Nanotechnology has enabled the engineering of materials with improved physical properties, but these engineered systems lack the complex functionalities common in natural materials (like self-healing bone fractures). The Pikul Research Group group seeks to develop multifunctional nanoscale materials systems utilizing modern engineering and design principles to achieve mechanical and chemical properties not available in natural or man-made materials.
High strength inverse opal based cellular solids:
In this work, we fabricated nickel and rhenium nanocomposite inverse opal cellular solids with controllable specific moduli between 4 and 20 GPa / (Mg/m3) and specific strengths up to 230 MPa / (Mg/m3), which is greater than most high strength alloys including 4143 steel and Ti-6Al-4V. The nanoscale confinement of the strut diameter provides up to a 5X increase in the nickel strength over the bulk electrodeposited nickel. The inverse opal cellular solids were fabricated over 2 cm2 areas and made flexible or rigid based on the underlying substrate. The combination of self-assembly and near room temperature electrodeposition allow for scalable fabrication of the cellular solids with high specific strength and down to 10 nm control of structure and chemistry.
The strut size, solids volume fraction, and chemistry of inverse opal cellular solids can be tuned to control the specific modulus and specific strength. When compared to other engineered materials, nickel inverse opal cellular solids provide a unique combination of moderate specific stiffness similar to natural structural materials and high specific strengths greater than most engineering alloys.
 James H. Pikul, Sezer Ozerinc, Runyu Zhang, Paul V. Braun, and William P. King, “Micro architected porous material with high strength and controllable stiffness”, IEEE Micro Electro Mechanical Systems Conference 2016, Shanghai.