Synthesis, Processing, and Characterization of Advanced Functional Materials

My research interests lie in the synthesis and characterization of new, improved materials for both clean energy applications and for electronic materials such as piezoelectrics, dielectrics, and ionic conductors.  The development of new advanced functional materials with both high performance and a low energy impact is one of the most important challenges in the scientific community today as the current energy economy, based on fossil fuels is at serious risk.  Specifially, I work in three areas:  1) synthesis and characterization of novel electronic materials, 2) development of new processing techniques for thin films, and 3) structural studies of amorphous and nanocrystalline materials for electronic applications.  In each case, the ultimate goal is to rationally design and tune new materials with the desired properties for specific applications. 

Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Electronic Materials

Our current work in this area aims to find new materials for electronic applications.  Our efforts include materials for piezoelectric and ferroelectric devices, batteries, and fuel cells.  My group synthesizes new materials and also develops improved synthetic routes for known materials.  We measure the electromechanical properties of each system and use X-ray and neutron diffraction to characterize the local and average structure.  Studying the relationship between the structure and properties allows us to gain an understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to specific behaviors. 

New Processing Techniques for Thin Films

As part of our work with the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (CSMC), we developed a process to use polyoxometallates as precursors for solution processed ferroelectric and piezoelectric thin films.  We use aqueous chemistry, which reduces the waste and toxicity of the process.  This techniques allows us to make high quality films with a degree of orientation that rivals what is produced by deposition techniques.  In addition, the technique allows for precise control of stoichiometry and thickness, resulting in homogenous, crack-free films.  

Structural Studies of Amorphous and NanoCrystalline Material

Our work on the structural characterization of amorphous and nanocrystalline materials links their properties to theoretical descriptions of their electronic band structures and density of states, providing atomistic-level detail of their structure-property relationships. Because the lack of long range ordering makes it difficult to determine the structure with traditional techniques, little is known about the structures of these materials. To overcome these challenges, my group works at the forefront of both experimental and computational analysis of amorphous and nanocrystalline materials.

Funding Sources

Our research is funded by the National Science Foundation.