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Materials Science & Engineering Research

Advances in materials result in advances in technology and in our daily lives. Materials science and engineering (MSE) research at Dartmouth supports discovery in fundamental applied engineering as well as translational science in areas such as ice physics, nano- and bio-materials, energy harvesting and storage, and materials modeling.

Materials icon

A diversity of concentrations is offered with collaborative synergies between the biological and chemical, biomedical, electrical and computer, energy, and mechanical, operations and systems engineering research areas. Graduate engineering students are expected to propose a plan of study that supports their interests, potentially including distinctive intellectual paths unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries and enriched by interdisciplinary synergies.

MSE research addresses key challenges in the following sub-areas supported by leading faculty in their fields.

Mechanical Behavior of Structural Materials

Increasing our fundamental understanding of structural materials leads to advances in manufacturing, construction, energy systems, medicine, and environmental science, to name just a few. Research focused on ice- and polar-related phenomena can not only facilitate planning for a more resilient future but also be applicable to metals, ceramics and other crystalline materials. Improving the durability of mechanical components and developing advanced composite materials—as well as better understanding the role of mechanical forces and shape engineering—can have significant economic ramifications throughout industry, particularly in the energy, manufacturing, medical and transportation sectors.

Sea ice

Research Subfields

Composite material systems

Deformation and fracture mechanics

Glaciology and climate

Intermetallic compounds

Polymer wear and processing

Snow, firn and ice physics

Thin structure mechanics


Properties of Functional Materials

Functional materials—classified on the basis of the functions they can perform—represent a fast growing set of advanced materials and composites, some properties of which (shape, electrical conductivity, mechanical properties, color etc.) are responsive to external stimuli. Because of their unique properties, these materials are advancing innovation in the areas of energy conversion and storage, sensing, electronics, photonics, and biomedicine.

Solar Thermal Absorber

Research Subfields

Electronic assembly

High-performance printed and flexible devices

Micromechanical and electromechanical systems (MEMS)

Nanomaterials design and synthesis

Optoelectronic materials and devices



Advances in biomaterials facilitate biomedical research and inspire novel designs for implantable and bio-inspired devices. Research focused on orthopedic implants strives to optimize materials for weight, strength, formability, customization, and cost. Material-specific testing of implant retrievals is done to assess and understand changes that occur in vivo as part of the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. Work toward better synthetic tissue substitutes is also ongoing with the challenge of developing materials that mimic both the structure and mechanical performance of natural tissue and permit strong tissue-implant interfaces.

Hip Implant

Research Subfields

Biomimetic materials and devices

Orthopaedic implant analysis and behavior

Tissue engineering


Energy Materials

Materials play a critical role in achieving a sustainable energy future. High-temperature materials enable power plants to increase their operating temperature which increases their efficiency. Demand for high-performance permanent magnets is growing for applications such as wind turbines and electric and hybrid cars. New materials for power electronics can help increase efficiency and reduce both size and cost and are also key for development of low-power sensors and energy harvesting for hybrid electronics. In the case of solar cells, it is highly desirable to use naturally abundant, environmentally-friendly materials which can also pave the way for novel cost-effective battery systems as well as sustainable lighting technology for the 21st century.

Solar Tracker

Research Subfields

Energy harvesting

Energy storage and conversion devices

Fast reactor fuel materials

High-performance permanent magnets

High temperature materials

Power electronics

Solar and thermophotovoltaic cells



Microfabrication research spans a broad range of disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering, physics, computer science, and robotics as well as materials science. One of the biggest challenges is devising an efficient means of assembling small parts such as with self-assembly methods or with microrobots that can work together in a microfactory. Applications include cybersecurity, thin-film solar cells, and printed and flexible devices.

Microfabricated inductors

Research Subfields

3D nanomanufacturing

Micro-robot fabrication

Self-assembled nanophotonic structures


Computational Materials Science & Modeling

Computational methods and modeling as applied to materials science enable prediction and optimization of the properties and behavior of new materials, particularly at the nanoscale. Microstructural evolution occurs by a variety of mechanisms and the ability to predict its effects on the macroscopic properties of materials has a wide range of applications.

Polymer matrix

Research Subfields

Modeling of microstructural evolution