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Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
208 North Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801


Office hours 8:30a - 5:00p


Phone: 217-333-3097
Fax: 217-244-6375


K. Jimmy  Hsia

K. Jimmy Hsia

Mechanical Science & Engineering
1250 Micro and Nanotechnology Lab
208 N. Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 244-4102
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Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering M.I.T. 1990

Research Statement:
Professor Hsia studies the way cracks form in brittle materials, such as glass and metal-particularly when they are subjected to heat or temperature change. His experiments with ordinary glass look at the way cracks spread through glass that has been heated and cooled.

After making an initial scratch at the edge, a small piece of glass is heated and then dipped in a cold bath. Varying the amount of heat and cold allows him to observe the way the cracks spread through the glass. When the difference between the hot and cold temperatures is relatively small, the cracks spread, or propagate, in a straight line. But, as the difference between the hot and cold temperatures grows, the driving force increases and the cracks start to form multiple cracks and/or waves.

Professor Hsia suspects that as the temperature gradient increases, the cracks dissipate the energy by forming new surfaces through the formation of multiple cracks and that the wave-like cracks that form at the highest temperature gradients are a way for the cracks to generate new surfaces with a single crack. Understanding how this occurs may provide clues that would allow stress-dissipating factors to be built into car windshields, so that cracks would be arrested rather than destroying the whole windshield.

In metals, Professor Hsia is studying the failure of thermal barrier coatings in gas-turbine engines. He suspects that the surface roughness of the bond coat used to attach the coatings onto metal may play a role in the failure of such coatings at high temperatures. He is currently investigating the mechanism by which the rumpling of this bond coat over time-due to high temperatures and other factors-roughens the surface of the bond coat and causes the coating to slough off over time.

Professor Hsia is also collaborating with two other professors in the department, Richard DeVor and Shiv Kapoor, to compare the machinability of polymers reinforced with carbon nanotubes with that of conventional carbon fiber composites. Recent published results indicate that polymers reinforced with carbon nanotubes are easier to machine and produce better results.
Research Interests:
  • Brittle-to-ductile transition in cleavage fracture
  • Mechanics and mechanisms of creep damage and creep fracture
  • Initiation and growth of surface microcrack under combined cyclic external loading and high hydraulic pressure
  • High temperature deformation and failure of ceramic materials under static and cyclic loading
  • Analysis of composite laminates
  • Nonlinear mechanical behavior and fracture of ferroelectric ceramics
  • Effects of surface treatment and microstructure on the adhesive bond strength and durability of aluminum alloys
  • Mechanics of Living Cells
For more information:
Research Website

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Teaching:

  • Principal Organizer of GEM4 Summer School on Cellular and Molecular Mechanics to be held at Caltech, UIUC, UT-Austin, GaTech and MIT, 2008-2012
  • Recipient of the Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, UIUC, 2004
  • Recipient of the Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, UIUC, 2002
  • Developed Moire Interferrometry Experiment for TAM326 with Nancy Sottos, 1995

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Research:

  • Elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011
  • Elected Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2009
  • Associate Director of NSF Science and Technology Center on Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS), 2010-date
  • Developed a technique of capillary force-driven self-assembly of 3D photovoltaic device from thin films, resulting in a cover article paper published in PNAS
  • Invited to contribute to an entry on Brittle-to-Ductile Transition in Encyclopedia of Tribology, 2009
  • Invited to contribute to the McGraw Hill 2009 Yearbook of Science and Technology
  • A paper co-authored with student Rahul Panat, presented by Panat at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting in Boston MA, December, 2002, received the gold medal for best research
  • Selected from the College of Engineering at UIUC to be on an “experts list,” 2003
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship, 1999
  • Max Planck Society Scholarship, 1998
  • National Science Foundation Research Initiation Award, 1992

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Public Service:

  • Director, Global Enterprise for Micromechanics and Molecular Medicine (GEM4), 2010-date
  • Coordinator of the Cellular and Biomelecular Engineering proposal solicitation of the Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation in Engineering Directorate at NSF, 2006
  • Founding Program Director of Nano and Bio Mechanics program at NSF, 2005-2007