July 8, 2009

New composite design model created

U.S. scientists say they have developed a design model for producing nanoscale composite materials that contain entirely new properties.

The research team, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said composite materials such as fiberglass take on a mix of properties of their constituent compounds. But the new design model, created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Michael Demkowicz, produces nanocomposite materials that have properties not found in any of the original compounds.

The project's goal is to use the materials in such applications as nuclear power, fuel cells, solar energy and carbon sequestration.

Demkowicz said his new model offers an different approach to designing nanocomposites that can withstand extreme conditions.

The model tackles what material scientists call the inverse problem -- specifying a desired set of properties and then predicting which structures will deliver them.

The research is being funded by a grant from the federal Energy Frontier Research Centers to develop nanocomposite materials that can endure high temperatures, radiation and extreme mechanical loading.