Graphene is a two-dimensional (2D) material with over 100-fold anisotropy of heat flow between the in-plane and out-of-plane directions. High in-plane thermal conductivity is due to covalent sp(2) bonding between carbon atoms, whereas out-of-plane heat flow is limited by weak van der Waals coupling. Herein, we review the thermal properties of graphene, including its specific heat and thermal conductivity (from diffusive to ballistic limits) and the influence of substrates, defects, and other atomic modifications. We also highlight practical applications in which the thermal properties of graphene play a role. For instance, graphene transistors and interconnects benefit from the high in-plane thermal conductivity, up to a certain channel length. However, weak thermal coupling with substrates implies that interfaces and contacts remain significant dissipation bottlenecks. Heat flow in graphene or graphene composites could also be tunable through a variety of means, including phonon scattering by substrates, edges, or interfaces. Ultimately, the unusual thermal properties of graphene stem from its 2D nature, forming a rich playground for new discoveries of heat-flow physics and potentially leading to novel thermal management applications.
Gas-turbine engines used in transportation, energy, and defense sectors rely on high-temperature thermal-barrier coatings (TBCs) for improved efficiencies and power. The promise of still higher efficiencies and other benefits is driving TBCs research and development worldwide. An introduction to TBCs-complex, multi-layer evolving systems-is presented, where these fascinating systems touch on several known phenomena in materials science and engineering. Critical elements identified as being important to the development of future TBCs form the basis for the five articles in this issue of MRS Bulletin. These articles are introduced, together with a discussion of the major challenges to improved coating development and the rich opportunities for materials research they provide.
Research in ABO(3) perovskite oxides ranges from fundamental scientific studies in superconductivity and magnetism to technologies for advanced low-power electronics, energy storage, and conversion. The breadth in functionalities observed in this versatile materials class originates, in part, from the ability to control the local and extended crystallographic structure of corner-connected octahedral units. While an established paradigm exists to alter the size, shape, and connectivity of the octahedral building blocks in bulk materials, these approaches are often limited to certain subsets of the allowed perovskite archetypes and chemistries. In this article, we describe emerging routes in thin films and multilayer superlattices enabled by epitaxial synthesis aimed at engineering the octahedral connectivity-rotational magnitudes and patterns-to reach unexplored portions of the crystallographic structure-property phase space for rational materials design. We review three promising chemistry-independent strategies that provide a handle to tune the octahedral connectivity: epitaxial strain, interfacial control at perovskite/perovskite heterojunctions, and rotation engineering in short-period superlattices. Finally, we touch upon potential new functionalities that could be attained by extending these approaches to static and dynamic manipulation of the perovskite structure through external fields and highlight unresolved questions for the deterministic control of octahedral rotations in perovskite-structured materials.
Electronics can be made on elastically stretchable "skin." Such skins conform to irregularly curved surfaces and carry arrays of thin-film devices and integrated circuits. Laypeople and scientists intuitively grasp the concept of electronic skins; material scientists then ask "what materials are used?" and "how does it work?" Stretchable circuits are made of diverse materials that span more than 12 orders of magnitude in elastic modulus. We begin with a brief overview of the materials and the architecture of stretchable electronics, then we discuss stretchable substrates, encapsulation, interconnects, and the fabrication of devices and circuits. These components and techniques provide the tools for creating new concepts in biocompatible circuits that conform to and stretch with living tissue. They enable wireless energy transfer via stretchable antennas, stretchable solar cells that convert sunlight to electricity, supercapacitors, and batteries that store energy in stretchable electronic devices. We conclude with a brief outlook on the technical challenges for this revolutionary technology on its road to functional stretchable electronic systems.
Molten deposits based on calcium-magnesium alumino-silicates (CMAS), originating from siliceous debris ingested with the intake air, represent a fundamental threat to progress in gas turbine technology by limiting the operating surface temperature of coated components. The thermomechanical and thermochemical aspects of the CMAS interactions with thermal-barrier coatings, as well as the current status of mitigating strategies, are discussed in this article. Key challenges and research needs for developing adequate solutions are highlighted.
Piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have been proven to be an attractive technology for harvesting small magnitudes of energy from ambient vibrations. This technology promises to eliminate the need for replacing chemical batteries or complex wiring in microsensors/microsystems, moving us closer toward battery-less autonomous sensors systems and networks. To achieve this goal, a fully assembled energy harvester the size of a US quarter dollar coin (diameter = 24.26 mm, thickness = 1.75 mm) should be able to robustly generate about 100 mu W of continuous power from ambient vibrations. In addition, the cost of the device should be sufficiently low for mass scale deployment. At the present time, most of the devices reported in the literature do not meet these requirements. This article reviews the current state of the art with respect to the key challenges such as high power density and wide bandwidth of operation. This article also describes improvements in piezoelectric materials and resonator structure design, which are believed to be the solutions to these challenges. Epitaxial growth and grain texturing of piezoelectric materials is being developed to achieve much higher energy conversion efficiency. For embedded medical systems, lead-free piezoelectric thin films are being developed, and MEMS processes for these new classes of materials are being investigated. Nonlinear resonating beams for wide bandwidth resonance are also being developed to enable more robust operation of energy harvesters.
Emerging telecommunication and data routing applications anticipate a photonic roadmap leading to ultra-compact photonic integrated circuits. Consequently, photonic devices will soon have to meet footprint and efficiency requirements similar to their electronic counterparts calling for extreme capabilities to create, guide, modulate, and detect deep-subwavelength optical fields. For active devices such as modulators, this means fulfilling optical switching operations within light propagation distances of just a few wavelengths. Plasmonics, or metal optics, has emerged as one potential solution for integrated on-chip circuits that can combine both high operational speeds and ultra-compact architectures rivaling electronics in both speed and critical feature sizes. This article describes the current status, challenges, and future directions of the various components required to realize plasmonic integrated circuitry.
Inorganic semiconductors such as silicon, gallium arsenide, and gallium nitride provide, by far, the most well-established routes to high performance electronics/optoelectronics. Although these materials are intrinsically rigid and brittle, when exploited in strategic geometrical designs guided by mechanics modeling, they can be combined with elastomeric supports to yield integrated devices that offer linear elastic responses to large strain (similar to 100%) deformations. The result is an electronics/optoelectronics technology that offers the performance of conventional wafer-based systems, but with the mechanics of a rubberband. This article summarizes the key enabling concepts in materials, mechanics, and assembly and illustrates them through representative applications, ranging from electronic "eyeball" cameras to advanced surgical devices and "epidermal" electronic monitoring systems.
Major challenges have emerged as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) move to smaller size and increased integration density, while requiring fast response and large motions. Continued scaling to nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) requires revolutionary advances in actuators, sensors, and transducers. MEMS and NEMS utilizing piezoelectric thin films provide the required large linear forces with fast actuation at small drive voltages. This, in turn, provides accurate displacements at high integration densities, reduces the voltage burden on the integrated control electronics, and decreases NEMS complexity. These advances are enabled by the rapidly growing field of thin-film piezoelectric MEMS, from the development of AlN films for resonator and filter applications, to their implementation in adaptive radio front ends, to the demonstration of large piezoelectricity in epitaxial Pb(Zr,Ti)O-3 and PbMg1/3Nb2/3O3-PbTiO3 thin films. Applications of low voltage MEMS/NEMS include transducers for ultrasound medical imaging, robotic insects, inkjet printing, mechanically based logic, and energy harvesting. As described in this article, advances in the field are being driven by and are prompting advances in heterostructure design and theoretical investigations.
Developing wireless nanodevices and nanosystems is critical for sensing, medical science, environmental/infrastructure monitoring, defense technology, and even personal electronics. It is highly desirable for wireless devices to be self-powered without using a battery. We have developed piezoelectric nanogenerators that can serve as self-sufficient power sources for micro-/nanosystems. For wurtzite structures that have non-central symmetry, such as ZnO, GaN, and InN, a piezoelectric potential (piezopotential) is created by applying a strain. The nanogenerator uses the piezopotential as the driving force, responding to dynamic straining of piezoelectric nanowires. A gentle strain can produce an output voltage of up to 20-40 V from an integrated nanogenerator. Furthermore, piezopotential in the wurtzite structure can serve as a "gate" voltage that can effectively tune/control charge transport across an interface/junction; electronics based on such a mechanism are referred to as piezotronics, with applications such as electronic devices that are triggered or controlled by force or pressure, sensors, logic units, and memory. By using the piezotronic effect, we show that optoelectronic devices fabricated using wurtzite materials can provide superior performance for solar cells, photon detectors, and light-emitting diodes. Piezotronic devices are likely to serve as "mediators" for directly interfacing biomechanical action with silicon-based technology. This article reviews our study of ZnO nanostructures over the last 12 years, with a focus on nanogenerators and piezotronics.
Plasmonics aims at combining features of photonics and electronics by coupling photons with a free-electron gas, whose subwavelength oscillations (surface plasmons) enable manipulation of light at the nanoscale and engender the exciting properties of optical metamaterials. Plasmonics is facing a grand challenge of overcoming metal losses impeding its progress. We reflect on the reasons why subwavelength confinement and loss are intimately intertwined and investigate the physics of loss in conductors beyond the conventional Drude model. We suggest that commonly used noble metals may not be the best materials for plasmonics and describe alternate materials such as transparent conducting oxides and transition metal nitrides. We consider the prospects of compensating the loss with gain materials and conclude that the so-far elusive solution to the loss obstacle lies in finding better materials with lower losses.
The phenomenon of electron tunneling has been known since the advent of quantum mechanics, but continues to enrich our understanding of many fields of physics, as well as creating sub-fields on its own. Spin-dependent tunneling in magnetic tunnel junctions has aroused considerable interest and development. In parallel with this endeavor, recent advances in thin-film ferroelectrics have demonstrated the possibility of achieving stable and switchable ferroelectric polarization in nanometer-thick films. This discovery opened the possibility of using thin-film ferroelectrics as barriers in magnetic tunnel junctions, thus merging the fields of magnetism, ferroelectricity, and spin-polarized transport into an exciting and promising area of novel research. Nowadays, this research has become an important constituent of a broader effort in multiferroic materials and heterostructures that involves rich fundamental science and offers a potential for applications in novel multifunctional devices. The purpose of this article is to review recent developments in ferroelectric and multiferroic tunnel junctions. Starting from the concept of electron tunneling, we first discuss the key properties of magnetic tunnel junctions and then assess key functional characteristics of ferroelectric and multiferroic tunnel junctions. We discuss the recent demonstrations of giant resistive switching observed in ferroelectric tunnel junctions and the new concept of electrically controlling the spin polarization in magnetic tunnel junctions with a ferroelectric tunnel barrier.
In the emerging field of soft machines, large deformation of soft materials is harnessed to provide functions such as regulating flow in microfluidics, shaping light in adaptive optics, harvesting energy from ocean waves, and stretching electronics to interface with living tissues. Soft materials, however, do not provide all of the requisite functions; rather, soft machines are mostly hybrids of soft and hard materials. In addition to requiring stretchable electronics, soft machines often use soft materials that can deform in response to stimuli other than mechanical forces. Dielectric elastomers deform under a voltage. Hydrogels swell in response to changes in humidity, pH, temperature, and salt concentration. How does mechanics meet geometry, chemistry, and electrostatics to generate large deformation? How do molecular processes affect the functions of transducers? How efficiently can materials convert energy from one form to another? These questions are stimulating intriguing and useful advances in mechanics. This review highlights the mechanics that enables the creation of soft machines.
Thermal-barrier coatings (TBCs) are complex, defected, thick films made of zirconia-based refractory ceramic oxides. Their widespread applicability has necessitated development of high throughput, low cost materials manufacturing technologies. Thermal plasmas and electron beams have been the primary energy sources for processing of such systems. Electron-beam physical vapor deposition (EBPVD) is a sophisticated TBC fabrication technology for rotating parts of aero engine components, while atmospheric plasma sprays (APS) span the range from rotating blades of large power generation turbines to afterburners in supersonic propulsion engines. This article presents a scientific description of both contemporary manufacturing processes (EBPVD, APS) and emerging TBC deposition technologies based on novel extensions to plasma technology (suspension spray, plasma spray-PVD) to facilitate novel compliant and low thermal conductivity coating architectures. TBCs are of vital importance to both performance and energy efficiency of modern turbines with concomitant needs in process control for both advanced design and reliable manufacturing.
Oxides hold great promise as new and improved materials for thermal-barrier coating applications. The rich variety of structures and compositions of the materials in this class, and the ease with which they can be doped, allow the exploration of various mechanisms for lowering thermal conductivity. In this article, we review recent progress in identifying specific oxides with low thermal conductivity from both theoretical and experimental perspectives. We explore the mechanisms of lowering thermal conductivity, such as introducing structural/chemical disorder, increasing material density, increasing the number of atoms in the primitive cell, and exploiting the structural anisotropy. We conclude that further systematic exploration of oxide crystal structures and chemistries are likely to result in even further improved thermal-barrier coatings.
Because of its fascinating electronic properties, graphene is expected to produce breakthroughs in many areas of nanoelectronics. For spintronics, its key advantage is the expected long spin lifetime, combined with its large electron velocity. In this article, we review recent theoretical and experimental results showing that graphene could be the long-awaited platform for spintronics. A critical parameter for both characterization and devices is the resistance of the contact between the electrodes and the graphene, which must be large enough to prevent quenching of the induced spin polarization but small enough to allow for the detection of this polarization. Spin diffusion lengths in the 100-mu m range, much longer than those in conventional metals and semiconductors, have been observed. This could be a unique advantage for several concepts of spintronic devices, particularly for the implementation of complex architectures or logic circuits in which information is coded by pure spin currents.
Graphene is a material with outstanding properties that make it an excellent candidate for advanced applications in future electronics and photonics. The potential of graphene in high-speed analog electronics is currently being explored extensively because of its high carrier mobility, its high carrier saturation velocity, and the insensitivity of its electrical-transport behavior to temperature variations. Herein, we review some of the key material and carrier-transport physics of graphene, then focus on high-frequency graphene field-effect transistors, and finally discuss graphene monolithically integrated circuits (ICs). These high-frequency graphene transistors and ICs could become essential elements in the blossoming fields of wireless communications, sensing, and imaging. After discussing graphene electronics, we describe the impressive photonic properties of graphene. Graphene interacts strongly with light over a very wide spectral range from microwaves to ultraviolet radiation. Most importantly, the light-graphene interaction can be adjusted using an electric field or chemical dopant, making graphene-based photonic devices tunable. Single-particle interband transitions lead to a universal optical absorption of about 2% per layer, whereas intraband free-carrier transitions dominate in the microwave and terahertz wavelength range. The tunable plasmonic absorption of patterned graphene adds yet another dimension to graphene photonics. We show that these unique photonic properties of graphene over a broad wavelength range make it promising for many photonic applications such as fast photodetectors, optical modulators, far-infrared filters, polarizers, and electromagnetic wave shields. These graphene photonic devices could find various applications in optical communications, infrared imaging, and national security.
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.