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Carl Frick, Ph.D.

University of Wyoming

Mechanical Engineering

Dept. 3295

1000 E. University

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307.766.4068


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Current projects primarily focus on linking mechanical behavior of materials with the underlying microstructure. Specific investigations include:

3D Printed Ceramics
Liquid Crystalline Elastomers
Nickel-Titanium (NiTi) Shape-Memory Surfaces
Porous Spinal Fusion Cages
Stainless-Steel Domes
Two-Phase Hydrogels

3D Printed Ceramics

Additive manufacturing is currently a hotbed of research and industrial applications, yet some materials, such as ceramics, remain complex to manufacture through these techniques. Three-dimensional printing (3D printing) offers unique advantages in rapid fabrication of complicated geometries not possible with conventional machining as well as the customization of specific shapes for defined needs and applications. Pre-ceramic polymers (PCPs) are a class of polymers which once heated, or pyrolyzed, form a ceramic material from the polymer backbone. PCPs formed by 3D printing have only recently been examined and create the possibility for a multitude printed of carbide ceramic structures. In addition to carbides, ceramic matrix composites utilizing a range of reinforcements (from carbon nanotubes to WC nanoparticles) are investigated for feasibility in use for additive manufacturing. This research focuses on developing functional 3D printable resins which may be pyrolyzed to form a ceramic or ceramic matrix composites. In addition to characterizing the pyrolyzed ceramics chemically and mechanically, the pre-ceramic (or green) polymer is also of interest to increase the understanding of what qualities and characteristics are desirable in 3D printable resins.

Liquid Crystalline Elastomers

Liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs) possess physical properties that change drastically within a range of temperatures due to a liquid crystalline phase transition. The materials act like conventional rubbers in the high temperature isotropic phase and anisotropic elastomers in the low temperature nematic phase. The phase change gives rise to unique mechanical damping and large thermomechanical actuation. Our research focuses on the fabrication of solid and porous LCEs and the unique mechanical phenomena associated with these materials.

Nickel-Titanium (NiTi) Shape-Memory Surfaces

Through an appropriate combination of deformation processing and/or heat treatment, the shape recovery may be trained to elicit a two-way shape-memory effect (TWSME). This effect is characterized by the memorization of both a high and low temperature shape, allowing for spontaneous change between the two shapes as a function of cycling temperature. Unfortunately, the use of the TWSME in applications is greatly under-utilized. This is due to the relatively complex microstructural interactions which govern TWSME behavior. The objective of our research is to establish a fundamental understanding of the relationship between underlying deformed microstructure and the martensitic phase transformation in shape-memory alloys. Using the insights gained, we will build upon this, opening the possibility of switchable surface structures which may be used for their adhesive, tribological, or reflective properties.

Porous Spinal Fusion Cages

Poly(para-phenylene) (PPP) represents an emerging class of thermoplastic polymer that offers great potential as a load-bearing biomaterial. Due to its high strength and stiffness, approximately an order of magnitude greater than traditional biomedical grade polymers, PPP can be specifically tailored to match the modulus of trabecular bone while optimizing the porosity necessary for successful osteointegration. Our research has been the first to develop a hot-press powder sintering technique for manufacture of tensile and compression samples, and to characterize the basic mechanical behavior of PPP over a large range of porosity and pore size, and also characterize the fatigue behavior of both porous and bulk PPP.

Stainless-Steel Domes

Tactile dome switches, used in a variety of products, are selected based on characteristics of their mechanical behavior and generally fail in fatigue. From a design perspective, it is desirable to have the capability to calculate both dome force-displacement behavior and dome fatigue life. To this end, our research has focused on developing a finite element model for predicting both dome behavior during loading and dome fatigue life was developed. Material characterization was conducted to inform the modeling process. A simulation of the dome manufacturing process was developed, motivated by the strong influence of residual stresses and hardening on dome behavior. Finally,output from the simulation of dome actuation was used to calculate dome fatigue life.

Two-Phase Hydrogels

This ongoing work focuses on composite hydrogels for tissue engineering applications. The overarching premise is to independently tailor diffusivity and mechanical properties. Various fabrication techniques for hydrogels composed of two separate phases which drastically vary in terms of mechanical and diffuse properties have been explored. In addition, the effects of various fabrication methods and materials compositions on the mechanical behavior of the composite are being studied. The long time goal is to develop an in situ polymerizable articular cartilage tissue scaffold, which simultaneously possess high-diffusivity and optimum mechanical properties.

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