Huajian Gao Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Engineering

Professor Huajian Gao is the Walter H. Annnenberg University Professor at Brown University. He received his B.S. degree from Xian Jiaotong University of China in 1982, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Science from Harvard University in 1984 and 1988, respectively. He served on the faculty of Stanford University between 1988 and 2002, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1994 and to full Professor in 2000. He worked as a Director and Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany between 2001 and 2006, and then joined Brown University in 2006. Professor Gao has a background in applied mechanics and engineering science. He has more than 25 years of research experience and more than 300 publications.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

H. Yao and H. Gao, "Mechanics of robust and releasable adhesion in biology: bottom-up designed hierarchical structures of gecko," 2006, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol. 54(6), pp 1120-1146.

H. Gao, X. Wang, H. Yao, S. Gorb and E. Arzt, "Mechanics of Hierarchical Adhesion Structures of Gecko," 2005, Mechanics of Materials, Vol. 37 (2-3), pp. 275-285.

H. Gao, W. Shi and L. B. Freund, "Mechanics of receptor-mediated endocytosis," 2005, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol. 102 (27), pp. 9469-9474.

H. Gao, B. Ji, I.L. Jaeger, E. Arzt and P. Fratzl, "Materials Become Insensitive to Flaws at Nanoscale: Lessons from Nature," 2003, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol. 100, pp. 5597–5600.

M.J. Buehler, F.F. Abraham and H. Gao, "Hyperelasticity Governs Dynamic Fracture at a Critical Length Scale," 2003, Nature, Vol. 426, pp. 141-146.

H. Gao, Y. Huang, W.D. Nix and J.W. Hutchinson, "Mechanism-Based Strain Gradient Plasticity - I. Theory," 1999, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol. 47, pp. 1239-1263.

H. Gao, L. Zhang, W. D. Nix, C. V. Thompson, E. Arzt, "Crack-Like Grain Boundary Diffusion Wedges in Thin Metal Films," 1999, Acta Materialia, Vol. 47, pp. 2865-2878.

H. Gao and W.D. Nix, "Surface Roughening of Heteroepitaxial Thin Films," 1999, Annual Review of Materials Science, Vol. 29, pp. 173-209.

W. D. Nix and H. Gao, "Indentation Size Effects in Crystalline Materials: A Law for Strain Gradient Plasticity," 1998, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol. 46, pp. 411-425.

H. Gao, T.-Y. Zhang and P. Tong, "Local and Global Energy Release Rates for an Electrically Yielded Crack in a Piezoelectric Ceramic," 1997, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, Vol. 45, pp. 491-510.

research overview

Professor Gao's research group is generally interested in understanding the basic principles that control mechanical properties and behaviors of both engineering and biological systems. His research spans over Solid Mechanics, Nanomechanics and Biomechanics. He works on mechanics of thin films and hierarchically structured materials, mechanics of biological and bio-inspired materials, mechanics of nanostructured and nanotwinned materials, mechanics of cell adhesion, mechanics of cell-nanomaterials interactions, mechanics of energy storage systems, and mechanics of metallic glasses.

research statement

Concepts and methods in continuum, atomistic and statistical mechanics are being developed to model nanoscale and hierarchical materials systems in engineering and biology. Systems and phenomena of interest include hierarchical structures of bone and gecko, cell adhesion, endocytosis, thin films, dynamic fracture, carbon nanotubes, and biomolecules. Fundamental concepts under study include diffusion, dislocations, fracture, grain boundary, stiffness, toughness, contact, adhesion, viscoelasticity, convergent evolution, flaw tolerance, size effects, shape optimization, self-assembly, and bottom-up hierarchical materials design. Applications of research include microelectronic and optoelectronic devices, nanotechnology, nano- and hierarchical materials engineering, biomimetics, bio-sensing, and gene/drug delivery systems. Professor Gao is a receipient of numerous academic awards including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Best Achievement Award for Young Investigators in Applied Mechanics, the Society of Engineering Science Young Investigator Award, the Chang Jiang Guest Chair Professorship of Tsinghua University, the Outstanding Oversea Young Investigator Award by the Ministry of Education of China. the Humboldt Research Fellowship, the NSF Young Investigator Award, the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the IBM Faculty Development Award, and the Alcoa Science Award. He is Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

funded research

Research Sponsored by U.S. Federal Agencies

Title: Research Initiation Award: Perturbation Studies on Cracks, Interfaces and Surfaces.
Funding agency: National Science Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: July 1, 1990 –- December 31, 1992.
Amount: $70,000.

Title: Stability and Stress Analysis of Surface Morphology of Elastic and Piezoelectric Materials
Funding agency: Department of Energy
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: George Herrmann before April 30, 1995; David Barnett after May 1, 1995.
Funding Period: August 1, 1991 –- April 30, 2001
Amount: $1,155,235.

Title: NSF Young Investigator Award: Micromechanics of Advanced Materials
Funding source: National Science Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1993 –- September 30, 1999.
Amount: $312,000.

Title: Mechanics and Mechanical Properties of Heteroepitaxial Thin Film Structures.
Funding source: Office of Naval Research
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: William D. Nix.
Funding Period: September 30, 1992 –- September 30, 1996
Amount: $464,625.

Title: Mechanics in Material Space and Analysis of Defects.
Funding source: Air Force Office of Scientific Research
Role: co-PI (PI is George Herrmann).
Funding Period: July 30, 1995 –- September 30, 1998
Amount: $464,625.

Title: A Virtual Internal Bond Approach to Fracture Simulation
Funding source: National Science Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: June 1, 1999 – May 31, 2000
Amount: $51,315.

Title: Computational Methods for Mechanism-Based Higher Order Continuum Theories
Funding source: National Science Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1999 – September 30, 2002
Amount: $211,087.

Title: Computational Nano-Engineering of Patterned Magnetic Nanostructures
Funding source: National Science Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: William Nix, Bruce Clemens, Kyeongjae Cho, Daryl Chrzan
Funding Period: October 1, 2000 – September 30, 2005
Amount: $1,600,000

Title: Mechanism-based theories of strengthening and hardening for alloy design and processing
Funding source: National Science Foundation
Role: co-Investigator (PI is Yonggang Huang)
Funding Period: October 1, 2000 – September 30, 2003
Amount: $400,000

Title: Mechanism-based modeling and simulation in nanomechanics,
Funding source: National Science Foundation (Nirt)
Role: co-Investigator (PI is Guanshui Xu)
Funding Period: October 1, 2001 – September 30, 2005
Amount: $1,100,000

Title: Competing Grain-Interior and Grain-Boundary Deformation Mechanisms in Nanocrystalline Materials and Thin FilmsEffects of Elasticity and Geometry on Cellular Uptake of Nanoparticles
Funding source: National Science Foundation                                            
Role: PI                            
co-PI: None
Funding Period: March 1, 2008 - Febrary 28, 2012
Award:  $352,164

Title: MRSEC: Micro- and Nano- Mechanics of Materials
Funding source: National Science Foundation                                            
Role: PI                            
co-PI: 19 other faculty members
Funding Period: October 1, 2005 -July 31, 2014
Award:  $10,420,821

Title: Effects of Elasticity and Geometry on Cellular Uptake of Nanoparticles
Funding source: National Science Foundation                                            
Role: PI                            
co-PI: None
Funding Period: Septermber 1, 2010 - August 31, 2014
Award:  $380,924

Title: Size Effects, Deformation, Strength and Fracture
Funding source: National Science Foundation                                            
Role: PI                            
co-PI: None
Funding Period: February 1, 2012 - January 31, 2015
Award:  $391,871

Title: Fundamental Investigations of Mechanical and Chemical Degradtion Mechanisms in Lithium Ion Battery Materials
Funding source: DOE                                           
Role: co-PI  (PI is Pradeep Guduru)                       
Funding Period: September 15, 2011 - September 14, 2014
Award:  $434,658

Title: A combined experimental and modeling approach for the design of high current efficiency Si electrodes
Funding source: DOE/BATT                                       
Role: co-PI  (PI is Yue Qi/Xingcheng Xiao)                       
Funding Period: April 1, 2013 -March 31, 2017
Award:  $116,000

Title: INSPIRE Track 1: Computational Design for the Safe Development of High-Aspect-Ration Nanomaterials
Funding source: National Science Foundation                                            
Role: co-PI  (PI is Robert H. Hurt)                         
Funding Period: November 1, 2013 - October 31, 2016
Award:   $799,999

Research Sponsored by Stanford University (1988-2002)

Title: Ductile Versus Brittle Crack Tip Responses.
Funding agency: NSF-MRL through CMR seed grant.
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: January 1, 1989 – June 30, 1991.
Amount: $78,400.

Title: Mechanics of Interface Cracks.
Funding source: Office of Technology License Research Grant, Stanford University.
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1991 - September 30, 1992.
Amount: $25,000.

Title: Mechanics of Heteroepitaxial Thin Films.
Funding source: Office of Technology License Research Grant, Stanford University.
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: William D. Nix.
Funding Period: October 1, 1996 - September 30, 1997.
Amount: $35,000.

Research Sponsored by U.S. National Laboratories

Title: Cohesive Models of Fracture
Funding source: Sandia National Laboratories
Role: Principal Investigator.
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: November 7, 1997 – September 30, 1999.
Amount: $109,995.

Research Sponsored by Industry

Title: Mechanics of Micro- and Nano- indentation Testing of Thin Film Coating.
Funding agency: IBM Almaden Research Center.
Amount: $147,000
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: 9/1/90 -8/31/94.

Title: Alcoa Science Award: Micromechanics of Plasticity and Fracture.
Funding agency: Alcoa Inc.
Amount: $7,500
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1996 - September 30, 1997.

Title: Failure Based Design of Metal-Composite Structures.
Funding agency: U.S. Windpower.
Amount: $70,000
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1994 - September 30, 1996.

Title: Thermomechanical Fracture in Microelectronic Devices.
Funding agency: Intel Corp.
Amount: $90,000
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: None.
Funding Period: October 1, 1997 - September 30, 2000

Title: Brown-GM/CRLThermomechanical Fracture in Microelectronic Devices.
Funding agency: General Motors (GM)
Amount: $400,000
Role: co-PI (PI is Allan Bower)
Funding Period: October 1, 2006- September 30, 2016

Research Sponsored by Federal Government of German (2001-2006)

Title: Dynamic Properties of Piezoelectric Materials.
Funding Source: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG),
Role: Principal Investigator
co-PI: None
Funding Period: June 1, 2002-May 30, 2005
Amount: 200,000 Euros

Title: Theory of Mesoscopic Phenomena of Materials.
Funding Source: Max Planck Society
Role: Director
co-PI: None
Funding Period: January 1, 2001-June 30, 2006
Amount: 3,000,000 Euros

Research Sponsored by Korean Government

Title:  Nano and Micromechanics for Disaster Mitigation and Technological Reability
Funding Source: Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials - KIMM 
Role: co-PI (PI is Kyung-Suk Kim)
Funding Period: July 1, 2010-June 30, 2012
Amount: $196,908

Research Sponsored by Singapore Government

Title:  Size effects in Small Scale Materials
Funding Source: A-Star Visiting Investigator Programme (VIP)
Role: PI
co-PI: None
Funding Period: April 1, 2007 -March 31, 2012
Amount: $2,366,910