Synthesis and Processing

Making Better Materials Better

Synthesis in materials science and engineering is the process of creating a new material by combining different elements or compounds. This can be done through methods such as chemical reactions, or physical methods such as deposition, depositing a thin layer of material onto a surface, and can result in materials with unique properties and characteristics.

Processing refers to the techniques used to manipulate and transform a material into a desired form or shape. This can include melting, casting, extrusion, or machining and can be used to modify the microstructure and properties of the material.

Nanoparticles are being used to develop new materials such as stain-repellent fabrics and scratchproof eyeglasses.

size, in nanometers, of the tiniest synthesized nanoparticles

Synthesis and Processing at DMSE

DMSE researchers and engineers are developing new materials, from polymers to metals to semiconducting materials, with properties such as strength and damage resistance. They use chemical vapor deposition, using substances in a vapor phase to generate solid material; the sol-gel process for producing solids from molecules; and self-assembly, in which atoms, molecules, or particles arrange themselves into ordered structures. In materials processing, research teams are developing new, eco-friendly processing techniques for metals, for example, and optimizing additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, to improve the quality and performance of printed parts.

Key Publications

Uncovering the effects of interface-induced ordering of liquid on crystal growth using machine learning

Employed machine learning methods and simulations to understand the role of the liquid in the solidification process.

Solidification is the process by which crystals form, usually when a liquid freezes solid (water to ice). Most solidification studies have focused on structure of the crystallite. Considerably less is understood about the role of the liquid’s structure.

Solidification drives many crucial industrial applications, including the manufacture of semiconductor wafers. Understanding the process will enable researchers to control crystal growth and, ultimately, the final properties of the materials used to manufacture products.

A priori control of zeolite phase competition and intergrowth with high-throughput simulations

Discovered a better way of custom-designing zeolites, porous minerals that can trap unwanted molecules from gases or liquids.

Zeolites trap molecules—of carbon, for example, or hydrogen—using pores of the exact shape and size as the target. Customizing zeolites involves adding a “templating” molecule, which dictates the exact size and shape of the pores in the final product. Figuring out the template for specific kinds of pores has traditionally involved trial and error, which wastes time and evaluates only a small fraction of viable candidates.

Custom zeolites have a variety of potential uses, including decarbonization. Synthesizing zeolites reliably and cheaply will speed their adoption in such applications.