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Professor Joseph Brown Awarded AFOSR Grant for Interlocking Mechanical Metamaterials

Assistant Professor Joseph Brown was awarded a grant of a three-year, $486,000 research grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to support a project titled “Emergent Behavior of Interlocking Mechanical Metamaterials”.  The project aims to develop new technology that could impact aerospace and electronics manufacturers.  The fundamental understanding developed in this project will have application in aircraft, spacecraft and sensor fabrication processes by enabling adaptability and increased speed and automation of assembly processes.  Furthermore, interlocking adhesive metamaterial surfaces may provide a pathway to better and more adaptable designs for high service temperatures and high-temperature cycling, which are needed for adaptable and robust designs for hypersonic systems.

The objective of the project is to perform fundamental research aimed at understanding principles of 3D geometric nonlinearity within mechanical interlocking systems, focusing on structures assembled and operated on an extremely small scale.  The research concerns metamaterials, which are materials that use 2D or 3D patterns of repeated designs to achieve new properties not possible in unpatterned materials. In this case, the team in Brown’s Nanosystems Lab will build from Professor Brown’s earlier work on the topic of mechanical interlocking joints to create metamaterials that can be used to replace chemical adhesives with mechanical joints, behaving similar to Velcro but for high-performance material surfaces and with potentially much stronger bonds.

Anticipated research outcomes of the project include a set of analytical and numerical simulation tools, and fabrication processes, that can be used to design and manufacture adhesive metamaterial surfaces, to be shared with the engineering community via research publications.  Initial analysis indicates that surface bonding forces comparable to those of chemical adhesives can be obtained with interlocking mechanical metamaterials.  As part of the research, the team will use analytical and numerical modeling, verifying models with experimentation and identifying model systems for scalable manufacturing once project discoveries are implemented.


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