Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (PhD)

Degree Level



Mechanical Engineering


Arun K. Nair

Committee Member

Salvador Barraza-Lopez

Second Committee Member

Jim Leylek

Third Committee Member

Paul Millett

Fourth Committee Member

Uche Wejinya


composite materials, density functional theory, mechanical properties, molecular dynamics, multiscale computational modeling, nanomaterials


Materials with features at the nanoscale can provide unique mechanical properties and increased functionality when included as part of a nanocomposite. This dissertation utilizes computational methods at multiple scales, including molecular dynamics (MD) and density functional theory (DFT), and the coupled atomistic and discrete dislocation multiscale method (CADD), to predict the mechanical properties of nanocomposites possessing nanomaterials that are either 1-D (carbyne chains), 2-D (graphene sheets), or 3-D (Al/amorphous-Si core-shell nanorod).

The MD method is used to model Ni-graphene nanocomposites. The strength of a Ni-graphene nanocomposite is found to improve by increasing the gap between the graphene sheet and a crack embedded in the Ni matrix. Ni-graphene nanocomposites also show substantially greater strength than pure Ni, depending on the loading direction and crack orientation relative to the graphene sheet. Moreover, polycrystalline graphene may serve as a better reinforce in Ni-graphene nanocomposites due to its improved interfacial shear stress with the Ni matrix compared to pristine graphene. This work develops a patchwork quilt method for generating polycrystalline graphene sheets for use in MD models.

Carbyne-based nanocomposites are modeled from first principles using DFT. This research finds that carbyne can only serve as an effective reinforcement in Ni-based nanocomposites when it is dielectrically screened from the Ni matrix, otherwise the carbyne structure is lost. When graphene is used as a dielectric screen, the local stiffness of the nanocomposite improves with the number of carbyne chains present. Specific stiffness is introduced as an alternative to elastic stiffness for characterizing low-dimensional materials because it is not dependent on volume when derived using an energy vs. strain relation.

A two-material formulation of CADD is developed to model Al/a-Si core-shell nanorods under indentation/retraction. The structural deformation behavior is found to be dependent on the geometry of both core and shell. When present, the a-Si shell protects the Al core by delocalizing forces produced by the indenter. It is also found that substrate deformation becomes important for core-shell structures with sufficiently small cores.

This work can help guide experimental and computational work related to the discussed 1-D, 2-D and 3-D nanomaterials and aid in future nanocomposite design.