Faster analysis of materials

In work that could radically change how engineers search for new materials, MIT researchers have developed a way to test the mechanical properties of almost 600 different materials in a matter of days – a task that would have taken weeks using conventional techniques. The approach of combinatorial arrays and miniturization of analysis and testing systems is one that will be enhanced by molecular nanotechnology.

The new process could lead to the faster identification of dental implants that don’t crack, tank armor that’s more resistant to missiles, and other materials dependent on mechanical properties like stiffness and toughness.

The trick? The team, led by Assistant Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, miniaturized the process.

Van Vliet, MSE graduate student Catherine A. Tweedie, research associate Daniel G. Anderson of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Institute Professor Robert Langer describe the work in the cover story of the November issue of Advanced Materials.

In 2004 Anderson, Langer and a colleague reported using robotic technology to deposit more than 1,700 spots of biomaterial (roughly 500 different materials in triplicate) on a glass slide measuring only 25 millimeters wide by 75 millimeters long. Twenty such slides, or microarrays, could be made in a single day.

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