Affiliated Faculty

Katherine Faber

Katherine Faber

Adjunct Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Co-Director, Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies In the Arts (NU-ACCESS)

California Institute of Technology, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science

2220 Campus Drive

Cook Hall 2036

Evanston, IL 60208-3109

k-faber( at )


Ph.D. Materials Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA

M.S. Ceramic Science, Penn State, University Park, PA

Course work in the Department of Ceramics Glasses and Polymers, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England

B.S. Ceramic Engineering, Alfred University, Alfred, NY

Research Interests

As ceramics are considered for complex applications, one component may serve many disparate functions, e.g., wear resistance with low weight. Graded or layered microstructures, often including controlled porosity, may meet such demands. Such materials can be processed via gelcasting, where powders are suspended in a polymer that undergoes a liquid-gel transition. The position or orientation of fugitive phases (for pores) and particles of different chemistry can be controlled when the polymer is in the liquid state. Once a rigid gel forms, particles are rendered immobile, the polymer removed and the ceramic is sintered via traditional routes. We are developing these processing methods for multifunctional ceramics.

A second interest is in SiC-based cellular ceramics, derived from naturally derived scaffolds. These so-called "biomorphic" silicon carbides are produced by pyrolyzing wood to create the carbon scaffold. The scaffold or template is then used for silicon infiltration and reaction to create versatile SiC-based porous materials. The porous SiC can be further infiltrated with aluminum to create ceramic-metal composites.  We are interested in both mechanical and thermo-mechanical properties of these materials.

Finally, thermal and environmental barrier coatings for engine components are needed for enhanced efficiency in the next generation of engines such as microturbines and industrial gas turbines. Ceramic coatings allow reduced cooling or increased combustion temperatures. Likewise, they serve as environmental barriers to keep corrosive species from the underlying component. Our work focuses on the development of plasma-sprayed coatings and their characterization using the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory to understand residual stresses and phase evolution during thermal cycling.

Significant Recognition

Charles L. Hosler Alumni Scholar Medal, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2004

Fellow, ASM International, 2003

ISI Highly Cited in Materials, 2002

NSF Creativity Extension Award, 2001-2003

YWCA Achievement Award for Education, 1997

Distinguished Educator Award, Society of Women Engineers (SWE), 1995

Fellow, ACerS, 1992

Ralph A. Teetor Award from the Society of Automotive Engineers, 1989

NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, 1984–89

AT&T Foundation Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, 1986

IBM Faculty Development Award, 1984

Significant Professional Service

John F. McMahon Memorial Lecture, Alfred University, 2006

President, American Ceramic Society 2006-07

Scientific Advisory Committee of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, 2005-07

University Materials Council, Chair, 2001-02

Member, Academy of Ceramics, 1996

President, Ceramic Educational Council, ACerS, 1989–90

Selected Publications

M. T. Johnson;K. T. Faber, “Catalytic graphitization of three-dimensional wood-derived porous scaffolds”, Journal of Materials Research, (2011)

CM WEYANT;J ALMER;KT FABER, “Through-thickness determination of phase composition and residual stresses in thermal barrier coatings using high-energy X-rays”, Acta Materialia, (2010)

KE PAPPACENA;MT JOHNSON;S XIE;KT FABER, “Processing of wood-derived copper-silicon carbide composites via electrodeposition”, Composites Science and Technology, (2010)

KE PAPPACENA;MT JOHNSON;H WANG;WD PORTER;KT FABER, “Thermal properties of wood-derived copper-silicon carbide composites fabricated via electrodeposition”, Composites Science and Technology, (2010)

TE WILKES;BJ HARDER;JD ALMER;KT FABER, “Load partitioning in honeycomb-like silicon carbide aluminum alloy composites”, Acta Materialia, (2009)

NO SHANTI;DB HOVIS;ME SEITZ;JK MONTGOMERY;DM BASKIN;KT FABER, “Ceramic Laminates by Gelcasting”, International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology, (2009)

ME SEITZ;KR SHULL;KT FABER, “Acrylic Triblock Copolymer Design for Thermoreversible Gelcasting of Ceramics: Rheological and Green Body Properties”, Journal of the American Ceramic Society, (2009)

TE WILKES;SR STOCK;F DE CARLO;X XIAO;KT FABER, “X-ray micro-computed tomography of beech wood and biomorphic C, SiC and Al/SiC composites”, Philosophical Magazine, (2009)

BJ HARDER, JD ALMER, CM WEYANT, et al., “Residual Stress Analysis of Multilayer Environmental Barrier Coatings”, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CERAMIC SOCIETY, (2009)

... , MT Johnson, S Xie, A Davis, KT Faber, “Effect of pyrolyzation temperature on wood-derived carbon and silicon carbide”, Journal of the European Ceramic Society, (2009)

Wilkes, T. E.; Pastor, J. Y.; Llorca, J.; Faber, K. T., “Mechanical properties of wood-derived silicon carbide aluminum-alloy composites as a function of temperature.”, Journal of Materials Research, (2008)

Kaul, V. S.; Faber, K. T., “Nanoindentation analysis of the elastic properties of porous SiC derived from wood.”, Scripta Materialia, (2008)

Pappacena, K. E.; Faber, K. T.; Wang, H.; Porter, W. D., “Thermal conductivity of porous silicon carbide derived from wood precursors.”, Journal of the American Ceramic Society, (2007)

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

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