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Functional Materials for Energy


The concept of functional materials for energy occupies a very prominent position in ORNL’s research and more broadly the scientific research sponsored by DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences. These materials facilitate the capture and transformation of energy, the storage of energy or the efficient release and utilization of stored energy. A different kind of functionality is seen in advanced membrane materials that save energy by enhancing the efficiency of existing energy-intensive processes or offer entirely new routes for, e.g., separation processes, carbon dioxide capture or environmental remediation. A third type of functionality is seen in energy-responsive materials, which exhibit a chemical, mechanical, structural or electronic response to some form of energy stimulus that can be utilized for, e.g., sensing, actuation or signaling.

ORNL has extensive research programs into functional materials for energy ranging from basic science through to applied programs. Major areas of activity include (i) porous membranes for separation and environmental cleanup; (ii) electrolyte materials for selective ionic transport in batteries; (iii) organic and polymeric materials for electronic and photovoltaic applications; (iv) superconducting materials; (v) ferroelectric materials; (vi) thermoelectric materials and (vii) new low-energy synthetic routes to technologically important materials. A particular area of strength is in the synthesis and processing of new functional forms of carbon: from the amazing variety of nanostructured carbon materials to “foam” carbon insulators to carbon fiber for lightweight structural materials. It also offers capabilities in these research areas to facilitate science of external users from academia or industry through its user facilities in high performance computing, neutron science and nanoscience.

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Patterning Semiconductor Building Blocks in 2D Crystals
— For the first time, researchers have synthesized lateral semiconductor heterojunctions in lithographically patterned arrays within a two-dimensional semiconductor crystal monolayer by a novel process that selectively converted exposed regions of a monolayer of MoSe2 to MoS2 using laser-deposited sulfur.

Confining Liquids in Hollow Nanospheres Can Yield Superior Quasi-Solid Electrolytes
— The growth and proliferation of lithium dendrites during cell recharge seriously hinder development and application of rechargeable Li-metal batteries. Researchers developed a promising strategy for fabrication of quasi−solid electrolytes with superior lithium ionic conductivities, by using a hollow silica (HS) nanosphere-film architecture that blocks dendrites.

World's Thinnest Proton Channel
— Graphene is a single-atom thin 2-dimensional array of carbon atoms that represents a barrier that is impenetrable even to protons unless graphene membrane has macroscopic holes.

Review Finds Ionization Can Heal or Harm Materials
— An invited review on latest advances in ion beam modification of materials provides conclusive evidence that energy loss by energetic ions to electrons (ionization) can lead to either self-healing of radiation damage created by atomic collisions or contribute to radiation damage.

Iodine-coordinated sulfide leads to an exceptionally stable ceramic electrolyte
— Coordination of iodine atoms within the Li3PS4 (LPS) electrolyte results in a new ceramic electrolyte with the formulation Li7P2S8I, a coordinated material between LPS and LiI. This new formulation takes advantage of the chemical stability of LiI to render an electrolyte with excellent compatability with Li anode.

 
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