College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

NSF CAREER Award will support Secor lab develop multi-material additive manufacturing technologies for electronics

Ethan Secor

Ethan Secor

Ethan Secor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for research on additive manufacturing technologies for electronic materials.

The CAREER Award is the NSF’s most prestigious honor to support junior faculty.

Secor’s CAREER project is “Graded and Reliable Aerosol Deposition for Electronics (GRADE): Understanding Multi-Material Aerosol Jet Printing with In-Line Mixing.” The award’s total value is $621,008 beginning July 1, 2024 for an estimated five-year period.

Photo of equipment in Ethan Secor research lab.

Secor and his research team will advance new methods for high precision manufacturing of graded electronic materials using multi-material aerosol jet printing for patterning material gradients.

In this process, microscale droplets of different materials are mixed during printing to allow computer control over not just the geometry of a part, but the material composition at each location. The team will evaluate physical mechanisms that underpin quality and reliability in this process spanning the aerosol, liquid and colloid phases to understand the effects of materials chemistry, ink formulation, aerosol physics and print parameters on the mixing efficacy, uniformity and control. 

Secor’s team is pursuing the ability to tailor material composition in three dimensions. This will enable new opportunities to design and fabricate electronic sensors and circuits with improved reliability and functionality. 

Secor’s work also has broad applications across the aerospace, biomedical, automotive, energy and defense fields, in the context of hybrid electronics, including electromagnetic devices, electrochemistry, interfacial mechanics and biomimetic structures.

As part of his CAREER project, Secor will create interactive digital printing activities to engage 4th-5th grade students with science and engineering concepts. He’ll also incorporate game- and project-based learning in undergraduate manufacturing engineering courses to improve workforce development.

The project is funded by NSF’s Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI).

Secor holds a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Northwestern University and B.S. degrees in both chemistry and physics from Drake University. His research interests include advanced manufacturing, printed electronics, materials processing, and nanomaterials.