Birck Nanotechnology Center

Robert J. Moon


Adjunct Assistant Professor of Materials Engineering


Contact Information:

Phone: +1 765 49-63397



2000 Purdue University, PhD in Materials Engineering
1996 Purdue University, M.S. in Metallurgical Engineering
1994 University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering


Research Interests:

  • Processing-Structure-Property Relationships
  • Effects of hierarchical structure on properties
  • Fracture and Wear of Materials
  • Indentation Techniques for Materials Characterization
  • Cellulose Nanocrystal Composite Processing, Characterization, and Modeling
  • Cellulose Nanocrystal Environmental Impact


Research Impact Statement:

Purdue University and the US Forest Service-Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) share a mutual interest in creating innovative new science and technologies related to wood utilization, nanotechnology, and cellulose based composites. Dr. Robert Moon is a US Forest Service Materials Research Engineer who has been stationed at Purdue University to initiate collaborative research programs on nanoscale science and engineering of wood-based materials. Established research programs are in the area of Cellulose Nanocrystal Technology, focusing in on metrology, coatings, composite processing, and environmental impact of cellulose-based materials.

Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNCs) are a newly-appreciated class of nanomaterials (~5nm in diameter, and 200nm in length) that offer a unique “building block” on which a new biopolymer composites industry can be based. Crystalline cellulose has a greater axial elastic modulus than Kevlar, a greater tensile strength then steel, and its mechanical properties are within the range of other reinforcement materials. CNCs have high aspect ratio, low density, and a reactive surface of -OH side groups that facilitates grafting chemical species. This surface functionalization allows tailoring of CNC surface chemistry to facilitate self-assembly, regulated dispersion in a wide range of matrix polymers, and control of both the CNC-CNC and CNC-matrix bond strength. CNCs provides the opportunity to produce green nanocomposites with wide ranging applications for consumer products (packaging), electronics (flexible circuits), energy (flexible solar panels), and defense (body armor, transparent armor).

In spite of the great potential of CNCs, a fundamental understanding of their morphology, structure, and properties as well as their role in composite property enhancement is not available. The absence of such fundamental metrology seriously impedes the advancement and economic viability of CNC nanocomposite technology. Critically needed are quantitative, validated measurement techniques, combined with the necessary protocols and understood in terms of fundamental modeling.

Our research programs at Birck are focused on the metrology (or measurement) of CNCs, in particular, their structure, mechanical, electrical, thermal, piezoelectric properties, etc. We integrate advanced nanoscale experimental methods with innovative multi-scale modeling techniques (atomistic and continuum), modeling verification, and uncertainty quantification to characterize CNCs. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron beam diffraction, cryo-TEM, and molecular dynamics modeling (MD) are used to characterize CNC morphology and crystal structure. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), MD, and continuum modeling are used to characterize the CNC response to mechanical and electrical stimuli. This is truly an interdisciplinary research program as team members are from several different schools/departments at Purdue and from the US Forest Service.


Research Images:



Purdue University Engineering Faculty Page


Current Projects:

  • Cellulose nanocrystals characterization by Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Metallic nanoparticle precipitation on cellulose nanocrystals
  • Cellulose nanocrystal composite processing & characterization


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