Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Mohsen Asle Zaeem received over $470,000 in renewed funding from the Department of Energy Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences program to study multiscale defect formation and domain switching behavior in shape memory functional oxides.

Shape memory functional oxides (SMFOs) with ferroelastic properties have outstanding mechanical and corrosion-resistant characteristics at high temperatures. They are ideal for thermal barrier coatings and surface erosion protections at extreme temperatures in gas turbine and jet engines, in power generation and propulsion, and in energy damping and harvesting.

Ferroelastic materials undergo recoverable phase transition or “switching” under a mechanical stimulus, which leads to advanced material properties. Ferroelasticity mediates most ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties; therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms of ferroelastic domain formation and switching to leverage multiferroic materials for advanced applications.

While previous studies focused on the mechanically activated martensitic transformation in SMFOs, ferroelastic ceramics display a completely different deformation behavior mediated by ferroelastic domain nucleation and ferroelastic domain switching. To date, existing experimental works could neither clearly explain the details of the deformation process of ferroelastic ceramics nor establish explicit relationships between ferroelastic domain nucleation/switching and other intrinsic texture and extrinsic features.

Asle Zaeem’s research will combine atomistic simulations and atomistic-informed phase-field modeling to conduct an in-depth study of ferroelastic domain nucleation and ferroelastic domain switching at nano- and microscale. The research will focus specifically on tetragonal-prime yttria stabilized zirconia (t′-YSZ).

The resulting advanced quantitative computational models will contribute to the fundamental understanding of domain nucleation and switching behavior and the defect formation process in SMFOs. The models will also enable SMFO property prediction, which is necessary for the future design of shape memory ferroic materials that can successfully function in thermo-electro-mechanical fatigue cycles.