James Spicer, a professor of materials science and engineering and chair of Engineering for Professional’s Materials Science and Engineering Program (EP) at the Whiting School, is known for leading-edge innovations in laser-material interactions with significant implications for energy-related technologies, global security and defense, and healthcare imaging, among other fields.
Lasers can be used to process materials and create structures that could not be produced using conventional methods. They play a central role in the rapidly expanding field of additive manufacturing and in developing intricate, metamaterial structures that display unusual properties. Spicer’s work in understanding and controlling laser-material interactions is critical to the use of lasers for processing materials and for characterizing a material’s structure and properties. His research involves taking and interpreting measurements remotely (stand-off detection), which leaves the material unchanged, to study how the characteristics of the laser light – wavelength, intensity, duration of exposure – interact with a material and determine how the material responds. His data is providing critical information needed to develop entirely new production methods for materials, including functional, polymer, thin films for packaging and energy applications and non-oxide ceramics for hypersonic missiles.
Recently, Spicer created a new class of photochromic materials with the potential to revolutionize a range of energy production and usage technologies, including photochromic coatings that darken with exposure to sunlight, photocatalytic films that purify water using sunlight, and artificial photosynthetic materials that produce hydrogen using water and sunlight. Spicer led a research team to form complex nanoparticulate structures displaying photochromic behavior in fluorocarbon-based polymers. His team is developing highly scalable, affordable manufacturing methods for these new, functional nanocomposites.
Spicer’s work in areas related to photoacoustics and laser ultrasonic methods has resulted in new approaches for assessing the structure-property relationships of nuclear graphites (synthetic graphite manufactured for use as a moderator or reflector in a nuclear reactor) and is being pursued as the basis for in-reactor inspection systems. He also has applied these methods for medically-related applications involving prosthetics, aerospace applications for assessing fatigue damage in aluminum alloys, microelectronics applications for verifying structures during chip manufacturing, and polymer film characterization for packaging applications.
Through his secondary appointment with The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Spicer has studied Terahertz interactions with materials, ultrafast interactions with materials, development of the next generation of high-energy laser materials as well as high-temperature coatings for extreme environments. He was involved with the team that helped develop materials for the thermal management system used on the JHU APL – NASA Parker Solar Probe. As a member of Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute (HEMI), Spicer is teaming with others to develop improved methods for dynamically-testing materials using ultrafast-laser, direct-drive methods. These methods permit the study of materials under the highest strain rates achievable under laboratory conditions. From 2002 to 2012, he was Director for JHU’s Center for Materials Sensing and Detection. Under his leadership, a team of researchers from Hopkins, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and SRI International developed advanced, optically-based, chemical-sensing techniques for new detection methods for explosives in the environment, which are used in commercial systems today.
A distinguished member of the Hopkins community, Spicer was honored with the Johns Hopkins University Gold Cup for Leadership in 2011 and the William H. Huggins Excellence in Teaching Award in 2000. He was an IBM Doctoral Fellow (1987-1988) and a member of several honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics), Pi Tau Sigma (Mechanical Engineering). A senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), he has served on the Administrative Committee of the IEEE UFFC (Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control) Society as well as on the IEEE Nanotechnology Council (NTC) Administrative Committee and the IEEE Nanotechnology Council. Currently, he co-chairs the NTC Technical Committee on NanoAcoustic Devices, Processes and Materials.
Additional professional memberships include the American Physical Society (APS), Optical Society of America (OSA), Materials Research Society (MRS), and, since 1985, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Spicer publishes and lectures widely across international academia and industry and frequently leads and organizes conferences, most recently, Nanoacoustic Symposium, IEEE Nano 2018 (co-chair), and the ASTM Committee D02.F0 on Manufactured Carbon and Graphite Products. He routinely interacts with industry leaders – IBM, Applied Materials, GE Healthcare, Pratt and Whitney, United Technologies, AeroVelo Team, Shimano, Honda Research and Development Department, etc. – to share his innovative insights and research.
He received a BS. in Physics and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Methodist University (1985) and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering (1991) from Johns Hopkins University.