MRS Bulletin

Elastic Strain Engineering

Elastic Strain Engineering

Elastic strain engineering for unprecedented materials properties

Ju Lia1, Zhiwei Shana2 and Evan Maa3

a1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA;

a2 Xi’an Jiaotong University, China;

a3 Johns Hopkins University, USA;


“Smaller is stronger.” Nanostructured materials such as thin films, nanowires, nanoparticles, bulk nanocomposites, and atomic sheets can withstand non-hydrostatic (e.g., tensile or shear) stresses up to a significant fraction of their ideal strength without inelastic relaxation by plasticity or fracture. Large elastic strains, up to ∼10%, can be generated by epitaxy or by external loading on small-volume or bulk-scale nanomaterials and can be spatially homogeneous or inhomogeneous. This leads to new possibilities for tuning the physical and chemical properties of a material, such as electronic, optical, magnetic, phononic, and catalytic properties, by varying the six-dimensional elastic strain as continuous variables. By controlling the elastic strain field statically or dynamically, a much larger parameter space opens up for optimizing the functional properties of materials, which gives new meaning to Richard Feynman’s 1959 statement, “there’s plenty of room at the bottom.”

Key Words:

  • nanostructure;
  • electronic structure;
  • devices;
  • microelectro-mechanical (MEMS);
  • optoelectronic