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MSD - Materials Sciences Division

Materials Discovery, Design and Synthesis

Core Research Areas: Materials Chemistry, Biomolecular Materials, and Synthesis and Processing Science

This program area supports fundamental research on design, synthesis and discovery of novel materials and material constructs, and development of innovative synthesis and processing methods. Major research thrusts include:

  • Nanoscale chemical synthesis and organization of nano-materials into macroscopic structures
  • Solid state chemistry – exploratory synthesis and discovery of new classes of energy-related materials such as superconductors, magnets, thermoelectrics and ferroelectrics
  • Polymers and polymer composites
  • Surface and interfacial chemistry – electrochemistry, electro-catalysis, molecular level understanding of friction, adhesion and lubrication
  • Basic research in synthesis and processing science – for developing innovative synthesis techniques, to understand the physical phenomena that underpin materials synthesis such as diffusion, nucleation and phase transitions, and to develop in situ monitoring and diagnostic capabilities
  • Fundamental research in biomimetic/bioinspired functional materials and complex structures, and materials aspects of energy conversion processes based on principles and concepts of biology


Chemical and Mechanical Properties of Surfaces, Interfaces and Nanostructures

Program Leader: Miquel Salmeron
Co-PI's: Gabor A. Somorjai, Peidong Yang

The purpose of this program is to carry out atomic-level studies of surfaces and nanomaterials, focusing on chemical, mechanical and physical properties: structure, diffusion, reactions, catalysis, friction and wear. The molecular level knowledge generated by the proposed studies will speed the development of novel catalysts with higher activity and selectivity and the discovery of novel materials of nanometer dimensions with unique mechanical, chemical and optical properties, and of materials with improved mechanical properties of adhesion, friction, and wear. The results of this project benefit many energy based industries, including chemical, petroleum, mechanical, electronics, solar energy, etc. To accomplish these goals, we utilize materials in the form of single crystals, biointerfaces and nanoparticles. We develop methods for making nanocrystals with narrow particle size distribution and well-defined shape. We develop new instrumentation for the characterization of our materials under the widest possible range of operating conditions: under vacuum, at ambient pressure and at the solid-liquid interface. This includes sum frequency generation (SFG) surface vibrational spectroscopy, high pressure scanning tunneling microscopy (HPSTM) and ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS).


Inorganic-Organic Nanocomposites

Program Leader: Ting Xu
Co-PI's: A. Paul Alivisatos, Tanja Cuk, Yi Liu, Miquel Salmeron, Lin-Wan Wang, Peidong Yang

This activity is directed towards organic/inorganic nanocomposite materials. The goal is to design functional materials and make them by parallel and hierarchical self-assembly. In particular, we seek to develop wet chemical processes by which organic/inorganic composites can be created with a high degree of control on many length scales simultaneously. By developing a comprehensive ability to design, assemble, and pattern organic/inorganic composites and control their interfaces, it will be possible to prepare complex materials in which several microscopic processes are independently and simultaneously optimized.  A range of functional materials can be created in this manner, with applications in energy conversion, mechanical composites, and optical/electrical devices. Special attention is directed to solar cells.


Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Program Leader: Alex Pines

The nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) program has two complementary components. The first is the establishment of new concepts and techniques in NMR and its offspring, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in order to extend their applicability and enhance their capability to investigate molecular structure and organization from materials to organisms. The study and diagnostic use of nuclear spins interacting with each other and with others degrees of freedom requires the development of new theoretical and experimental methods; one consequence of these efforts is the design and fabrication of next-generation NMR and MRI equipment. The second component of the research program involves the application of such novel methods, together with other programs, and with outside laboratories and industry, to significant problems in chemistry, materials science, and biomedicine. It is the unique environment of interdisciplinary research and large-scale instrumentation capabilities at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that cultivates these innovations, their diverse applications, and technology transfer.


Directed Organization of Functional Materials at Inorganic-Macromolecular Interfaces

Program Leader: Jim DeYoreo

We are investigating controls on directed organization in biomimetic systems and the link between organization and function. In one study, we utilize phosopholipid bilayers on Si nanowires as bionanoelectronic devices. The bilayer produces a barrier against ion transport and provides an artificial environment for membrane proteins. We are performing measurements of lipid mobility and protein clustering, characterizing the atomic scale structure using X-ray scattering and assessing energetic parameters controlling organization via kMC models. We will construct working devices and show how electrochemical response correlates with lipid mobility and protein organization. In a second set of studies, we use in situ microscopy to investigate dynamics of macromolecular self-assembly into extended ordered structures in systems where required conformational changes limit assembly kinetics, including S-layers, clatherins and DNA origami. We are also using DNA origami to build heterostructures with MS2 viruses modified to include light adsorbing centers for light harvesting. Virus-DNA heterostructures are organized on surfaces patterned via scanned probe lithography. Interactions and organization dynamics will be determined by AFM, and kMC simulations will be used to identify mechanisms controlling organization.


Physical Chemistry of Inorganic Nanostructures

Program Leader: A. Paul Alivisatos,
Co-PI's: Stephen R. Leone, Peidong Yang

This program emphasizes the fundamental science of synthesis and preparation of the basic building blocks of nanomaterials, as well as the characterization of their physical processes. The program consists of three subtasks: Physical Chemistry of Semiconductor Nanocrystals, Fundamentals of Semiconductor Nanowires, and Microscopy Investigations of Nanostructured Materials. The first subtask develops the science of colloidal inorganic nanocrystals, and reliable and robust methods to prepare uniform nanocrystals of different materials, including semiconductors, metals, and magnetic materials and investigates fundamental optical, electrical, structural, and thermodynamic properties of nanocrystals. The second subtask develops the science and technology of a broad spectrum of 1-dimensional inorganic semiconducting nanostructures or nanowires. The final subtask develops state-of-the-art optical characterization microscopies and ultrafast dynamics measurements that provide higher spatial, spectroscopic, and time resolutions than are afforded by conventional techniques.