University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator


Big Question: Harnessing Complexity: Evolutionary design of disordered materials

University of Chicago Big Questions

Principal Investigators: Heinrich Jaeger, Physics ; Sid Nagel, Physics

Funding Type: Vision

Focus Area: Complexity

Big Idea: Structural disorder gives rise to a vastly richer set of possibilities for tuning a material than is available with ordered systems; recent research has shown that, unlike in ordered systems, local interactions in disordered materials can be tuned independently of each other to control the global response of a system.  However, such a relationship is often too complex to be practical. While disordered materials possess many unique and highly desirable properties, the complexity arising from disorder can often form a bottleneck for fruitful applications.  How does one manipulate disorder to produce the type of material and the properties that are desired?  In this BIG project, we strive to harness structural complexity and combine it with principles across different fields, from biology to physics to architecture, to design adaptive systems that are robust and tolerant to changes in the environment within which they function.  This project was first funded as a BIG Seed Project in Spring 2014, then grew into Vision for Winter 2014.

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