Professor’s research may result in strong new materials

Dr. Iman Salehinia

Advanced technology requires advanced materials. Dr. Iman Salehinia, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Northern Illinois University, is working to develop a hybrid material that combines the strength and scratch resistance of ceramics with the malleability of metals.

In a trio of papers published in June – in the journals, Applied Surface Science, Acta Materialia, Materials Research Letters, Materials Research Society (MRS) Advances and Computational Materials Science – Salehinia describes his work with a material dubbed ceramic/metal nano laminates.

“Metals are very ductile. It is easy to shape them, but their strength is not as high as that of ceramics,” Salehinia said. “Ceramics are very hard and corrosion resistant, but very brittle; you can’t deform them easily. We want to combine these to create a material with high strength, high ductility, high scratch resistance and high corrosion resistance.”

In his Computational Materials Science and Mechanics Laboratory, Salehinia and his research group characterize materials, including metals, ceramics and carbon nanotubes, at the atomic level. His goal is to determine how materials behave under extreme environmental conditions – and why they behave as they do.

“Our main purpose is to design materials for targeted functions,” he explained. “You want this material for any application putting materials under extreme conditions.”

Potential applications for ceramic/metal nano laminates may include spacecraft, which require materials that can withstand drastic changes in temperature, Salehinia said. Other potential uses include transportation, automotive and nuclear applications.

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