Energy-Related Ceramics and Composites

Capturing particulates from diesel engine exhausts, providing channels for gaseous transport in fuel cells, and insulating sensitive components from temperature extremes all rely on porous materials. Each of these applications requires porous networks with distinctive size, shape, roughness, and connectivity to control their flow, filtering, or insulating capabilities. Many energy-related applications also require materials (ceramics) that maintain strength and robustness to temperatures in excess of 1500°C. Advanced ceramics surpass conventional materials for high-temperature applications. Our work focuses on the use of ceramic slurries and preceramic polymers to create high-temperature porous ceramics by freeze casting. By developing an understanding of the solidification and, in the case of preceramic polymers, the chemistry of these freeze-casting systems, creating versatile pore architectures is possible, thereby expanding the use of porous ceramics for environmental and energy needs.

A key aspect of a porous solid is the quantification of its pore network as characterized by pore size, morphology, tortuosity and connectivity. We aim to gain an understanding of the network as well as how pores are formed, stabilized or eliminated during processing and in use by coupling synchrotron-based characterization methods, specifically X-ray computed tomography, with small-angle X-ray scattering and various microscopies. Both 2D and 3D visualization techniques aid in interpretation. These same techniques also allow characterization of the analogous 3D-interconnected electrolyte network in Li-ion batteries in order to visualize and quantify degradation mechanisms.

Thermal and environmental barrier coatings for power generation components are needed for enhanced efficiency in the next generation of engines such as industrial gas turbines. Ceramic coatings allow reduced cooling or increased combustion temperatures. Likewise, they serve as environmental barriers to keep corrosive species from the underlying component. Our work focuses on the characterization of plasma-sprayed coatings using the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory to understand residual stresses and phase evolution during thermal cycling. Both stress and chemistry can have important influences on coating stability, and hence, component lifetime.

Art/Science Connections

Scientific research on the visual arts in the US is typically conducted in a few dozen museums or cultural institutions with the appropriate facilities and expertise. However, given the nature of problems associated with the study and preservation of cultural heritage objects, these are opportunities that naturally inspire scientists and engineers beyond the museum. For example, polymer scientists can see the similarities in the curing of artists’ paints with technological coatings. Chemists can bring new analytical techniques to the identification of pigments especially difficult to discern. Electrical engineers with expertise in digital imaging can reveal pentimenti in works of art. Materials scientists can unearth the sources of color in carved minerals. Our involvement with the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) provides opportunities to pursue such research.
Group News
January 2017: Professor Faber visited collaborator Dr. Tobias Fey at the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg and presented a seminar, "Probing Pore Space: Creating and Characterizing Porous Ceramics." The collaboration is supported by BaCaTeC, the Bavaria California Technology Center.
November 2016: Professor Faber presented the Materials Science and Engineering Distinguished Scholar Lecture at Arizona State University. The lecture was entitled "Probing Pore Space: Creating and Characterizing Porous Ceramics."
October 2016: Martin Stumpf, PhD student at the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, visited Caltech and gave a seminar on "Crack healing properties of MAX phases for the fabrication of reusable ceramic composites." Martin's visit was supported through BaCaTeC, the Bavaria California Technology Center.
October 2016: Neal Brodnik presented a paper - "Additive Manufacturing of Composites with Anisotropic Heterogeneities" - at MS&T 2016. Co-authors were Chun-Jen Hsueh, Kaushik Battacharya, and Guruswami Ravichandran and Katherine Faber. Abstract
October 2016: Putt Naviroj presented a paper - "Ceramics with Unique Pore Structures via Freeze Casting of Preceramic Polymers" - at MS&T 2016. Co-authors were Paolo Colombo (University of Padova) and Katherine Faber. Abstract
September 2016: Summer '15 student, Carl Keck, from Choate Rosemary Hall has returned this fall as a Caltech undergraduate. Welcome back, Carl!
September 2016: Welcome to new graduate student, Ben Herren, from Boise State University.
September 2016: Welcome to Rafael Cabezas Rodríguez, a visiting student researcher from the University of Seville, Spain.
August 2016: Professor Faber presented a talk entitled "Probing pore space: Pore network control in directional freeze casting of preceramic polymers" at the International Congress on Ceramics 6 in Dresden, Germany.
August 2016: Alum Dr. Daniel Boss (Northwestern PhD, '97) paid a visit - Dan was recently promoted to Senior Vice President for Research & Development at GAF in Parsippany, NJ.
June 2016: Welcome to our SURF program students HyeJoon Lee (Caltech), Melody Wang (MIT), and Tim Ekeh (Cambridge)!
June 2016: Sarah Miller successfully completed her PhD at Northwestern University with the defense of her dissertation, “Directional Freeze Casting of Porous Ceramics: Effects of Processing Parameters on Pore Network Characteristics.”
May 2016: Neal Brodnik successfully passed his PhD candidacy exam.
April 2016: Professor Faber was an invited speaker at ICMCTF ’16 in San Diego, CA, presenting “Internal Stresses in Environmental and Thermal Barriers.” Abstract
April 2016: Professor Faber presented the seminar “Barriers to Efficiency: Internal Stresses and Phase Evolution in Multiphase Ceramic Coatings for Gas Turbine Engines” at UCSD’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
April 2016: Professor Faber presented “Where Art Meets Science: Solving Art’s Mysteries” at the San Jose Museum of Art for the Northern California Associates of California Institute of Technology.
March 2016: Amanda Childers, et al., published an article, Interfacial Frictional Stresses and Fracture Toughness of Biomorphic Graphite/Copper Interfaces, in Materials Letters. doi
March 2016: Professor Faber presented an invited lecture, “Watching Paint Dry: Assessing the Curing and Aging for Modern Oil-based Paints” at the 251st American Chemical Society Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA. Abstract
February 2016: Zhao Liu, et al., published an article, Three-Phase 3D Reconstruction of a LiCoO2 Cathode via FIB-SEM Tomography, in Microscopy and Microanalysis. doi
February 2016: Visiting post-doc Lucienne Buannic joined the Faber Group from CIC EnerginGUNE, Miñano, Spain. Lucy will be at Caltech for 5 months studying gelcasting and freeze casting processes.
January 2016: Professor Paolo Colombo of the University of Padova visited our group at Caltech, January 28 through 30, 2016. He presented a seminar entitled "Additive Manufacturing of Ceramics using Inorganic Polymers"
January 2016: Matt Johnson presented a paper - "Non-equilibrium Phases via Plasma Spray – Physical Vapor Deposition" - at the 40th International Conference on Advanced Ceramics and Composites '16. Co-authors were Giacomo Koszegi (Caltech, SURF), Bryan Harder (NASA Glenn Research Center) and Katherine Faber.
January 2016: Putt Naviroj presented a paper - "Complex Freeze-cast Pore Structures and their Effects on Permeability" - at the 40th International Conference on Advanced Ceramics and Composites '16. Co-authiors were Paolo Colombo (University of Padova) and Katherine Faber.
January 2016: Putt Naviroj received a travel grant from the Engineering Ceramics Division of ACerS to attend the 40th International Conference on Advanced Ceramics and Composites '16 in Daytona Beach, FL. Congratulations, Putt!
January 2016: Fabian Stolzenburg, et al., published an article, The influence of calciumemagnesiumealuminosilicate deposits on internal stresses in Yb2Si2O7 multilayer environmental barrier coatings, in Acta Materialia. doi
December 2015: Fabian Stolzenburg, et al., published an article, The interaction of calcium-magnesium-aluminosilicate with ytterbium silicate environmental barrier materials, in Surface and Coatings Technology. doi
November 2015: Sarah Miller will publish her first first-authored paper, Freeze-Cast Alumina Pore Networks: Effects of Freezing Conditions and Dispersion Medium, in the Journal of the European Ceramic Society. doi
October 2015: Gulsu Simsek, et al., published an article, On-Site Identification of Early Bottger Red Stoneware Using Portable XRF/Raman Instruments: 2, Glaze and Gilding Analysis, in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society. doi
October 2015: Professor Faber will receive the John Jeppson Award from the American Ceramic Society recognizing significant scientific, technical or engineering achievements in ceramics.
July 2015: Dr. Zhao Liu has joined Cabot Microelectronics as a project engineer.
July 2015: Madeleine Wright successfully completed her M.S. degree at Northwestern University with her thesis entitled Nanoindentation of Artists' Paints. Madeleine is now employed at Abbott.
July 2015: Prof. Antonio Ramírez de Arellano López (Visiting Scholar, 1997, Eshbach Visiting Scholar, 1999, Northwestern), former Rector of the University of Seville, has been appointed Minister of Economy of the Andalusian Regional Government of Spain.
July 2015: Zhao Liu successfully defended his PhD thesis at Northwestern University, Quantitative Analysis of Three-dimensional Microstructures of Li-ion Batteries. Congratulations, Dr. Zhao!
June 2015: Welcome to our summer students: Ellen Chuan (Caltech), Giacomo Koszegi (Caltech), and Carl Keck (Choate Rosemary Academy)
June 2015: Professor Faber gave one of the keynote lectures at McMat, the ASME mechanics and materials meeting in Seattle, WA. Her talk was entitled "Probing Pore Space: Methods for Creating and Characterizing Porous Ceramics.
May 2015: Putt Naviroj published his first paper as first author: "Directionally aligned macro porous SiOC via freeze casting of pre-ceramic polymers" in the Journal of the European Ceramic Society. doi
May 2015: Zhao Liu received the Best Poster Award at the 2015 Hilliard Symposium, Northwestern, for his work Three-Phase 3D Reconstruction of Li-Ion Batter Electrodes via FIB-SEM Tomography"
May 2015: Professor Faber presented "Watching Paint Dry and Colors Fade: The Intersection of Art and Science" as part of the Ernest C. Watson Lecture Series
March 2015: Putt Naviroj successfully passed his qualifying exam.
March 2015: Professor Faber presented a seminar talk at the Department of Materials Science, UCLA.
February 2015: Professor Faber presented a talk on Materials Science in Art Conservation at the Materials Research Outreach Program Symposium, UCSB.
January 2015: Sarah Miller and Putt Naviroj presented papers at The American Ceramic Society's ICACC in Daytona Beach, Florida.
November 2014: Professor Faber was featured in Caltech's New Faculty Profile series. Read the interview here.
November 2014: Jennifer Mawdsley (PhD 2000, Northwestern) has joined the staff of Corning, Inc as a Materials Engineer.
October 2014: Professor Faber presented a talk on naturally aging paint films at MS&T, Pittsburg, PA. Abstract.
October 2014: Professor Faber was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. More info is available here.
October 2014: Construction is complete and the Faber Lab at Caltech is open!
September 2014: Bryan Harder (PhD 2009, Northwestern) received the Early Career Achievement Medal for his exceptional contributions to NASA's Aeronautics goals by developing new environmental barrier coating systems for ceramic turbine engine materials. NASA's announcement.
August 2014: Neil Brodnik successfully defended his MS thesis at Northwestern. Neil will move to Caltech to pursue his PhD in Materials Science.
August 2014: Matt Johnson (PhD 2012, Northwestern) joined Caltech as the Faber Group Lab Manager and Senior Research Scientist.
August 2014: Vikram Kaul (PhD 2007, Northwestern) joined Kimberly-Clark as a Senior Analytical Scientist.
June 2014: Amanda Childers successfully defended her PhD thesis at Northwestern. She recently joined Honeywell Aerospace as an R&D Scientist.
June 2014: Todd Steyer, PhD, Northwestern University, 1993, was promoted to Senior Manager of Metallic and Ceramic Materials and Processes at The Boeing Company.
May 2014: Jennifer Su Saak, PhD, Northwestern University, 2001, founded Traliance, a consulting company that provides export controls compliance services.