Materials and Structures

The materials and structures group focuses on the development and the optimization of materials, processes, and devices used for operations in extreme environments and special applications. Our activities range from optimizing composite fabrication processes; designing, analysing, fabricating and testing high performance composite structures for aerospace, automotive, consumer products and sports equipment; devising novel designs for materials and structures inspired by nature; developing advanced materials and devices for MEMS used for sensing and energy harvesting; conducting fundamental studies on the mechanics of nanocomposite thin films and the micromechanics of deformation and fracture in biological materials; multiscale analysis; the design and optimization of cellular solids and deployable microstructures; and the process modelling and development of polymer nanocomposites. Examples of recent projects include: the helicopter component design, automotive body panels, new fabrication processes for composite airframe structures, composite bicycle components, natural fiber musical instruments, micro-fuel cells and micro-engines for energy harvesting, ultra-light lattice materials for aerospace structural components, fracture mechanics in natural armor systems and bio-inspired composite materials.

Our facilities include universal load testing machines and custom-made pneumatic fatigue testing jigs that assess the mechanical performance of materials and structures. Temperature and rate dependence of materials are investigated with state-of-the-art equipment. For instance, there are Differential Scanning Calorimeters (DSC), Thermo Mechanical Analyzers (TMA), Rheometers, and Dynamic Mechanical Analyzers (DMA). Our research groups use a drop impact tower and a custom gas gun to investigate the responses of materials at higher strain rates. We analyze the mechanics of deformation and fracture of materials with a small-scale (Hysitron nanoindenter), and in-situ techniques (where the micromechanics of deformation and fracture are monitored with optical, electron or atomic force microscopes) as well. As for the analysis of the vibration and damping of MEMS components, we use a vacuum-compatible platform equipped with a laser Doppler vibrometer. Lastly, the study of our manufacturing processes is based on the use of hot presses, ovens and a vacuum assisted resin transfer molding cell.

Micromachining and nanoscale patterning are performed in the multi-user Nanotools Microfabrication facility at McGill University. To characterize the structure of our materials, this laboratory houses optical microscope, two atomic force microscopes (including an environmental AFM), and an X-ray imaging system. Aside from the Nanotools Microfabricatio facility, our group has access to the McGill Facility for Electron Microscopy (SEM, TEM), the Bone Centre (microCT), and CLUMEQ supercomputing facilities to model and predict the influence of microstructures on deformation and fracture processes.

Our research is primarily funded by federal and provincial associations, such as NSERC, CFI, FQRNT, CRC, CRIAQ, CREPEC, and CIHR. Industries such as Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter, General Motors of Canada, and Allen Vanguard, are moreover significant contributers.

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