Facilities of Materials Science and Engineering Department

Research Activities
Since its inception, the Department has had a strong research component, with a major emphasis in surface science and engineering. The Department has been successful in obtaining external funding for research and currently has the highest per capita faculty funding within the University. In 2003, the Department topped the list for research funding in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Department boasts more than $4 million in external funding for 15 total full-time faculty members. The Department hosts two main interdisciplinary centers, one on Polymers and the other on Thermal Spray. These centers offer a unique and rich environment for interdisciplinary graduate research and education. 

Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered: The Polymer Center, offers an interdisciplinary program aimed at studying the molecular basis of macroscopic phenomena. With funds from industrial partners, the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE), research is conducted on polymer dynamics, nanopatterning, thin film and interface engineering, surface modification, blends, polyelectrolytes, adhesion, block polymers, and wetting.

The Center for Thermal Spray Research: The Center for Thermal Spray Research (CTSR) conducts both applied and fundamental research on thermal spray technology, which involves melt spray formation of protective coatings and free standing forms. CTSR is a unique facility containing a vast array of industrial-level plasma and combustion spray devices. In 1999, CTSR’s research program received a significant boost through a $5 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to pursue revolutionary applications of thermal spray in electronics. Under the auspices of the Mesoscale Integrated Conformal Electronics initiative, CTSR has expanded its reach in the design, synthesis, and applications of thick film electronics and sensor materials. A new laboratory for both electronics fabrication and characterization has been set up.

Recent awards made to the faculty include two NSF Nanoscale Integrated Research Team awards (totaling $2 million), one concerning the use of metal oxide electronic noses for use as molecular and biological sensors, and the other concerning molecular electronics on the nanoscale.

The proximity to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and its advanced national facilities has been a major benefit to both faculty and students within the Department. Several faculty members hold guest appointments at BNL, while Brookhaven scientists participate in research and teaching within the Department. The DOE awarded the contract to manage BNL in 1998 to Brookhaven Science Associates, a consortium of other universities led by Stony Brook and the Battelle Memorial Institute. The University’s relationship with this premier research facility greatly enhances both the Department’s and Stony Brook’s research programs.

At BNL, the facilities available to the Department include particle accelerators for carrying out ion beam surface modification experiments and highly sophisticated surface analysis probes. The National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) is also located at BNL. As one of the participating research teams at NSLS, the Synchrotron Topography Research Group, centered in Stony Brook’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is using special X-ray methods to image nondestructively dislocation microstructures. This enables image-detailed descriptions of dislocation motion and structures attendant to crystal growth and plastic deformation and fracture, as well as to interesting materials behaviors. The topographic method is also being used in department-based studies of surface chemical reactivity. The Department recently was awarded a $1 million NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant to set up a center for crystal growth. The center is focused on developing capabilities for tackling the most challenging problems in crystal growth of novel advanced materials, and currently includes a high-pressure, high-temperature furnace for crystal growth of III-nitrides from solution-melts, a low-temperature CVD reactor for deposition of ZnO films, a two-zone high-temperature resistance-heater furnace for sublimation growth of ZnO, and a high-temperature RF reactor for SiC sublimation growth.

As a result of the University’s Engineering 2000 initiative, our ties with industry are growing stronger: faculty members are working with industry on joint research projects and submitting cooperative proposals to outside agencies. The Materials Science Department has led the effort in joint industry-University projects within the College of Engineering through the New York State Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) program.

Stony Brook’s own facilities include state-of-the-art low-energy electron diffraction LEED; a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope and a transmission electron microscope, both equipped with analytical capabilities and the latest software for electron diffraction simulation and image processing; an atomic force microscope; and electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA) IAES/SIMS Infrared Microscopy units, as well as central characterization facilities that include equipment for microanalysis and X-ray techniques. A well-equipped materials fabrication and processing facility within the department boasts a collection of furnaces capable of reaching 3,000ºC in controlled atmospheres or under vacuum, a resist-spinner, ellipsometer, contact angle goniometers, and a high-resolution Nomarsky metallurgical microscope with image processing capability.

The analytical electron facility of the Department consists of both scanning and transmission electron microscopes. The state-of-the-art Schottky Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) (LEO Gemini 1550) includes an In-Lens Secondary Electron Detector in addition to the standard E-T detector, and a Rutherford Backscatter Electron Detector. This SEM allows for high resolution imaging of the surfaces and cross-sections of all types of solid materials. It is also fully equipped with an EDS (energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) system using an EDAX detector that provides elemental compositions and X-ray maps of the various phases of the materials examined. Finally, the SEM includes an Electron-Backscattered Electron Diffraction (EBED) analysis system based on the TSL/EDAX orientation imaging and Phase-ID software that allows for nondestructive diffraction analysis and orientation imaging (texture analysis) of the grain structure of the surface of the specimens tested.

This facility also includes a digitally controlled Transmission Electron Microscope (Philips CM12), complete with EDS and PEELS (Parallelreading Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy) facilities for detailed analytical studies. This tool allows for the direct observation of the “internal” structure of materials at resolutions as low as a few Å and for the determination of the crystal structure of their various components.

There are also facilities for sample preparation for electron microscopy and microanalysis observations, including precision ion milling units (such as VCR Group XLA 2000).

Furthermore, advanced software for electron diffraction patterns simulation and image processing is available (e.g., Desktop Microscopist and Digital Micrograph).

Another research area that is emerging in the Department includes the development and testing of chemical sensors. A gas sensor testing facility is being set up in the Department, and it will be available shortly.

Other surface-related research involves studies of surface/environmental interactions. Using unique combinations of electron and ion spectroscopies, infrared and optical microspectroscopy and synchrotron based techniques; research is being conducted into corrosion behavior and corrosion inhibition of engineering alloys, degradation of paints and other coatings, remediation of contaminated surfaces, and surface cleaning. Much of this work has included collaborations with other universities, industries, national laboratories, and government facilities such as the Army Research Laboratory, Weapons and Materials Directorate (Aberdeen, MD). An evolving area of collaborative research involves related studies of unique thin films and structures formed using femtosecond laster ablation. The structure of epitaxial surface monolayers is being studied using LEED; extension of this research is also performed at the NSLS. The preparation of thin films of magnetic metals is studied using ultrahigh-vacuum (UHV) molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) processing. These materials are used in the computer industry in disk storage devices. The magnetic properties of these materials are studied using a vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM) and magneto-optic Kerr effect (MOKE) spectroscopy. Research is also being performed on the chemical makeup of the newly discovered high-temperature superconductors. Novel methods of rapidly spraying such materials onto surfaces are being developed. Through a Department of Defense instrumentation program, a comprehensive thermal analysis and porosity laboratory has been set up within the Department.

Consistent with Stony Brook’s designated mission as a research center, the cornerstone of the Department’s academic program is the graduate work leading to the research-oriented M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The Department has about 50 full-time, fully supported students and as many as 10 part-time students, most of who work in Long Island’s high-technology industries.