is also investigated as a part of the Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials, which focuses on coordinated macroscopic and microscopic mechanical testing and characterization of advanced metallic and composite engineering materials.
Research on electronic materials and devices at UCSD focuses on the synthesis and detailed characterization of novel semiconductor materials for electronic and optoelectronic applications. Particular emphasis is placed on epitaxial growth of heterojunctions, quantum wells and superlattices of binary and ternary compound semiconductors, with epitaxial growth facilities available for arsenide, phosphide, and nitride III-V compounds.
Applications include: high performance optical wave guides and modulators, heterojunction bipolar transistors, and microwave frequency electronics. Basic studies include: theoretical and experimental investigations of defects in quantum wells, ballistic transport for nanostructural devices, quantum well structures for condensed matter physics studies, interface formation, and mechanisms for strain relaxation. Light emitting devices and luminescent materials for emissive displays are being studied by a number of groups on campus. The photonic materials research programs involving the light source generation (e.g., synthesis and fabrications of laser, phosphor and polarizer materials), light amplifications, processing, routing and switching of optical signals (e.g., using photonic bandgap materials), are important for future display and telecommunications applications. Many of the photonic materials projects are performed in collaboration with industrial partners. UCSD has a strong telecom-related research effort as carried out by UCSD faculty members participating in the Cal(IT)2 telecom institute.
Biological materials are of obvious importance in furthering the development of nanotechnology, in expanding the capabilities of Materials Science and Engineering, and perhaps ultimately in integrating biological materials with existing semiconductor or other inorganic technologies.
The San Diego area is one of the strongest in the world for biosciences and biotechnology. UCSD has strong materials-related efforts: both in what is usually termed biomaterials (materials used for implants or other medical purposes) and in studies of proteins, molecular motors, and larger structures such as nerve cells. It is in the latter area that we particularly view opportunities for links between traditional materials science and biology: in studying these biological materials as materials (e.g. thermodynamic characterization of protein folding), in using them to form self-assembled structures (e.g. magnetic nanostructure arrays), or in taking advantage of interactions between well understood surfaces to attach e.g. proteins for subsequent study (e.g. using vicinal or reconstructed surfaces of known inorganic materials to create attachment sites for biological materials at precise spacings). Some aspects of biomaterials studies at UCSD include the biocompatibility issues, smart drug delivery biomaterials, biomimetic materials, bio imaging materials, design of enhanced structural bio-implants such as for orthopedic or dental applications, and study of functional bio-materials implants for control/repair of body functions.
Some of the more exciting future directions for materials research on this campus lie at the intersection of biology and more traditional materials research. Some examples are nanoscale biological materials (e.g. molecular motors, or designed proteins), biologically templated self-assembly techniques for creating large scale, bub-10 nm arrays of electronic materials, nanoscale devices to control the contents and behavior of nucleus in living cells.
Energy materials and applications research activities on energy related phenomena and materials science are carried out by several faculty members at UCSD. The topics include nuclear energy, combustion energy, solar energy, fuel cells, biofuels and thermoelectrics. The Center for Energy Research (http://cer.ucsd.edu) is a an organized research unit that deals with laser plasma, nuclear plasma physics and materials, combustion mechanisms and biofuel applications, and is expanding on other energy technologies such as fuel cells and solar cells. Several faculty and research members of the CER participate in the Materials Science & Engineering Program.