By combining NIST's expertise and experience in materials science, materials characterization, reference data, and standards with leading research capabilities for designing, producing, and processing advanced materials, the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence—awarded in December 2013 to the Center for Hierarchical Materials and Design (CHiMaD) will develop the next generation of computational tools, databases, and experimental techniques to enable "Materials by Design," one of the primary goals of the administration's Materials Genome Initiative (MGI).
CHiMaD is focusing these techniques on a particularly difficult challenge, the discovery and design of novel "hierarchical materials." Most materials of technological interest are hierarchical, exploiting distinct structural details at various scales from the atomic on up to achieve special, enhanced properties. An example in nature of a hierarchical material is bone, a composite of mineral and protein at the molecular level assembled into microscopic fibrils that in turn are assembled into hollow fibers and on up to the highly complex material that is "bone." Current research spans metals, polymers, biological materials, with applications in areas such as electronics, energy, aerospace, and heath care.
CHiMaD is a consortium led by Northwestern University that partners with and enhances a number of existing NIST materials and data science programs. Other members of the CHiMaD consortium include the University of Chicago, the Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering (a partnership between Northwestern and the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory) and the Computation Institute (a partnership between the University of Chicago and Argonne.) The consortium also plans to work closely with QuesTek Innovations, a small business spin-off of Northwestern; ASM International, a well-known professional society of materials scientists; and Fayetteville State University.