ME professor earns NSF CAREER award to research innovative material response modification

Published: Mar 2, 2023 12:00 PM

By Jeremy Henderson

Through a highly competitive program under its Division of Materials Research, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Siyuan Dai, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, $720,000 for a CAREER project aimed at developing innovative methods for material response modification benefitting a variety of applications from computer science to biomedicine.

“I am very excited to receive this award,” Dai said. "The proposed research will establish a conceptually new material engineering methodology to establish distinctive material properties for a range of functionalities. It will fill the scientific gap of spatial heterogeneity of isotopes.”

Though isotopes exist everywhere, they are always evenly distributed in space.

“I want to reposition isotopes and spatially engineer them for new material properties," Dai said.

To do so, he will use state-of-the-art techniques to build van der Waals heterostructures comprised of various monoisotopic components in order to establish advances over current isotope-homogenous material systems. Scanning probe nano-imaging, nano-spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy are used to investigate propagating phonon polaritons, phonon dynamics and interlayer phonons in these heterostructures.

Dai said the project's prototype heterostructures can be modified to precisely manage nanoscale energy capacity, electromagnetic wave transmission and photonic density of states for utilization in biosensing, energy transfer, infrared light sources and quantum information and technologies.

"In addition, it will offer excellent training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students on experiments and simulations of light and waves at the nanoscale, and nanomaterial fabrication," Dai said. "The planned outreach and summer research activities can provide K-12 students and high-school teachers with hands-on research experience and teaching units for their curriculum."

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson,, 334-844-3591
Siyuan Dai

Siyuan Dai

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