Ernest Dell Butcher Professor of Engineering
Dr. Thomas and his students carry out research on photonics, phononics, interference lithography and mechanical behavior of microtrusses, polymer physics and engineering of the mechanical and optical properties of block copolymers, liquid crystalline polymers, and hybrid organic-inorganic nanocomposites. One area of special interest is photonics and the fabrication of polymeric photonic crystals using self-assembly, especially with block copolymers, and holographic interference lithography. For these studies, large emphasis is placed on the understanding of complex relations between the lattice symmetry and optical properties of periodic structures. Another area of particular focus is phononics. Just as periodic variation in refractive index opens gaps in photonic band structure of a medium, periodic variation in density and sound velocities may create band-gaps for mechanical waves. His group is exploring the way light and sound propagate in quasicrystalline photonic and phononic structures. This opens the possibility to control properties and propagation of light and sound in dual band gap structures. Other major topics in Dr. Thomas’ research are structured polymers. His structured materials research concentrates on enhancing our ability to fabricate complex structures with characteristic length in submicron and nanometer range in order to create materials with superior properties that can be tailored to a particular application. Understanding the influence of composition and processing conditions on the resultant microstructure of polymers and how this determines the properties is the central part of his polymer morphology research.