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USF physics professor helps clarify unique way of controlling nano-scale materials

TAMPA, Fla. -- Robert Hoy, an assistant professor in USF’s Department of Physics, teamed up with colleagues from the University of Central Florida to clarify a newly discovered means of controlling the fragmentation of nano-scale materials. The discovery, made by chance by the researchers, has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing of multilayered fibers with “smart” properties.

The study, on which Hoy was a co-author, was published in Nature on June 6, 2016 ( Ayman F. Abouraddy, a professor in the University of Central Florida College of Optics and Photonics, led the research team.

“Dr. Abouraddy and his team found a new application for ‘necking,’ a process that occurs when a well-established manufacturing technique called ‘cold drawing’ causes non-uniform strain in a material,” said Hoy, whose expertise is in explaining poorly-understood behaviors of materials on microscopic length scales. “Usually, one tries to prevent necking, but Dr. Abouraddy’s group exploited necking to do something potentially groundbreaking. The implications for using this process for manufacturing ‘smart materials’ are great.”

According to Hoy, the ability to control breakage in a material, as this new technique allows, is critical to developing advanced manufacturing techniques. Using this newly discovered process, materials such as glass and plastics (polymers) could be manufactured with futuristic properties. For example, sensors to monitor blood pressure and heart rates could be built into clothing and transmit health data to a doctor’s office via the Internet. He added that the process also has the potential to create multi-layered fibers with advanced capabilities.

Hoy’s role was to help the researchers better understand the physics of their chance discovery.

Hoy, who works in “soft matter physics,” searches for ways to better relate mechanical, structural and dynamical properties in materials to their microscopic interactions. Earlier this year he received the NSF-CAREER Award (a five-year, $490,000 grant) for his project "Fundamental Studies of Glassy Polymer from the National Science Foundation. The NSF-CAREER award is the Foundation's most prestigious recognition for junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Physics    
Author:Randy Fillmore