Nanomaterials Processing Laboratory  
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Eng.
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Welcome to the Xtreme Materials Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego

Our CaliBaja Center for Resilient Materials and Systems was inaugurated and continues to move forward in the development on new materials for extreme environments. Additional information can be found at:

Recent Research Activities

We have been exploring the synthesis of gold-coated magnesium nanoparticles. What an awesome surprise! We found the UCSD "Bear" in our images.

Credits: Synthesis by graduate student Shuang Qiao and image by post-doc Ekaterina Novitskaya.

We have designed and studied the response of amorphous steels to shock wave compression. Experiments have yielded results indicating a Hugoniot Elastic Limit (HEL) close to 12 GPa, which is higher than elastic limits for any metallic glass reported. The materials have received very significant media attention and the press release from UC San Diego is found here.

Even Superman Couldn't Bend this Steel!



We present a cathodoluminescence study of the spatial distribution of Eu2+ and Eu3+ dopants in hydroxyapatite powders.  The results demonstrate that the distribution of europium ions in the hydroxyapatite lattice depends on their valence state.  Monochromatic cathodoluminescence images from prismatic powders show that while the Eu2+ is distributed homogeneously in the entire powder volume, the Eu3+ is present mainly at the powder edges.  The luminescence spectrum of the Eu2+ ions displayed a wide and strong blue emission centered at 420 nm, while the luminescence spectrum of the Eu3+ ions displayed several orange-red emissions covering the range from 575 to 725 nm.  These emissions correspond to transitions between levels 4f65d1 - 4f7 (8S7/2) of the Eu2+ ions and 5D0 - 7FJ levels of the Eu3+ ions.  Micro Raman measurements reveal that europium doping generates two phonon signals with frequencies of 555 and 660 cm-1, both of which have not been reported earlier.  The powders were synthesized by the combustion synthesis method, maintaining constant the concentration of the europium salt used, and varying the pH of the precursor solutions to modify the concentration ratio of Eu2+ with respect to Eu3+.  X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements were used to determine values of 0.32 and 0.55 for the ratio Eu2+/Eu3+ in samples synthesized at pH values of 6 and 4, respectively.  Thermal treatments of the samples, at 873 K in an oxygen atmosphere, resulted in a strong quenching of the Eu2+ luminescence due to oxidation of the Eu2+ ions into Eu3+, as well as probable elimination of calcium vacancy defects by annealing.

Other contributions on hydroxyapatite:

J.A. Inzana, D. Olvera, S.M. Fuller, J.P. Kelly, O.A. Graeve, E.M. Schwarz, S.L. Kates, and H.A. Awad, "3D Printing of Composite Calcium Phosphate and Collagen Scaffolds for Bone Regeneration," Biomaterials, 35 [13] 4026-4034 (2014).
An editorial on this article can be found at:

TaC Pore Formation

WO3 Powders

TTC Diagram

Hexaboride Synthesis

We have pursued efforts to understand the effects of powder agglomeration and thermal conductivity in copper-based nanofluids. We have proposed a correlation between an experimentally determined particle size distribution from dynamic light scattering and the thermal conductivity enhancement of the nanofluid with respect to nanopowder loading. Synthesis of the copper powders was achieved using polyvinylpyrrolidone, oleic acid, and cetyl trimethylammonium bromide (CTAB). The CTAB-prepared powders exhibited the best dispersion characteristics, forming particles of approximately 80 nm in the presence of SDBS. This study is the first to decouple the effect of a carefully characterized particle size distribution versus crystallite size on the thermal conductivity enhancement of a nanofluid.

Dynamic light scattering of copper nanofluids

Dynamic light scattering of TaC

Molecular dynamics simulation of a reverse micelle





February 2020

Prof. Graeve was named to the Mexican Academy of Sciences as a Corresponding Member. A news piece on this honor can be found here.

August 2019

Our ENLACE program ended with a wonderful Closing Ceremony & Symposium on August 9, 2019. The final program can be found here and a UC San Diego press release can be found here.

Also, we were featured on CBS! The video can be found here.

August 2019

Prof. Graeve was selected for the HACU Presidential Leadership Academy, designed to increase Hispanic representation in top leadership positions in higher educations. A press release can be found here.

April 2019

Prof. Graeve was the keynote speaker at the Women in Materials Science & Engineering Breakfast on April 24, 2019. A video of the event can be found here.

April 2019

Prof. Graeve was honored with the Chancellor's Associates Community Service Award at a ceremony on April 18, 2019. A blog of the event can be found here.

March 2019

Prof. Graeve was named the AAHHE 2019 Cigarroa Lecturer and presented her lecture on Friday, March 1, 2019. A video of the lecture can be found here.

October 2018

Prof. Graeve was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of the "Our Immigrant Story". The article can be found here.

September 2018

Graeve was featured in the Tam on STEAM column of the Sally Ride Science @ UC San Diego. The article can be found here.

August 2018

ENLACE 2018 ended! The program this summer consisted of 104 students. A KPBS article on the program can be found here. UC San Diego also featured the program in the News Center.

October 2017

Graeve was honored with the 2017 SHPE Innovator Award and the 2017 HENAAC Education Award.

September 2017

Prof. Graeve was featured in a short video by high school students, as part of the Descubramos a las Cientificas Mexicanas program of CONACyT. The video can be found here.

July 2017

Prof. Graeve with her Aunt Mirna Cecilia Rincon Vargas, the Mayor of Rosarito, at the 4th of July Celebration of the US Consulate in Tijuana.

Mirna Rincon and Olivia Graeve

June 2017

Prof. Graeve was named by Forbes Magazine 1 of the 100 Most Powerful Women of Mexico in 2017 (Las 100 Mujeres Mas Poderosas de Mexico). Also published in the Jacobs School News and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Olivia Graeve

June 2017

Our Cross-border Innovaton Summit was a great success! We signed ten collaboration agreements with institutions in Baja California, officially establishing the CaliBaja Education Consortium, and students were able to listed to talks from excellent faculty. Additional information on this event can be found at:

February 2017

Prof. Graeve was featured in the February 2017 issue of TLT (Tribology & Lubrication Technology), discussing triboluminescent materials. The "20 minutes with" can be found here.

September 2016

Prof. Graeve particiipated as panel moderator at the annual meeting of the Red Global MX in Mexico City.


September 2016

We successfully finished our first ever Summer Engineering Institute (below with keynote speaker, Jose Delgado, at the closing event). This program enhances our efforts in the retention of students in engineering. A press release of the Institute can be found here. The event was also highlighted in Chancellor Khosla's blog.

Summer Engineering Institute

Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

August 2016

Prof. Graeve was inducted into the Mexican Academy of Engineering on August 25 at the beautiful Palacio de Minerias in Mexico City.

Mexican Academy of Engineering

Mexican Academy of Engineering

A press release on the event can be found at:
Academia de Ingenieria Mexico

Dr. Jose Albarran, Vice President of the Mexican Academy of Engineering posted an article in his Twitter account, found here.

Additional press releases can be found at: Link 1 and Link 2.


August 2016

Our ENLACE 2016 summer high school program ended on Friday, August 5, after seven intense weeks of participating in research activities at UC San Diego. This year we had the participation of 70 students.

The San Diego Union Tribune highlighted our program in the Aug. 4 Sunday newspaper. The online version of the LA Times also shared the story.

Other online articles can be found at: TijuaNotas and Univision.



May 2016

In the lab . . . and featured in Materials Today.

In the lab

April 2016

Prof. Graeve presented a series of seminars on materials processing at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and the Universidad Tecnologica de Tijuana on April 20.

UABC and UTT Visit

October 2015

At the PCI Gala Banquet representing UCSD together with Michelle Camacho (ACE Fellow).

September 2015

Prof. Graeve was awarded the Distinguished Alumna award by Southwestern College at the "In a Word" banquet on Thursday, September 17.

A Way with Words Banquet

A Way with Words Banquet

September 2015

Prof. Graeve was a featured guest at Bordear el Desierto on Friday, September 4. This is a Mexican national public radio program (on Fusion IMER 102.5 FM) that presents and discusses border issues, as connected to human rights. A full recording of the program can be found here.

May 2015

At the School of Global Policy and Strategy 2015 Launch with Senator Denise Ducheny and Consul Remedios Gomez Arnau.

2015 GPS Launch

May 2015

Prof. Graeve recently participated as keynote speaker in the monthly meeting of Madrugadores de Tijuana. A news article on this event can be found at El Sol de Tijuana.

February 2015

Prof. Graeve was recently honored with the UCSD Universitywide Diversity Award. A video of this award can be found here.

UCSD Diversity Awards 2015

February 2015

Prof. Graeve participated in the

University President's Summit (press release #1)
University President's Summit (press release #2)

which took place at the US Consulate in Tijuana. The purpose of this meeting was to promote cross-border educational collaborations between the cities of the CaliBaja region.

Presidents Summit

Presidents Summit
Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

December 2014

Prof. Graeve was featured in Los Observadores, a Spanish-language program of the TV Azteca network that highlights recent achievements in science and engineering.

December 2014

Prof. Graeve was featured in the New York Times, as part of the UCSD "1st in the nation for positive social, civic and research impact, five years in a row" campaign.

November 2014

Prof. Graeve was featured in a Nature news article on diversity in materials science and engineering, as a result of her contributions to the Ethnic Diversity in Materials Science and Engineering report released by the National Science Foundation last September.

She also participated in the Surmounting the Barriers: Ethnic Diversity in Engineering Education workshop organized by the National Academy of Engineering.

October 2014

Prof. Graeve was featured in the women's magazine Mujer Actual, with an article on her scientific accomplishments and efforts to promote science in Tijuana, Mexico.

October 2014

Prof. Graeve was a panelist at Tijuana Innovadora in the "8 Diaspora" panel, together with seven other professors from UC San Diego. A video of this panel can be found here. Chancellor Khosla also participated in a panel focused on enhancing international exchange.

Press releases on this event can be found at:
El Latino

Tijuana Innovadora

July 2014

Prof. Graeve has been named to the Tijuana Walk of Fame and has been featured in This Week @ UC San Diego, Triton Magazine, Frontera, UCnet, and Tijuana Innovadora for her work in promoting careers in science and engineering among Hispanics. The Walk of Fame induction is scheduled for July 31 in Tijuana City Hall, in a ceremony precided by Mr. Jose Galicot and the major of Tijuana.

Tijuana Walk of Fame
Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Additional press releases on the Tijuana Walk of Fame can be found at:
Tijuana Digital
En Contacto Magazine
El Mexicano
Agencia Fronteriza de Noticias
bien informado
PSN Primer Sistema de Noticias
Semanario Balun Canan

Tijuana Walk of Fame Event

Tijuana Walk of Fame Event
Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

April 2014

Prof. Graeve has been awarded a patent on the synthesis of hexaborides of controlled morphology and their hydrogen storage capacity.

A press release from the Jacobs School of Engineering was recently published together with a variety of news outlets, including The Engineer, e! Science News, design products & applications, Hydrogen Fuel News, the American Ceramic Society Bulletin, and Ceramic Tech Today.

March 2014

Ms. Brianna Fernandez, a student in our Tijuana high school summer program during 2013 just received the Kyoto Prize Scholarship. Congratulations to Brianna!

Kyoto Prize Dinner
Olivia Graeve, Brianna Fernandez, and Rommie Amaro at the Kyoto Prize Dinner that took place in San Diego on March 17, 2014.

November 2013

Prof. Graeve has just completed her term as President of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (NICE). She handed responsabilities to Dr. Kristen Brosnan, the newly installed President of NICE, during a ceremony at MS&T 2013.

NICE Meeting Fall 2013
Kristen Brosnan and Olivia Graeve at MS&T 2013 during the annual meeting of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers.

October 2013

Prof. Graeve was a panelist for the "Using Contributions to Diversity in Hiring and Selection" panel at the University of California ADVANCE PAID Roundtable, which took place on Friday, October 25, on the UC San Diego campus. Her presentation can be found here and a final report on this workshop is available here.

Video of Panel at UCTV
Video of panel (available from UC TV).

August 2013

The summer research program for Tijuana, Mexico, high school students came to a very successful end. The five girls from "La Paz" high school were involved in research as diverse as the development of new materials for batteries, characterization of colloidal systems, and molecular dynamics simulations of proteins. All five students presented their research to an audience of approximately 70 guests on the 9th of August.

High School Summer Program 2013

April 2013

Prof. Graeve represented the UCSD Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the annual Jacobs School of Engineering Research Expo. The title of her talk was "How to Control the Shape of Matter (and Other Curiosities of Nature)". A video of her presentation can be found here.

August 2012

Prof. Graeve was recently a guest in WXXI's (Rochester, NY) 1370 Connection / AM1370 National Public Radio News & Talk. The topic of discussion was recent advances in materials science.

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