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Villanova Professor and Students “Bang Heads” for Nanotechnology Research

Dr. Gang Feng, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Villanova University, is using advanced materials measurement technology to understand concussions, energy storage, and more. Dr. Feng leads the Nano-Bio-Mechanical Characterization Lab  where the focus is on understanding the mechanical behavior of nanomaterials, biomaterials, and biosystems through experimental techniques and theoretical modeling. It has exciting potential by characterizing and understanding the mechanical behavior of nanomaterials and how nanostructured composites can be reinforced.

Figure 1: Dr. Feng with his students

Concussion Detection

Concussions are a serious issue in many aspects of life including contact sports, military operations, and blunt force trauma. Dr. Feng and his team have collaborated with other universities to discover innovative ways to characterize the deformation of nanoporous materials that change color when force is applied. Using some of Keysight’s Nano measurement solutions the collaborative team can acquire quantitative information about the force applied to the nanoporous polymer and the corresponding change of wavelength and color. Imagine if a patch of this polymer could be attached to a football or racing helmet, or other military gear, so that a doctor could see the impact force immediately and have some measure of that force based on the change of color. This could greatly speed up the medical diagnosis and recovery treatment for individuals afflicted with concussions in certain scenarios. This research exemplifies Villanova’s traditional approach of excellence and distinction in the discovery, dissemination, and application of knowledge.

Figure 2: Scientific detail found in the paper: Mechanochromic Sensors: Elastoplastic Inverse Opals as Power-Free Mechanochromic Sensors for Force Recording

Dr. Feng provides this unique testing capability to other universities whose research focuses on the material itself. Additional details are available in the article, “New Helmets Could Help Doctors ‘See’ Concussions on the Football Field. 

Thermal Energy Storage and Optical Materials

Thermal energy storage is another area where understanding the behavior of nanostructured materials can provide better product performance. If a smartphone or electronic device could be protected from overheating by storing heat, that would provide great advantages, e.g., effectively much higher computing power to the user. Dr. Feng and his team have collaborated with others at Villanova to use the Keysight Nano Indenter G200 to study the mechanical behavior of nanostructure composites used in optical and thermal storage applications. Furthermore, Dr. Feng and his team is also working to create a technique to accurately measure the behavior of individual particles to help improve the material design which enhances performance and reliability. Previous methods of analysis have lacked the desired level of precision; however, these new methodologies for accurately measuring particle behavior, can have a lasting positive impact on material design and applications.

Figure 3: Scientific detail found in this paper: Reinforcement and shape stabilization of phase-change material via graphene oxide aerogel

Ph.D. candidates, graduate and undergraduate students, visiting scholars, and even high school students  have the opportunity to work in Dr. Feng’s lab which offers a fantastic learning environment with industry-leading equipment like the high-precision Keysight 5500 Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). Another research area for Dr. Feng’s team focuses on measuring the boundary between new and old bone. Dr. Feng and the students were the first to measure the layer between new and old bone and identify the properties using the AFM. One of Dr. Feng’s students received the Outstanding Ph.D. Award and her research with Dr. Feng helped her obtain a faculty position at Valparaiso University .

Figure 4: Dr. Feng with his students

The research done by Dr. Feng is supported through the university, state, and national level including: National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant, a Nanotechnology Institute Grant, and a Villanova Research Summer Grant.

Other research areas for Dr. Feng’s team include:

  • Synthesis and characterization of Nanoparticle Thin Film (NTF)
  • Synthesis and characterization of energy storage materials with nanostructures
  • Characterization of individual nanomaterials (nanowires, nanotubes, nanoshells and nanoparticles)
  • Nanomechanical characterization and modeling of hard tissues
  • Fundamentals of small scale mechanical characterization

The students involved in these research areas graduate from Villanova with experience, enthusiasm, and industry-ready skills. Keysight is thrilled to partner with Villanova and Dr. Feng in this exciting research!

Figure 5: Dr. Feng with his students

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