University of California, Riverside

Materials Science and Engineering



Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) is concerned with the creation of materials with novel properties and their use in a variety of fields ranging from ultra-fast computer chips and high-efficiency solar cells to high-powered jets, and even beauty products. Today, engineering innovations are increasingly dependent on breakthroughs in materials at the micro- and nanometer scale. Students in MSE acquire a solid background in the basic sciences and in the engineering of materials, with hands-on laboratory experience in nano-scale materials characterization and processing. This program prepares graduates for a variety of careers in fields such as nanotechnology, electronics, computing, the biomedical, automotive and aerospace industries, as well as government agencies and research laboratories.

Multiple fellowships are available for new MSE graduate student applicants!

 Research Highlights of MS&E Graduate Students


Using sand to improve battery performance

From left, (b) unpurified sand, (c) purified sand, and (d) vials of unpurified sand, purified sand, and nano silicon.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have created a lithium ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. The key material: sand. Yes, sand.

"This is the holy grail -- a low cost, non-toxic, environmentally friendly way to produce high performance lithium ion battery anodes," said Zachary Favors, a Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Student working with Cengiz and Mihri Ozkan, both Materials Science and Engineering professors at UC Riverside.

The idea came to Favors six months ago. He was relaxing on the beach after surfing in San Clemente, Calif. when he picked up some sand, took a close look at it and saw it was made up primarily of quartz, or silicon dioxide.

His research is centered on building better lithium ion batteries, primarily for personal electronics and electric vehicles. He is focused on the anode, or negative side of the battery. Graphite is the current standard material for the anode, but as electronics have become more powerful graphite's ability to be improved has been virtually tapped out.

Researchers are now focused on using silicon at the nanoscale, or billionths of a meter level as a replacement for graphite. The problem with nanoscale silicon is that it degrades quickly and is hard to produce in large quantities.

Favors set out to solve both these problems. He researched sand to find a spot in the United States where it is found with a high percentage of quartz. That took him to the Cedar Creek Reservoir, east of Dallas, where he grew up.

Sand in hand, he came back to the lab at UC Riverside and milled it down to the nanometer scale, followed by a series of purification steps changing its color from brown to bright white, similar in color and texture to powdered sugar.

After that, he ground salt and magnesium, both very common elements found dissolved in sea water into the purified quartz. The resulting powder was then heated. With the salt acting as a heat absorber, the magnesium worked to remove the oxygen from the quartz, resulting in pure silicon.

The Ozkan team was pleased with how the process went. And they also encountered an added positive surprise. The pure nano-silicon formed in a very porous 3-D silicon sponge like consistency. That porosity has proven to be the key to improving the performance of the batteries built with the nano-silicon.

The improved performance could mean expanding the expected lifespan of silicon-based electric vehicle batteries up to 3 times or more, which would be significant for consumers, considering replacement batteries cost thousands of dollars. For cell phones or tablets, it could mean having to recharge every three days, instead of every day.

The findings were just published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Now, the Ozkan team is trying to produce larger quantities of the nano-silicon beach sand and is planning to move from coin-size batteries to pouch-size batteries that are used in cell phones.

The research is supported by Temiz Energy Technologies. The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization has filed patents for inventions reported in the research paper.


Silly Putty Material Inspires Better Batteries

Engineers use silicon dioxide to make lithium-ion batteries that last three times longer between charges compared to current standard

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Using a material found in Silly Putty and surgical tubing, a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that will last three times longer between charges compared to the current industry standard.

The team created silicon dioxide (SiO2) nanotube anodes for lithium-ion batteries and found they had over three times as much energy storage capacity as the carbon-based anodes currently being used. This has significant implications for industries including electronics and electric vehicles, which are always trying to squeeze longer discharges out of batteries.

“We are taking the same material used in kids’ toys and medical devices and even fast food and using it to create next generation battery materials,” said Zachary Favors, the lead author of a just-published paper on the research.

The paper, “Stable Cycling of SiO2 Nanotubes as High-Performance Anodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries,” was published online in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

It was co-authored by Cengiz S. Ozkan and professor, Mihrimah Ozkan, Materials Science and Engineering professosr, and several of their current and former graduate students: Wei Wang, Hamed Hosseinni Bay, Aaron George and Favors.Battery and silcon dioxide sample

Silicon polymer and battery used for the research.

The team originally focused on silicon dioxide because it is an extremely abundant compound, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and found in many other products.

Silicon dioxide has previously been used as an anode material in lithium ion batteries, but the ability to synthesize the material into highly uniform exotic nanostructures with high energy density and long cycle life has been limited.

Their key finding was that the silicon dioxide nanotubes are extremely stable in batteries, which is important because it means a longer lifespan. Specifically, SiO2 nanotube anodes were cycled 100 times without any loss in energy storage capability and the authors are highly confident that they could be cycled hundreds more times.

The researchers are now focused on developed methods to scale up production of the SiO2 nanotubes in hopes they could become a commercially viable product.

The research is supported by Temiz Energy Technologies.

Materials Science and Engineering Student, Edwin Preciado, Awarded National Science Foundation Fellowship

 Preciado, a second-year Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. student, works with Ludwig Bartels, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He is developing single layer as well as improved optical properties over silicon — that will be used in the next generation of microchips.  The goal is to incorporate elements into the film to allow for more sensitive tunability that can improve computing and reduce its energy cost.edwin

 Eighteen graduate students at the University of California, Riverside have received Graduate Research Fellowships (GRFs) from the National Science Foundation (NSF) this year.  The highly competitive fellowships are awarded to individuals early in their graduate careers based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.

“The graduate community is extremely proud of the accomplishments of these graduate students who are at the beginning of their research careers,” said Joseph Childers, the dean of the Graduate Division at UC Riverside.  “The fact that they have been awarded these prestigious scholarships in a national competition speaks to the outstanding quality of the students themselves as well as to the dedication of the faculty who train them.”

The NSF awards the GRFs directly to graduate students selected through a national competition. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($32,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution) for graduate study that is in a field within NSF’s mission and leads to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree.

 Katie Marie Magnone, a first-year Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. student, who also works with Professor Ludwig Bartels, received an honorable mention.  

NSF accords “Honorable Mention” to meritorious applicants who do not receive fellowship awards — also a significant national academic achievement. Thirteen UCR graduate students made the honorable mention list this year. 


First-Year Materials Science and Engineering Student, Nick Yaraghi awarded "Best Poster" at MRS nickConference in San Francisco

First-year MSE Graduate Student, Nick Yaraghi, was awarded a "Best Poster Award" at the MRS Spring Meeting and Exhibit on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 for his poster titled "Toughening Mechanisms in the Impact-Resistant Stomatopod Dactyl Club." 

Between 600 and 700 posters were judged during the session and, from these submissions, three posters were awarded "Best Poster."  The meeting chairs selected the winners on the basis of the poster's technical content, appearance, graphic excellence, and presentation quality.

The Materials Research Society (MRS) is an organization of materials researchers from academia, industry and government that promotes communication for the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research to improve the quality of life.


DYP Awarded to Two Materials Science and Engineering PhD Students

saraSarah Bobek, a fourth year Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Professor Ludwig Bartels received two quarters of the DYP (Dissertation Year Program) fellowship for AY 14/15.

Chung Hee Moon, a fourth year Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Assistant Professor Elaine Haberer received one quarter of the DYP (Dissertation Year Program) fellowship for AY 14/15.

 The Graduate Research Mentoring Program (GRMP) and Dissertation Year Program (DYP) awards are intended to enhance the mentoring of domestic PhD students entering their 3rd, 4th, or 5th years of graduate school who are actively engaged in research. Congratulations Sarah and Chung Hee!



Research Highlights of MS&E Faculty

Mantis Shrimp, Toucan and Trilobite, Oh My

UC Riverside professor to lead team selected for $7.5 million grant to study more than 20 organisms to develop strong, tough materials based on their design structures

 A team of researchers led by a University of California, Riverside Materials david Science and Engineering Associate Professor, David Kisailus, have been selected to receive a $7.5 million Department of Defense grant to uncover fundamental design rules and develop simple and basic scientific foundations for the predictable design of light-weight, tough and strong advanced materials inspired by a wide diversity of structures from plants and animals, including the mantis shrimp, toucan and bamboo.

“We are taking what biological systems have constructed over millions of years and coming up with design rules that nature hasn’t really thought of,” said David Kisailus, the lead researcher on the grant who holds the Winston Chung Endowed Chair of Energy Innovation in the department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Materials Science program at the UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering and is a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kisailus assembled the multidisciplinary team, whose six co-principal investigators consist of chemists, materials scientists, mechanical engineers and biologists. They are: Cheryl Hayashi, a professor of biology at UC Riverside; Joanna McKittrick andMarc Meyers, both professors in mechanical and aerospace engineering and the materials science program at UC San Diego;Robert Ritchie, a distinguished professor in materials science and mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley; Pablo Zavattieri, an associate professor of civil and mechanical engineering at Purdue University; and Horacio Espinosa, the James N. and Nancy J. Farley professor in manufacturing & entrepreneurship in mechanical engineering at Northwestern University.

In addition, the team includes collaborators with broad backgrounds. They are Professor Nigel Hughes, a paleobiologist in earth sciences at UC Riverside; Elaine DiMasi of Brookhaven National Laboratory; Rajesh Naik and David Mollenhauer, both of the Air Force Research Laboratory; Brad Hollingsworth of the San Diego Natural History Museum; Gabriel Miller of the San Diego Zoo; and Alan Leukhardt of Safariland, a designer and manufacturer of military, law enforcement and sporting equipment.

Cheryl Hayashi, a professor of biology at UC Riverside

The funding, which will be distributed over five years, comes from the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program. This particular grant, managed by Hugh DeLong, department head of complex materials & devices, comes from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, one of the military research offices which awards MURI grants.

With the funding the researchers will study more than 20 organisms, including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and plants. Examples include: light-weight, tough and durable materials with cellular structures such as the stem of bamboo; the beak of a toucan; layered structures from shells of marine snails and antlers from mammals; twisted plywood structures found in crustacean structures such as the club of mantis shrimp; and insect cuticles.

These structures are particularly interesting because they are composed of relatively simple biological materials such as keratin found in fingernails, yet display incredible mechanical performance. The team will also reach back in history, looking at dynamic evolutionary processes such as the structure of the extinct trilobite, which existed for more than 200 million years by adapting to its environment.

The research program utilizes four interwoven thrusts, including the ultrastructural and mechanical investigation of these organisms, development of mathematical models of their structures and new design, fabrication of biomimetic structures that emulate features found in both natural systems and theory-based designs in order to underpin their tough, strong structures. Finally, the team will conduct comparative evolutionary analyses to pinpoint design principles that are unique and those, which have arisen convergently.

Michael Pazzani, UC Riverside’s vice chancellor for research and economic development, whose office provided $70,000 in seed funding to Kisailus and Hayashi for their joint research, is pleased that a UC Riverside professor is leading this project with experts from some of the nation’s finest research institutions.

“This multidisciplinary research will highlight the value in biologically-inspired materials allowing the next generation of materials development to take advantage of what nature has known for millennia,” Pazzani said.



UC Riverside Professor to lead Graphene Symposium

Symposium OO: De Novo Graphene, which is part of the 2014 MRS (Materials Research Society) , is set for April 21 to 25

cengizCengiz Ozkan, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering, will be organizing “Symposium OO: De Novo Graphene,” which is part of the 2014 MRS (Materials Research Society)Spring Meeting and Exhibit.

The MRS Meeting is expected to draw over 6,000 people. De Novo Graphene is the sixth symposium Ozkan has organized for MRS, and will run for five days to highlight recent breakthroughs in the nucleation and growth mechanisms; electronic, electrochemical, mechanical and thermal properties; manufacturing challenges; characterization and modeling of graphene materials; hierarchical architectures of graphene incorporating tunability and mutability in design, and integration with organic and inorganic materials and devices.

The list of more than 25 invited speakers for De Novo Graphene includes Alexander Balandin, a UC Riverside electrical engineering professor.  Also, a number of UCR graduate students will be attending with contributed talks and poster presentations at the symposium.

MSE Faculty named MRS Medalist 

  • balandin The Materials Research Society (MRS) has named  Alexander A. Balandin, University of California, Riverside, as the 2013 MRS Medalist. Balandin is recognized for his "discovery of the extraordinary high intrinsic thermal conductivity of graphene, development of an original optothermal measurement technique for investigation of thermal properties of graphene, and theoretical explanation of the unique features of the phonon transport in graphene." Balandin received his award at the 2013 MRS Fall Meeting on Wednesday, December 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.  The MRS Medal is awarded for a specific outstanding recent discovery or advancement that has a major impact on the progress of a materials-related field. 
  • Balandin received his M.S. degree in applied physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. Following his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Los Angeles, Balandin joined the University of California, Riverside, faculty in 1999 and founded the Materials Science and Engineering Program in 2006. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Optical Society of America, and the International Society for Optical Engineering. He is a recipient of the 2011 Pioneer of Nanotechnology Award for his research on emerging nanoscale devices.




News Highlights 

Pressure Cooking to Improve Electric Car Batteries

By creating nanoparticles with controlled shape, engineers believe smaller, more powerful and energy efficient batteries can be built.  

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have redesigned the component materials of the battery in an environmentally friendly way to solve some of these problems. By creating nanoparticles with a controlled shape, they believe smaller, more powerful and energy efficient batteries can be built. By modifying the size and shape of battery components, they aim to reduce charge times as well.

“This is a critical, fundamental step in improving the efficiency of these batteries,” said David Kisailus, an associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering and lead researcher on the project.  Link to UCR News


The annual rankings by Leiden University in the Netherlands ranked UC Riverside's programs in engineering and natural sciences 10th in the world, ahead of institutions such as Princeton, Yale, and Caltech. The Leiden rankings objectively measure scientific impact based on research citations and collaboration worldwide.Link to UCR News


Professor Co-edits Book on Graphene

Alexander Balandin co-edits and co-authors a chapter in the book about the novel synthetic material

A University of California, Riverside professor of Materials Science and Engineering has co-edited a book about innovative technologies using graphene.

Alexander A. Balandin, who is also the founding chair of the materials science and engineering program at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, co-edited the book “Innovative Graphene Technologies: Evaluation and Applications, Volume 2,” with Atul Tiwari, a research faculty member at the University of Hawaii. It was published bySmithers Rapra Publishing.

Balandin has also contributed a chapter on thermal properties and applications of graphene, which was co-authored with Denis Nika, an associate professor and chair of the physics department in Moldova State University. The unique heat conduction properties of graphene were discovered at UCR. This year, professor Balandin will receive the MRS Medal for his experimental and theoretical work on thermal properties of graphene. Link to UCR News Release


Dean Reza Abbaschian Honored at Materials Science and Technology Conference
Link to UCR News Release

Five UC Riverside researchers are part of $40 million project to develop materials and structures to enable more energy efficient computers and cell phones


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