Advanced Materials


Materials Synthesis from Atoms to Systems

Mastering the synthesis of materials is a prerequisite for understanding fundamental mechanisms and processes as well as for the ultimate deployment of new materials in new energy technologies. Thus, synthesis is a key component of ORNL’s materials research programs and includes a broad range of synthetic capabilities such as designing materials with nanoscale features, producing specialized single crystals, and creating complex mesoscale assemblies. For nanoscale materials, bottom-up (self-assembly) as well as top-down (patterning) approaches are pursued, leading to functional nanomaterials for a wide array of applications, such as energy storage and photovoltaics. Block co-polymers can be designed to self-assemble into architectures that have layers, pores and other three-dimensional features. The ability to produce unique single crystals and epitaxial structures that are deposited with atomic-level precision is critical for many applications, such as thermoelectrics, superconductors, photovoltatics, scintillator materials, and complex alloys (including high-entropy alloys). Many of these materials are the basis for specialized characterization studies using neutron scattering, electron microscopy and other techniques. 

The synthesis of materials with specifically designed composition and microstructure often involves multiple synthesis and processing steps and control at multiple length scales. Examples include the directional solidification of metals to form embedded assemblies of nanopillars, or approaches including mechanical alloying to obtain nanostructured ferritic alloys. A fundamental understanding of the effects of mechanical processes, ion implantation, and heat treatment on the resulting physical and mechanical properties is necessary to achieve the performance of the materials needed for numerous applications. Other areas of synthesis expertise include nanocomposite polymers, mesoporous carbons and graphene, ionic liquids, chelators, and ceramic materials; with applications that include production of high-performance and low-cost carbon fiber for light weight vehicles and insulation, battery electrolytes, highly efficient and specific separations, membranes, and insulators.

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1-5 of 5 Results

Strain Doping: A New Approach to Understanding and Controlling Advanced Materials
— Helium ions were used to control the length of a single axis in a crystal lattice, allowing for delicate manipulations of complex behavior. This accomplishment unlocks the door to engineering next-generation complex materials.

Importance of diminished local structural distortions and magnetism in causing iron-based superconductivity
— By analyzing the role of structural variation and magnetism of Cu dopants in FeAs planes, researchers demonstrated that orthorhombic distortions that give strong spin-density-wave spin (SDW) fluctuations are detrimental to superconductivity in BaFe2As2. The results provide new information about the interplay between local composition, magnetism and superconductivity.

Enhancing the Efficiency of Solar Energy Conversion in Titania
— A new method that simultaneously incorporates chromium (Cr) and nitrogen (N) atoms as Cr-N pairs into titania yields a material with an extraordinarily large (> 1 eV) band gap reduction.

Electronic properties of manganite surfaces robust against reduction
— While the broad range of properties of complex oxides degrade severely with decreasing oxygen content, it has now been shown that the electronic properties at their surfaces can remain unaffected in a reducing environment. This discovery carries important implications for the design of functional complex oxides for energy efficient catalysis and batteries that depend on these surface properties.

Revealing the rapid isothermal growth of graphene on catalytic substrates
— Real-time optical diagnostics reveal that graphene nucleates and grows rapidly and isothermally on Ni substrates by dissolution and precipitation of carbon; the flux-dependent kinetics indicate autocatalytic reactions.


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