University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering

Education and Undergraduate Research in Materials for Extreme Environments 

UW Madison Materials Science and Engineering Department offers undergraduate emphasis in Materials for Extreme Environments and related areas. To learn more about the other emphasis areas and the emphasis area concept, go to the undergraduate webpage. 

Research in Materials for Extreme Environments

At UW-Madison the faculty in materials science and engineering are leaders in pushing the limits of materials behavior and performance under extreme conditions.


The imposition of intense deformation on materials can force reactions to progress along new kinetic pathways and represents a form of driven system behavior. Professor Perepezko’s group is studying the effect of deformation induced reactions at high strain levels in metallic multilayer samples by an accumulated roll bonding technique. Interestingly, the forcing action of high strain results in atomic intermixing at the multilayer interfaces to yield a true alloying reaction. This athermal mechanochemical transduction reaction pathway can yield equilibrium solid solutions as well as metastable structures including amorphous phases.


In other research in Professor Perepezko’s group new high temperature refractory Mo alloys are being studies to provide new capability and performance levels beyond the limit of current Ni superalloys for gas turbine jet engines. In order to endure the ultra high temperature under combustion conditions robust coatings are essential. As a separate effort new environmental resistant coating designs have been identified to provide the thermal and mechanical compatibility as well as a self-healing capability. These designs have been patented and recently their utility has been extended to apply environmental barrier coatings to ceramic composites that are intended for use in hypersonic vehicles.

To find our more about the MSE Graduate Program click here.

Faculty in Extreme Environments

Todd Allen

Wendy Crone

Sindo Kou

Rod Lakes

Dane Morgan

John Perepezko

Izabela Szlufarska

Don Stone 

MSE faculty by research area

Photo of Apollo 12 heat shield

Heat Shield of the Apollo 12.

Materials for Extreme Environments

Materials are central to modern technology. The clear technology trends of improved efficiency and environmental sustainability will place increasing demands on materials performance with respect to extremes in stress, strain, temperature, pressure, chemical reactivity, photon or radiation flux, and electric or magnetic fields. For example, in order to boost the efficiency of fossil fuel power plants from the current level of 35% to 60% with supercritical steam requires raising operating temperatures by nearly 50% and essentially doubling the operating pressures. These operating conditions require new materials that can reliably withstand the extreme thermal, pressure and highly corrosive environments for long periods of time without failure.For fission nuclear reactors the effect of irradiation damage must be added to the extreme conditions.

Understanding how these extreme environments affect the physical and chemical processes that occur in the bulk material and at its surface would open the door to employing these conditions to make entirely new classes of materials with greatly enhanced performance for future technologies. At the same time, advances in characterization and computational tools can provide an unprecedented opportunity to elucidate these key mechanisms. This knowledge would ultimately allow atomic and molecular structures to be manipulated in a predicable manner to create new materials that have extraordinary tolerance and can function within an extreme environment without property degradation. Further, it would provide revolutionary capabilities for synthesizing materials with novel structures or, alternatively, to force chemical reactions that normally result in damage to proceed along selected pathways that are either benign or self-repair damage initiation.