Gregory Sawyer, Ph.D.

Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

College of Engineering

2009 Awardee

While at the University of Florida, Gregory Sawyer has built one of the largest multidisciplinary Materials Tribology programs in the world, with substantial external funding from the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation. Materials Tribology is a field of study that is focused around the fundamental investigations of the molecular origins of friction and wear. Friction and wear are ubiquitous phenomena, occurring in virtually every aspect of daily life.

Sawyer’s research activities are focused on Materials Tribology in extreme environments. This involves studies at high temperature, high vacuum, cryogenic temperatures, and other applications where the use of traditional fluid lubricants are excluded. Sawyer’s program is well known for the development and construction of unique laboratory instrumentation that is necessary to perform fundamental studies. His efforts led to an invitation to be a guest editor for the 2008 December issue of the Materials Research Society Bulletin dedicated to In Situ Tribology approaches. Sawyer’s laboratory is also internationally known for the development of high performance nanocomposites, and has published two invited articles on the topic and a recent book chapter in the Tribology and Interface Engineering Series by Elsevier.

As a result of his unique instrumentation, materials development, and fundamental studies, Sawyer has been afforded the opportunity to develop and interrogate a number of unique hypotheses; he has also developed a handful of notable models for tribological behavior. In 2005, he published an article in
Science that gave models and experimental results for the contact mechanics of aligned carbon nanotubes. In 2008, his work on the molecular origins of friction in diamond was published in Physical Review Letters and was highlighted the following month in Science by the editors (see “Slippery when Wet”).