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Designing materials from macroscopic desired properties

  1. Oct 22, 2014 #1
    Does anyone know of a class or a text book or anywhere to start doing research on how to start off with a set of desired properties of a material and begin designing that material from a molecular level.

    A for instance would be say you want a material that is capable to separating oxygen from nitrogen. The relative atomic size of each molecule could be looked but then how do you figure out how to design a material that has tiny cavities that allow one to pass and not the other. Or if you wanted a material that responded to certian electromagnetic frequencies, etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2014 #2
    Thanks for the post! Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. Oct 28, 2014 #3
    So Please don't laugh or ban me but from the research I have done it is clear that the master chiefs armor is not metal. IT would be far to heavy and the thickness requirements to stop a 50 cal round unphased would be daunting. At work in my engineering group we concluded that such armor would not be metal. I am scouring the MIT open course ware courses regarding advanced polymers, synthetics etc. Where would someone even start if they wanted to design such a material?

    The matrial would have to have micro elasticity to be able to take repeated rounds with no damage, where the material "squished" just enough and then returned to its original form, but did not squich so much that it deformed. I have heard that if spider web could be synthesized such a material might be possible. They have been able to get the primary structure but not the secondary structure, of course that was over a decade ago when I read that.

    I am a chemical engineer and only a few classes short of also being an electrical engineer, I have 2 semesters of organic chemistry but no inorganic chemistry and I unfortunately did not take the advanced polymers class when I was in my undergrad (I instead took micro electronics).

    I think it would be pretty slick to be able to walk around a fire fight as if people were shooting paint balls at you.
  5. Oct 28, 2014 #4


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    I missed this thread previously. Separating oxygen from nitrogen is what keeps me alive, so I feel qualified to give a partial answer even though I'm not educated. The way that my oxygen generators (both 24/7 home unit and portable backpack) work is that they use zeolite (aluminasilicate) granules in a pressurized compartment to do the deed. I could explain further, but it will be easier to just hit Wikipedia with "oxygen concentrator".

    edit: You made your second post while I was composing this one. What the hell are you talking about? This sounds totally fictional, like a movie or game or something. What is a "Master Chief", and why would anyone care what happens to it? I'm perplexed.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
  6. Oct 28, 2014 #5


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    There is already a substantial amount of accumulated knowledge on how materials interact. Usually a material is selected based on the function, process and environment. Environment refers to physical environment, e.g., temperature, pressure, as well as chemical environment, e.g., air, water, helium, and one could also include radiation, e.g., solar or cosmic radiation or the radiation of a nuclear reactor.

    The fields of condensed matter and chemical physics cover much of what one needs to know about how to design and produce a material structure based on the function or process. I don't believe there is a textbook the covers the details, but there are often encyclopedias or monograms that address particular areas of application.

    In the example of separating oxygen from nitrogen, it would be matter of membrane technology.

  7. Oct 28, 2014 #6


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    A light piercing-resistant armor would require high strength, high strain to failure, high strength-to-weight ratio, relatively high viscosity or resistance to shear deformation, among other properties. It would have to be able to dissipate a lot of energy very quickly. It would also help to have a high melting point, which would imply a ceramic.

    One could look into Kevlar and related materials.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2016
  8. Oct 28, 2014 #7


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    Whoa now! Those links, particularly the 2nd, are extremely interesting. Unfortunately, either I'm missing something because of not fully understanding some of the terminology, or they left out a couple of details that could make a huge difference in my life. Specifically, how is the membrane technology utilized in real-world situations, and at how small a scale does it become impractical and/or useless?
    The reason that I ask is because it almost seems from the articles that I could be wearing a little carbon-sheet molecular sieve mask instead of lugging a $5,000 15kg machine around on my back all day.
  9. Nov 1, 2016 #8
    Hello, that is an excellent point, we use membrane separators for utility nitrogen to inert vessels to prevent an explosive mixture. So if you wanted to separate out the nobel gases and did not really care about the O2 and N2 would the primary separation be done in a fractionator column and then the nobel gases separated out via membrane or do the nobel gases have a wide enough boiling point to separate via distillation (except for argon which is right inbetween O2 and N2 for boiling point)? The key, I think would be getting the trace gases away from the N2 and O2 so that you were not dealing with huge volumes of N2 and O2 contaminating the process.
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