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Research

Materials by Design - Our goal is to understanding the relationship between material structure and properties to such accuracy that we can predict the properties of unexplored materials. We find this goal to be particularly rewarding when applied to the development of advanced inorganic materials for energy applications.

Achieving the understanding to rationally design materials requires strengths in three main areas:

Synthesis, Materials characterization, & Modeling/computation

This trio allows one to form fundamental conclusions concerning the structure-property relationships inherent to a material. Without high quality materials, robust measurements, and theoretical models, predictive material design would be impossible. From these advanced materials, we ultimately are interesting in constructing devices and prototypes.

Synthesis:

We have a strong basis in solid state synthesis and have prepared oxides, covalent semiconductors, intermetallics, and Zintl compounds in a variety of forms (e.g. bulk ingots, nanoparticles, thin films). Much of our synthesis is focused on alternative energy materials and thus utilizes low-cost, high through-put techniques.

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Characterization:

We seek to (a) expand the portfolio of characterization techniques and (b) improve the accuracy of such techniques. Examples include instrumentation to measure the Seebeck coefficient at high temperature with greatly improved accuracy and Nernst-Ettingshausen measurements to understand scattering phenomena.

 

Modeling & Computation:

We do extensive modeling of electronic and thermal transport in materials, and collaborate frequently with density functional theory experts to understand the underlying electron and phonon band structures. We often find the band structure provides insight into unusual experimental behavior, enabling a much more complete picture of the structure-property relationships. For thermoelectric materials, we have developed the TEdesignLab website.

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Devices and Prototypes

For the advanced materials we develop to ultimately be meaningful for society, device testing and prototype construction is critical. Integration challenges can require a mixture of engineering solutions and new material development. In particular, we're interested in photovoltaic device construction and associated interfaces and systems for thermal energy storage.

 

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