Courses Taught/Developed by Prof. Whitacre:

1) MSE -100 - Engineering the Materials of the Future

Materials form the foundation for all engineering applications. Advances in materials and their processing are driving all technologies, including the broad areas of nano-, bio-, energy, and electronic (information) technology. Performance requirements for future applications require that engineers continue to design both new structures and new processing methods in order to engineer materials having improved properties. Applications such as optical communication, tissue and bone replacement, fuel cells, and information storage, to name a few, exemplify areas where new materials are required to realize many of the envisioned future technologies. This course provides an introduction to how science and engineering can be exploited to design materials for many applications. The principles behind the design and exploitation of metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites are presented using examples from everyday life, as well as from existing, new, and future technologies. A series of laboratory experiments are used as a hands-on approach to illustrating modern practices used in the processing and characterization of materials and for understanding and improving materials' properties.

2)  Materials for Energy Storage

This course examines functional materials used to store and release electrical energy.  An overview of the thermodynamics of power, energy and energy storage will be used to motivate subsequent investigations into the dominant methods in use today: electrochemical, electrical, and electromechanical (chemical/combustion and nuclear processes will not be covered).  For each sub-topic, the physical and chemical mechanisms exploited will be discussed, followed by a detailed exposition of specific materials functionality and device applications.  Emphasis will be placed on surface/bulk interactions in solids, catalysis, and chemisorption.   Focus will be given to several relevant emerging technologies:  Li-ion batteries, hydrogen-based fuel cells (polymer proton exchange membrane and solid-oxide based systems), and large capacitors (electrolytic, dielectric, pseudo, and hybrid). 

3) Energy and Materials in Policy Making

In all energy technologies, materials properties and functionality often find themselves at the center of academic, economic, and political discourse.  By connecting the principles of materials science and engineering with the broader concepts involved with energy systems, policy crafting, and environmental impact, students from a range of backgrounds will gain a broadened perspective that will be useful in multiple disciplines.

After 4 lectures of introductory and contextual content, various major energy technologies will be examined with three levels of consideration: (a) an overview of the technology from a systems and policy perspective, (b) an examination of the key role(s) that materials play in the technologies (from a processing, properties, and functionality vantage), and (c) a study of the relationships between materials innovations and socio-political, economic, and environmental outcomes.  In a final project, students will be encouraged to compare the strengths and weaknesses of a alternative/clean energy technology from both a technical and policy vantage.  This will be accomplished in part through a quantitative analysis of an energy (sub) system that is in some way strongly correlated to materials performance or property. 

4) Energy Policy

In this course, a survey of the relevant recent Energy Policy literature is undertaken. An emphasis will be placed on studying the interactions between technology, performance, cost, and government decision-making, with an eye towards placing specific renewable technologies in the context of policy decisions. Much of this class will be discussion driven, and significant reading will be required.  Each class will consists of 30 to 60 minutes of instructor led exposition or lecture, followed by student led discussions on assigned readings.  

5) Materials and Society

Materials functionality and processing underpins most of the products produced by the industrialized world. To this end, we will deeply examine the relationship between materials properties, economics, and the commercialization process for a range of applications. Systems-level analysis will be used in examining the design decision- making process, and the impact that that different approaches at a materials level have on product design, cost, lifetime, and performance will be discussed. The interaction that these processes have on policy making and the subsequent societal-level impact will also be addressed.
The content of this class is broken up into 4 main topics, each with several classes devoted to them: (1)  Context: history and flow of materials, (2)  The economics and business of materials, (3)  Aspects of materials design and selection and system integration, (4)  Changes in the supply chain: the effects of business (economics), government, 
environment, and materials themselves.

6) Invention & Innovation for Materials Intensive Technologies

This course is intended to instill a sense of how technologies that depend deeply on materials properties and performance are conceived and brought to market. The students will be exposed to a variety of formalized invention and innovation processes/concepts and will be asked to complete projects that will pull from the full range of their engineering training.  It is intended for seniors who are eager to creatively apply their learned knowledge skills, and who are interested in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The first half focuses on the process of invention for devices and technologies that are enabled by materials functionality.  This will start by providing historical context and addressing the questions “What is invention?”  This will be followed by an assessment of various systematic methods by which the process of invention is practiced, with a specific focus on materials intensive devices and products.  The Class will culminate with an invention-based project that will require the students to combine both creative and technical skills/knowledge to come up with an invention and related development plan.

The second half of the course examines innovation theory in the context of materials intensive technologies.  Specifically, the concepts of incumbency, disruption, value chain, supply chain, funding models and paths to market will be addressed.  In this class, significant time will be dedicated to covering the impact of international market and technology development.