College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Sid Pathak receives NSF CAREER award for studying pseudomorphic phases in multilayered nano-laminates

Portrait of Sid Pathak.

Department of Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Sid Pathak has been selected for a 2024 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award for his project, “Towards a Fundamental Understanding of Interface Strain-Driven Pseudomorphic Phase Transformations in Multilayered Nanocomposites.”

CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards given to early-career faculty. The support aims to build a firm foundation for leadership in integrating research and education. Pathak will receive $600,000 to develop and execute his project over the next five years.

Pathak’s CAREER project will explore advancements to the thin film synthesis technique to obtain a fundamental understanding of the pseudomorphic phase transformation and the resultant properties of the pseudomorphic phases in a multilayered architecture.

Under the proper environmental conditions, deposits of one material on another can have the structure of the substrate rather than the usual structure of the overgrowth material. Such overgrowths in the abnormal crystal structure are termed pseudomorphic phases. These phases have desirable structural and functional properties and show high stability under pressure, temperature, and strain rate extremes. 

Pathak’s project will utilize a novel combination of an integrated atomic layer and a physical vapor deposition (ALD+PVD) platform that allows the microstructure of nanolaminates to be precisely tailored by combining nanometer (10-9 meter) thick PVD films intercalated with stable interfaces of angstrom (Å, 10-10 meter)-thick ALD layers. This is the only lab-scale system of its kind in the U.S. capable of combining these two deposition methods without the need of ever breaking vacuum or moving substrates during deposition.

The project will allow students to collaborate with both national and international laboratories to develop new science and infrastructure within the laboratories and increase institutional and jurisdictional research capacities. It will emphasize workforce development at various educational levels, from K-12 outreach to undergraduate and graduate mentorship.

This project is made possible with the support of the Advanced Manufacturing program and Metals and Metallic Nanostructures program from NSF.