Prof. Marianetti Wins NSF CAREER Award

Chris Marianetti, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his research on using quantum mechanical simulations to engineer thin film materials via strain, “Computational Nanoengineering of Few-Layer Systems via Strain.” This grant will advance his work on few-layer systems, materials like graphene and boron nitride that range in thickness from the macroscopic to a single atomic layer.

“I’m really honored to receive this award,” says Marianetti. “Few-layer systems often exhibit unusual properties due to their low dimensionality and high surface-to-volume ratios, including both mechanical and electronic behavior. With nanotechnology becoming increasingly ubiquitous, understanding the electromechanical behavior in these systems is ever more important for developing all kinds of novel devices such as mechanical mass sensors and electronic circuit elements. This CAREER award will help us push the frontier in this rapidly moving field.”

The CAREER Award is one of the NSF’s most prestigious awards in honor of exceptional junior faculty and will support Marianetti’s research with a $400,000, five-year grant.

Marianetti has already figured out the weakness of graphene, the world’s strongest material, using quantum theory and supercomputers to reveal the mechanisms of mechanical failure of pure graphene under tensile stress. “We think strain may be a means to engineer the properties of graphene, and therefore understanding its limits is critical—it’s likely that this novel failure mechanism is not exclusive to graphene but may be prevalent in other very thin materials.”

Marianetti’s research interests lie in the use of classical and quantum mechanics to model the behavior of materials at the atomic scale. In particular, he is focused on applying these techniques to materials with potential for energy storage and conversion. Current applications in his research program range from nuclear materials such as Uranium to rechargeable battery materials such as cobalt oxides.

Story by Holly Evarts

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