Assistant Professor Tevis Jacobs Receives $305,000 from the National Science Foundation

Tevis Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and material science at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to observe and measure nanoscale contact inside of an electron microscope-enabling for the first time visualization of the atomic structure of the component materials while they are in contact. The team's project will measure surface roughness of tiny particles and characterize the fundamental relationship between adhesion and roughness at small sizes.

His research focuses on the atomic-scale processes governing the mechanics of materials and interfaces at the nanoscale. Jacobs wants to develop a model to show what circumstances, like that dry day, affect adhesion on this small scale, using microscopy and mechanical testing and scanning techniques. The team's project will measure surface roughness of tiny particles and characterize the fundamental relationship between adhesion and roughness at small sizes.  The overall goal of Jacobs' research group is to develop quantitative, fundamental and predictive understanding of contact behavior at all scales, which will enable tailored properties for advanced technologies.

“You can see this when you grind coffee,” Jacobs said. “The whole beans don’t stick to the side of the grinder, but a fine grind will stick to everything, especially on a dry day.”

Jacobs and his team investigate the physics, chemistry, and materials science of nanoscale devices during contact. Technologically, nanoscale contacts are found both in advanced microelectronic devices, as well as in emerging nanoprobe-based technologies used to make those devices. By using a nanoprobe to make contact, device manufacturers can measure and manipulate behavior down to the atomic scale.

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