Areas of research
The Manitoba Institute for Materials develops and augments opportunities for research partnerships and training at the University of Manitoba and in the Prairie region. We think of this as "Manitoba's Material Advantage", and coalesce our work into four major themes:
- Composite materials: metallurgical, non-metallic, structural, and sustainable
- Quantum and extreme materials: discovery science and sensors
- Materials that mimic biology and/or support natural systems under environmental stress
- Energy harnessing and storage
Our diverse research areas range:
- from electronic materials to spin glasses
- from nanostructures to polymers and soft biomaterials
- from complex structured metamaterials to superalloys
- from composite material systems and intelligent sensing to high performance computing materials research
- from magnetic materials to photonic and phononic microsystems
- from MEMS and NEMS to minerals, as well as to research related to the environment
These dynamic areas are evolving with the rapidly moving fields of materials science and engineering.
Complex natural systems
There is a pressing need to increase our knowledge on how and to what extent waters, minerals and life interact.
Many environmental and industrial processes are traceable using isotopes, isotopic ratios and trace elements, as such anthropogenic forcing can be distinguished from natural background. Work can be done to improve ore beneficiation, reduce energy costs and design new sequestration strategies.
Ultimately the economic impact is the mitigation of environmental impact before the damage is done and the monitoring of global change.
Examples of ongoing research: Use of light and heavy isotopes and trace elements to monitor exchanges between the Earth's crust, the hydrosphere and the biosphere, characterization and quantification of the distribution of trace elements in zoned minerals, crystal chemistry and structural crystallography; Use of isotope and trace element fractionation to understanding ore genesis and contaminant dispersal.
Participating researchers: Fayek, Hawthorne, Wang
Complex crystalline materials and nanostructures
From prescription drugs to cookware to computer chips, many materials that are used every day are made of crystals that possess special properties. The properties of any material are largely determined by how its atoms are arranged.
For crystalline materials, the atomic arrangement, as well as the arrangement of crystals themselves, influence their physical behaviour. Many modern synthetic materials have intentionally tailored atomic or crystal arrangements. Knowing how atoms are arranged in new compounds is fundamental to understanding how to design materials chemically and physically to obtain desired properties (e.g. for use in new electronic devices).
This interdisciplinary research area brings together scientists and engineers who wish to understand the fundamental behaviour of technologically important materials, such as catalysts, ionic conductors, superconductors, alloys, ceramics, cements, magnets, and radioactive waste forms.
Examples of ongoing research include: Magnetic, electronic and transport properties of materials, nanostructures, superalloys, complex minerals, phononic crystals
Participating researchers: Bieringer, Caley, Chaturvedi, Hawthorne, Hu, Kroeker, Page, Ojo, Richards, Roshko, Southern, van Lierop, Wang, Williams
Composite material systems
The need to develop light but strong materials to improve on fuel efficiencies in transportation and to improve the performance of engineering structures explicitly requires a good foundation in materials science research. The University can point to success stories in the application of this science, such as the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) at Smartpark, the ISIS Canada Research Network and the Composite Materials and Structures Research Group.
Continued innovation in composites, including those developed from biological materials, will require sound fundamental research to understand the role of structure and bonding at various length scales in dictating the limits of performance as density is decreased.
A key question in the adoption of composites from renewable resources is what processing strategies can be devised to compensate for deficiencies in raw material properties (due to natural variability) so that performance targets for bio-composites can be consistently met.
Examples of ongoing research: Aerospace composite materials, intelligent sensing for innovative civil engineering structures, fiber reinforced polymer materials, fabrics, composites generated from biological materials, oil seed resins, "breathable" and "smart" textiles and wound dressings.
Participating researchers: Liu, Polyzois, Shalaby, Svecova, Zhong
High performance computing materials research
The rapid advances of massively parallel computing, coupled with equally impressive developments in theoretical analysis, have generated an extraordinary growth in our ability to model and predict the behaviour of materials and to visualize the results. As a result, computational science is entering a new era that promises to revolutionize our understanding of materials, expanding our knowledge beyond that of idealized systems to touch the real materials that enrich our lives.
HPC embraces all aspects of equipment, people, data, software and access capabilities and is essential to the needs of researchers in all disciplines. HPC facilities provide the researcher community with opportunities for inter-institutional and multi-disciplinary collaboration, facilitating research and innovation that would otherwise be impossible.
Examples of ongoing research: Computational chemistry, physics, fluid dynamics and electromagnetics: magnetic materials, biomaterials, spintronics, polymers, soft matter, composite materials, microwave imaging
Participating researchers: Bridges, Gough, Kroeker, Schreckenbach, Southern, van Lierop, Whitmore
MEMS and NEM
Nanosystems technologies (NSTs) are making possible the construction of complex systems that possess the benefits of high integration of multi-disciplinary technologies and small size. NSTs include microelectronics, micro-fluidics, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) and photonics.
Several technologies are often combined on a single nanosystem device, enabling the production of powerful devices. Microsystem devices are already greatly impacting our lives, and over the next decades, NSTs will impact our world as much as microelectronics has done over the last 30 years.
The expected impact of NST has resulted in nanotechnology being identified as a strategic area by governments worldwide. The investment by government organizations in 2003 was over $2.5 billion (U.S.)
Canada is reacting to this opportunity by investing in several NST research facilities, including the Nano-Systems laboratory at the University of Manitoba. The Nano-Systems Fabrication Laboratory (NSFL) was established to support the nanotechnology efforts of University of Manitoba researchers and Manitoba industry. It is the only facility in Manitoba, and one of only a handful in Canada, capable of micro/nano-scale manufacturing.
Examples of ongoing research: MEMS for next generation smart adaptive antennas for vehicle systems and telecommunications, Nano-probe instruments for in-situ IC testing and material science, Molecular Junctions, low dimensional junctions, Micro-sensors for electric and magnetic field sensing, Sensors for structural health monitoring for Civil Engineering, Investigation of nano-system fabrication technologies, Micro-pressure sensors for human hearing studies, Micro-tweezer systems, Micro-fluidics for thermal cooling, energy storage, and bio-sensors, Ultra thin films for nanoelectronics and bio-sensors, Large deflection micro-mirrors for optical switching, microfluidics, microresonators, sensors, and Biomems.
Participating researchers: Bridges, Buchanan, Oliver, Shafai, Thomson, Wang
Photonic and Phononic interactions with materials
The interaction of photons and phonons with matter allows materials to be probed over a wide range of length and time scales, providing vital information for understanding their basic properties. Phonons are also one of the elementary excitations of materials, so that their interaction with other excitations (electrons, magnetic moments…) is also of fundamental importance.
This multidisciplinary research area involves material properties that include (i) single atoms and molecules (excitation, ionization, probing, manipulation), (ii) complex molecular systems (biological, pharmaceutical, chemical - including distributed optical fibre sensing), (iii) nanostructures (quantum dots, nanofabrication, nanomachines, surface structures), (iv) microscopic interactions (optical tweezers, cell interactions, linear and non-linear photoacoustic interactions), and (v) millimeter and larger scale systems (ultrasonic and acoustic interactions in mesoscopic materials).
The common themes that emerge from the complementarity of the many different approaches involved (optical and ultrasonic imaging, time-resolved measurements, fluorescence detection, spectroscopy, multi-photon and phonon spectroscopy, polarization detection, studies of non-linear processes, and intensity and phase measurements) form the basis from which new collaborations and scientific breakthroughs may be expected.
Examples of ongoing research: Imaging of complex materials, scattering and absorption in complex materials, mesoscopic wave phenomena, surface acoustic wave devices, X-ray scattering and diffraction, NMR and Mössbauer spectroscopies, photon and phonon correlation spectroscopies.
Participating researchers: Hawthorne, Kroeker, Oliver, Page, Scanlon, van Lierop, Wang
Many-body quantum-mechanical interactions in materials can lead to cooperative phenomena which cannot be predicted from the properties of individual electrons. These so-called quantum materials are at the forefront of condensed matter physics and material science research. They show a large variety of scientifically fascinating and technologically important phenomena, including many forms of magnetism, ferroelectricity and multiferroic behavior, colossal magnetoresistance, Dirac and Majorana fermions, topological order, as well as spin and charge separation.
Harnessing these collective phenomena by fabricating devices from quantum materials has the potential to revolutionize computing, telecommunication, and consumer electronics. This includes the promise of new devices based on the spin rather than the charge of the electron (spintronics) as well as computers using quantum instead of digital bits (quantum computing).
The aim of our interdisciplinary research group is to investigate quantum effects in materials, in particular new quantum phases and emergent phenomena, and to utilize them to develop new devices and applications.
Examples of ongoing research: graphene, carbon nanotubes, exotic superconductors, transition metal oxides, coupled magnon-photon systems, cooperative phenomena in nanomagnetic systems, frustrated magnetic materials, many-body localization, Majorana fermions, quantum chemistry
Participating researchers: Bieringer, Chakraborty, Hu, van Lierop, Schreckenbach, Sirker, Wiebe
The study of soft materials - such as complex fluids, liquid crystals, macromolecules, particulate suspensions, porous materials, foodstuffs and biological materials - is a rapidly growing area that encompasses both new scientific discoveries and diverse practical applications.
Many of these materials are mesoscopic, having internal structures on length scales between atomic dimensions and bulk that determine their properties.
There is a natural synergy with disordered hard materials, whether disorder is inherent at the atomic scale as in crystalline solids, glasses and complex minerals, or at larger scales as in assemblies of nanoparticles. The study of solid materials underlies much current and emerging technology involving optical, electronic and spintronic phenomena.
This interdisciplinary thrust area brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines who share an interest in unraveling the many scientific challenges associated with the complexity of these materials and exploring their imaginative and exciting uses.
Examples of ongoing research: Glasses, nanoparticles and spin glasses, polymer and biomaterials, mesoscopic materials, materials for nuclear waste immobilization, optical, electronic and spintronic properties of ionic and semiconducting crystals, complex minerals, protein structure, tissue and cellular structure, viral architectures, textiles
Participating researchers: Bassim, Bieringer, Hawthorne, Kroeker, Page, Roshko, Scanlon, Schrechenbach, Southern, Vail, Whitmore, Williams
Surfaces, interfaces and ultrathin films
The performance of many of the key materials that play a critical role in today's technology are dominated by the structure and chemistry of their interfaces. The properties of these interfaces are controlled by layers that can be as little as a few atoms or molecules thick.
Our ability to understand the physics and chemistry of interfaces and, in turn, manipulate their properties will ultimately determine the direction of future developments in fields ranging from biotechnology to electronics.
This interdisciplinary area will bring together researchers focused on the characterization and production of interfaces, both within materials as well as at surfaces, and it will stimulate development of the understanding and methodologies required to create the next generation of advanced materials and devices.
Examples of ongoing research: Electronic and magnetic materials, polymer structures, superalloys, environmental crystallization, liquid crystals
Participating researchers: Bridges, Buchanan, Chaturvedi, Hawthorne, Oliver, Schreckenbach, Southern, Thomson, van Lierop, Wang, Whitmore
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Manitoba Institute for Materials
20 Sifton Rd.
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada