Water splitting to produce H-2 using sunlight is a form of artificial photosynthesis in that light energy is converted to chemical energy. As such, water splitting using powdered photocatalysts has attracted attention in the framework of energy and environmental issues. This article reviews z-scheme photocatalyst systems for water splitting under visible light irradiation, especially focused on the systems consisting of SrTiO3:Rh of a H-2-evolving photocatalyst, and O-2-evolving photocatalysts with and without electron mediators. These photocatalyst systems showed activities for water splitting into H-2 and O-2 in a stoichiometric amount under visible light irradiation and even under sunlight irradiation. The photocatalytic activity was sensitive to pH. The optimum pH was 2.4 when iron ions were used as electron mediators. Co-catalysts also affected the activity. The photodeposited Ru co-catalyst gave an excellent performance. The best performance achieved by the pH adjustment and the selection of a co-catalyst was obtained mainly by suppression of back reactions to form H2O from evolved H-2 and O-2.
The ability to control the shape of metal nanocrystals is central to advances in many areas of modern science and technology, including catalysis, plasmonics, electronics, and biomedicine. This article provides a brief overview of our recent efforts toward the development of solution-phase methods for shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals. While the synthetic methods only involve simple redox reactions, we have been working diligently to understand the complex nucleation and growth mechanisms leading to the formation of metal nanocrystals with desired shapes and related properties. We hope this review will inspire new ideas and concepts in the general area of nanomaterial synthesis, expand our ability to engineer the properties of metals for various applications, and contribute to the realization of sustainable use for some of the scarcest materials.
The ability to pattern materials in three dimensions is crucial for structural, optical, electronic, and energy applications. Three-dimensional printing allows one to design and rapidly fabricate materials in complex shapes without the need for expensive tooling, dies, or lithographic masks. A growing palette of printable materials, coupled with the ability to programmably control mesoscale architecture, open new avenues for creating designer materials with unprecedented performance.
In situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has become an increasingly important tool for materials characterization. It provides key information on the structural dynamics of a material during transformations and the ability to correlate a material's structure and properties. With the recent advances in instrumentation, including aberration-corrected optics, sample environment control, the sample stage, and fast and sensitive data acquisition, in situ TEM characterization has become more powerful. In this article, a brief review of the current status and future opportunities of in situ TEM is provided. The article also introduces the six articles in this issue of MRS Bulletin exploring the frontiers of in situ electron microscopy, including liquid and gas environmental TEM, dynamic four-dimensional TEM, studies on nanomechanics and ferroelectric domain switching, and state-of-the-art atomic imaging of light elements (i.e., carbon atoms) and individual defects.
Resistive switching, the reversible modulation of electronic conductivity in thin films under electrical stress, has been observed in a wide range of material systems and is attributed to diverse physical mechanisms. Research activity in this area has been traditionally fueled by the search for a perfect electronic memory candidate but recently received additional attention due to a number of other promising applications, such as reconfigurable and neuromorphic computing. This issue of MRS Bulletin is devoted to current state-of-the-art understanding of the physics behind resistive switching in several major classes of material systems and their intrinsic scaling prospects in the context of electronic circuit applications. In particular, the goal of this introductory article is to review the most promising applications of thin-film devices and outline some of the major requirements for their performance.
This article reviews and assesses recent progress in atomic layer deposition (ALD) and highlights how the field of ALD is expanding into new applications and inspiring new vapor-based chemical reaction methods. ALD is a unique chemical process that yields ultrathin film coatings with exceptional conformality on highly non-uniform and non-planar surfaces, often with subnanometer scale control of the coating thickness. While industry uses ALD for high-kappa dielectrics in the manufacturing of electronic devices, there is growing interest in low-temperature ALD and ALD-inspired processes for newer and more wide-ranging applications, including integration with biological and synthetic polymer structures. Moreover, the conformality and nanoscale control of ALD film thickness makes ALD ideal for encapsulation and nano-architectural engineering. Articles in this issue of MRS Bulletin present details of several growing interest areas, including the extension of ALD to new regions of the periodic table, and molecular layer deposition and vapor infiltration for synthesis of organic-based thin films. Articles also discuss ALD for nanostructure engineering and ALD for energy applications. A final article shows how the challenge of scaling ALD for high rate nanomanufacturing will push advances in plasma, roll-to-roll, and atmospheric pressure ALD.
Boron-doped diamond electrodes have attracted increasing interest from researchers due to their outstanding properties for electroanalysis and other electrochemical applications. Material quality and availability have come a long way since the initial reports on the basic electrochemical properties back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In this review, we highlight how diamond electrochemistry has diversified and matured in recent years in terms of the understanding of structure-property relationships and the development of new applications of materials in electroanalytical chemistry.
Dielectric capacitors have been the major enabler for many applications in advanced electronic and electrical power systems because of their capability for ultrafast charging/discharging and ultrahigh power density. The low energy densities of polymer dielectrics used in these capacitors have not been able to meet the ever-increasing demands for compact, reliable, and efficient electrical power systems. Polymer nanocomposites, in which high-dielectric-constant (k) nanofillers are incorporated in the polymer matrix, have been actively pursued. In this article, we begin with two theoretical considerations for concomitantly increasing the dielectric permittivity and breakdown strength of nanocomposites: critical interfacial polarization and local electric-field distribution. In the framework of these considerations, we review recent progress toward polymer nanocomposites with high energy densities based on two approaches: core-shell-structured polymer nanocomposites and dielectric anisotropy. In addition, the potential for the enhanced elastic properties of nanocomposites to improve the dielectric strengths of capacitor films is also discussed.
Short pulse laser irradiation has the ability to bring a material into a state of strong electronic, thermal, phase, and mechanical nonequilibrium and trigger a sequence of structural transformations leading to the generation of complex multiscale surface morphologies, unusual metastable phases, and microstructures that cannot be produced by any other means. In this article, we provide an overview of recent advancements and existing challenges in the understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of short pulse laser interaction with materials, including the material response to strong electronic excitation, ultrafast redistribution and partitioning of the deposited laser energy, the peculiarities of phase transformations occurring under conditions of strong superheating/undercooling, as well as laser-induced generation of crystal defects and modification of surface microstructure.
This article reviews the potential of graphene and related two-dimensional (2D) materials for applications in micro- and nanoelectronics. In addition to graphene, special emphasis is placed on transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). First, we discuss potential solutions for application-scale material growth, in particular chemical vapor deposition. We describe challenges for electrical contacts and dielectric interfaces with 2D materials. The device-related sections in this review first weigh the pros and cons of semi-metal graphene as a field-effect transistor (FET) channel material for logic and radio frequency applications. This is followed by an introduction to alternate graphene switch concepts that utilize the particular properties of the material, namely tunnel FETs, vertical devices, and bilayer pseudospin FETs. The final section is dedicated to semiconducting TMDs and their integration in FETs using the examples of n-type molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and p-type tungsten diselenide (WSe2).
Manipulating the thermal conductivity of solids is important for practical applications. Due to the fact that phonons in thermoelectric materials have longer mean free paths (MFPs) than electrons, strengthening phonon scattering to reduce lattice thermal conductivity (kappa(lat)) becomes the most straightforward and effective approach to enhance the thermoelectric figure of merit, ZT, which determines the maximum device efficiency. Phonons have a wide range of MFPs in semiconductors, and different dimensions of lattice defects can be targeted to scatter particular phonons with distinct relaxation times. Designing hierarchical nano-microstructures, spanning from point defects to volume defects, would be beneficial to achieve low kappa(lat) via a full spectrum of phonon scattering. Herein, we review the formation and underlying mechanisms for lattice defects and highlight the role of all-scale hierarchical nano-microstructure on phonon engineering. Existing challenges in simulations are also discussed.
Accelerating global energy consumption makes the development of clean and renewable alternative energy sources indispensable. Nanotechnology opens up new frontiers in materials science and engineering to meet this energy challenge by creating new materials, particularly carbon nanomaterials, for efficient energy conversion and storage. Since the Nobel Prize winning research on graphene by Geim and Novoselov, considerable efforts have been made to exploit graphene as an energy material, and tremendous progress has been achieved in developing high-performance devices for energy conversion and energy storage. This article reviews recent progress in the research and development of graphene materials for advanced energy-conversion devices, including solar cells and fuel cells, and energy-storage devices, including supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries, and discusses some challenges in this exciting field.
Bacterial biofilms are interface-associated colonies of bacteria embedded in an extracellular matrix that is composed primarily of polymers and proteins. They can be viewed in the context of soft matter physics: the rigid bacteria are analogous to colloids, and the extracellular matrix is a cross-linked polymer gel. This perspective is beneficial for understanding the structure, mechanics, and dynamics of the biofilm. Bacteria regulate the water content of the biofilm by controlling the composition of the extracellular matrix, and thereby controlling the mechanical properties. The mechanics of well-defined soft materials can provide insight into the mechanics of biofilms and, in particular, the viscoelasticity. Furthermore, spatial heterogeneities in gene expression create heterogeneities in polymer and surfactant production. The resulting concentration gradients generate forces within the biofilm that are relevant for biofilm spreading and survival.
Various life forms in nature display a high level of adaptability to their environments through the use of sophisticated material interfaces. This is exemplified by numerous biological systems, such as the self-cleaning of lotus leaves, the water-walking abilities of water striders and spiders, the ultra-slipperiness of pitcher plants, the directional liquid adhesion of butterfly wings, and the water collection capabilities of beetles, spider webs, and cacti. The versatile interactions of these natural surfaces with fluids, or special wettability, are enabled by their unique micro/nanoscale surface structures and intrinsic material properties. Many of these biological designs and principles have inspired new classes of functional interfacial materials, which have remarkable potential to solve some of the engineering challenges for industrial and biomedical applications. In this article, we provide a snapshot of the state of the art of biologically inspired materials with special wettability, and discuss some promising future directions for the field.
We discuss the relative complexity and computational cost of several popular many-body empirical potentials, developed by the materials science community over the past 30 years. The inclusion of more detailed many-body effects has come at a computational cost, but the cost still scales linearly with the number of atoms modeled. This is enabling very large molecular dynamics simulations with unprecedented atomic-scale fidelity to physical and chemical phenomena. The cost and scalability of the potentials, run in serial and parallel, are benchmarked in the LAMMPS molecular dynamics code. Several recent large calculations performed with these potentials are highlighted to illustrate what is now possible on current supercomputers. We conclude with a brief mention of high-performance computing architecture trends and the research issues they raise for continued potential development and use.
Dealloying, the selective dissolution of less noble elements from an alloy, enables the preparation of monolithic macroscale bodies, which at the nanostructure level exhibit a network of ligaments with a well-defined characteristic size that can be tuned to between a few nanometers and several microns. These porous solids can be made with macroscale dimensions, and, prior to dealloying, can be shaped to form engineered components. Their surface-to-volume ratio is extremely large and their bicontinuous structure provides transport pathways to tune the surface state under control of an electric or chemical potential. These materials present new opportunities for exploring the impact of surfaces on material behaviors and for exploiting surface effects in novel materials design strategies. New experimental approaches unraveling surface effects involving small-scale plasticity and elasticity have been demonstrated. Approaches to new functional materials include electrochemical potential switching of strength, stiffness, fracture resistance, fluid sorption, actuation, and quasi-piezoelectric strain sensing.
This article reports on the state-of-the-art of the development of aluminum nitride (AlN) thin-film microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) with particular emphasis on acoustic devices for radio frequency (RF) signal processing. Examples of resonant devices are reviewed to highlight the capabilities of AlN as an integrated circuit compatible material for the implementation of RF filters and oscillators. The commercial success of thin-film bulk acoustic resonators is presented to show how AlN has de facto become an industrial standard for the synthesis of high performance duplexers. The article also reports on the development of a new class of AlN acoustic resonators that are directly integrated with circuits and enable a new generation of reconfigurable narrowband filters and oscillators. Research efforts related to the deposition of doped AlN films and the scaling of sputtered AlN films into the nano realm are also provided as examples of possible future material developments that could expand the range of applicability of AlN MEMS.
Energy storage is a critical hurdle to the success of many clean energy technologies. Batteries with high energy density, good safety, and low cost can enable more efficient vehicles with electrified drive trains, such as hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. They can also provide energy storage for intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar. Today, and for the foreseeable future, rechargeable lithium batteries deliver the highest energy per unit weight or volume at reasonable cost. Many of the important properties of battery materials can be calculated with first-principles methods, making lithium batteries fertile ground for computational materials design. In this article, we review the successes and opportunities in using first-principles computations in the battery field. We also highlight some technical challenges facing the accurate modeling of battery materials.
The field of lead-free piezoceramics, which aims to replace lead zirconate titanate (PZT) and related perovskite materials, has been vibrant for almost 15 years. Once the science in this field attained a certain stage of maturity, materials with properties better than PZT have appeared, and the first products are about to reach the marketplace. This article describes the three most promising lead-free piezoceramics currently under discussion to replace PZT. Each has a pronounced property profile geared for specific applications. Guidelines for directions for fundamental future research on as well as technology transfer to industry of lead-free piezoceramics are provided.