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Fungal Enzymes Team Up to More Efficiently Break Down Cellulose

Cost-effectively breaking down bioenergy crops into sugars that can then be converted into fuel is a barrier to commercially producing sustainable biofuels. Enabled by DOE User Facilities, a team reports that early lineages of fungi can form enzyme complexes capable of degrading plant biomass.

Argonne Scientists Make Vanadium Into a Useful Catalyst for Hydrogenation

In a new study, Argonne chemist Max Delferro boosted and analyzed the unprecedented catalytic activity of an element called vanadium for hydrogenation - a reaction that is used for making everything from vegetable oils to petrochemical products to vitamins.

Printed, Flexible and Rechargeable Battery Can Power Wearable Sensors

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first printed battery that is flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. The zinc batteries could be used to power everything from wearable sensors to solar cells and other kinds of electronics. The work appears in the April 19, 2017 issue of Advanced Energy Materials.

Neutrons Provide the First Nanoscale Look at a Living Cell Membrane

A research team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has performed the first-ever direct nanoscale examination of a living cell membrane. In doing so, it also resolved a long-standing debate by identifying tiny groupings of lipid molecules that are likely key to the cell's functioning.

How X-Rays Helped to Solve Mystery of Floating Rocks

Experiments at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source have helped scientists to solve a mystery of why some rocks can float for years in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles before sinking.

Special X-Ray Technique Allows Scientists to See 3-D Deformations

In a new study published last Friday in Science, researchers at Argonne used an X-ray scattering technique called Bragg coherent diffraction imaging to reconstruct in 3-D the size and shape of grain defects. These defects create imperfections in the lattice of atoms inside a grain that can give rise to interesting material properties and effects.

Neptune: Neutralizer-Free Plasma Propulsion

The most established plasma propulsion concepts are gridded-ion thrusters that accelerate and emit a larger number of positively charged particles than those that are negatively charged. To enable the spacecraft to remain charge-neutral, a "neutralizer" is used to inject electrons to exactly balance the positive ion charge in the exhaust beam. However, the neutralizer requires additional power from the spacecraft and increases the size and weight of the propulsion system. Researchers are investigating how the radio-frequency self-bias effect can be used to remove the neutralizer altogether, and they report their work in this week's Physics of Plasmas.

Report Sheds New Insights on the Spin Dynamics of a Material Candidate for Low-Power Devices

In a report published in Nano LettersArgonne researchers reveal new insights into the properties of a magnetic insulator that is a candidate for low-power device applications; their insights form early stepping-stones towards developing high-speed, low-power electronics that use electron spin rather than charge to carry information.

Researchers Find Computer Code That Volkswagen Used to Cheat Emissions Tests

An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U.S. and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car's onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test.

Physicists Discover That Lithium Oxide on Tokamak Walls Can Improve Plasma Performance

A team of physicists has found that a coating of lithium oxide on the inside of fusion machines known as tokamaks can absorb as much deuterium as pure lithium can.


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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Joins Energy-Focused National Science Foundation Research Center

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is joining a National Science Foundation-backed research center that will develop new technologies for storing, controlling and distributing energy that could ward off cybersecurity threats and lower energy bills.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Describing the dizzying pace of technological innovation, former United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz urged graduates to "anticipate career change, welcome it, and manage it to your and your society's benefit" at the 211th Commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Saturday.

ORNL Welcomes Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurial Research Fellows

Oak Ridge National Laboratory today welcomed the first cohort of innovators to join Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast region's first entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

Department of Energy Secretary Recognizes Argonne Scientists' Work to Fight Ebola, Cancer

Two groups of researchers at Argonne earned special awards from the office of the U.S. Secretary of Energy for addressing the global health challenges of Ebola and cancer.

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC Recognized for Leadership in Small Business Utilization

Jefferson Lab/Jefferson Science Associates has a long-standing commitment to doing business with and mentoring small businesses. That commitment and support received national recognition at the 16th Annual Dept. of Energy Small Business Forum and Expo held May 16-18, 2017 in Kansas City, Mo.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President's Commencement Colloquy to Address "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity"

To kick off the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Commencement weekend, the annual President's Commencement Colloquy will take place on Friday, May 19, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, titled "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity," will include the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, and the Honorable Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA, and will be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has approved a new doctoral program in data science and engineering as part of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

SurfTec Receives $1.2 Million Energy Award to Develop Novel Coating

The Department of Energy has awarded $1.2 million to SurfTec LLC, a company affiliated with the U of A Technology Development Foundation, to continue developing a nanoparticle-based coating to replace lead-based journal bearings in the next generation of electric machines.

Ames Laboratory Scientist Inducted Into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

DOE HPC4Mfg Program Funds 13 New Projects to Improve U.S. Energy Technologies Through High Performance Computing

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing is funding 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.9 million.


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Casting a Wide Net

Designed molecules will provide positive impacts in energy production by selectively removing unwanted ions from complex solutions.

New Software Tools Streamline DNA Sequence Design-and-Build Process

Enhanced software tools will accelerate gene discovery and characterization, vital for new forms of fuel production.

The Ultrafast Interplay Between Molecules and Materials

Computer calculations by the Center for Solar Fuels, an Energy Frontier Research Center, shed light on nebulous interactions in semiconductors relevant to dye-sensitized solar cells.

Supercapacitors: WOODn't That Be Nice

Researchers at Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage, an Energy Frontier Research Center, take advantage of nature-made materials and structure for energy storage research.

Groundwater Flow Is Key for Modeling the Global Water Cycle

Water table depth and groundwater flow are vital to understanding the amount of water that plants transmit to the atmosphere.

Finding the Correct Path

A new computational technique greatly simplifies the complex reaction networks common to catalysis and combustion fields.

Opening Efficient Routes to Everyday Plastics

A new material from the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center, facilitates the production of key industrial supplies.

Fight to the Top: Silver and Gold Compete for the Surface of a Bimetallic Solid

It's the classic plot of a buddy movie. Two struggling bodies team up to drive the plot and do good together. That same idea, when it comes to metals, could help scientists solve a big problem: the amount of energy consumed by making chemicals.

Saving Energy Through Light Control

New materials, designed by researchers at the Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center, can reduce energy consumption with the flip of a switch.

Teaching Perovskites to Swim

Scientists at the ANSER Energy Frontier Research Center designed a two-component layer protects a sunlight-harvesting device from water and heat.


Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

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High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

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Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

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Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

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Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

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Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

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Giving Back to National Science Bowl

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NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

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Ames Laboratory

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Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

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University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

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Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

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Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

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Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

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Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

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ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

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UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

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Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

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Scientists Help Thin-Film Ferroelectrics Go Extreme

Article ID: 674424

Released: 2017-05-09 20:05:53

Source Newsroom: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • Credit: Anoop Damodaran/Berkeley Lab

    On the left is a low-resolution scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) image of a ferroelectric material that is continuously graded from barium strontium titanate (BSTO, top) to barium titanate (BTO, bottom). The material is grown on a gadolinium scandate (GSO) substrate buffered by a strontium ruthenate (SRO) bottom electrode. To the right are local nanobeam diffraction-based 2D maps of a-axis and c-axis lattice parameters that confirm large strain gradients in the ferroelectric material. The material is promising as electrically-tunable capacitors with extreme temperature stability.

Scientists have greatly expanded the range of functional temperatures for ferroelectrics, a key material used in a variety of everyday applications, by creating the first-ever polarization gradient in a thin film.

The achievement, reported May 10 in Nature Communications by researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), paves the way for developing devices capable of supporting wireless communications in extreme environments, from inside nuclear reactors to Earth’s polar regions.

Ferroelectric materials are prized for having a spontaneous polarization that is reversible by an applied electric field and for the ability to produce electric charges in response to physical pressure. They can function as capacitors, transducers, and oscillators, and they can be found in applications such as transit cards, ultrasound imaging, and push-button ignition systems.

Berkeley Lab scientists created a strain and chemical gradient in a 150-nanometer-thin film of barium strontium titanate, a widely used ferroelectric material. The researchers were able to directly measure the tiny atomic displacements in the material using cutting-edge advanced microscopy at Berkeley Lab, finding gradients in the polarization. The polarization varied from 0 to 35 microcoulombs per centimeter squared across the thickness of the thin-film material.

Tossing out textbook predictions

“Traditional physics and engineering textbooks wouldn’t have predicted this observation,” said study principal investigator Lane Martin, faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley associate professor of materials and engineering. “Creating gradients in materials costs a lot of energy—Mother Nature doesn’t like them—and the material works to level out such imbalances in whatever way possible. In order for a large gradient like the one we have here to occur, we needed something else in the material to compensate for this unfavorable structure. In this case, the key is the material’s naturally occurring defects, such as charges and vacancies of atoms, that accommodate the imbalance and stabilize the gradient in polarization.”

Creating a polarization gradient had the beneficial effect of expanding the temperature range for optimal performance by the ferroelectric material. Barium titanate’s function is strongly temperature-dependent with relatively small effects near room temperature and a large, sharp peak in response at around 120 degrees Celsius. This makes it hard to achieve well-controlled, reliable function as the temperature varies beyond a rather narrow window. To adapt the material to work for applications at and around room temperature, engineers tune the chemistry of the material, but the range of temperatures where the materials are useful remains relatively narrow.

"The new polarization profile we have created gives rise to a nearly temperature-insensitive dielectric response, which is not common in ferroelectric materials," said Martin. "By making a gradient in the polarization, the ferroelectric simultaneously operates like a range or continuum of materials, giving us high-performance results across a 500-degree Celsius window. In comparison, standard, off-the-shelf materials today would give the same responses across a much smaller 50-degree Celsius window."

Beyond the obvious expansions to hotter and colder environments, the researchers noted that this wider temperature range could shrink the number of components needed in electronic devices and potentially reduce the power draw of wireless phones.

"The smartphone I'm holding in my hand right now has dielectric resonators, phase shifters, oscillators—more than 200 elements altogether—based on similar materials to what we studied in this paper," said Martin. “About 45 of those elements are needed to filter the signals coming to and from your cell phone to make sure you have a clear signal. That’s a huge amount of real estate to dedicate to one function.”

Because changes in temperature alter the resonance of the ferroelectric materials, there are constant adjustments being made to match the materials to the wavelength of the signals sent from cell towers. Power is needed to tune the signal, and the more out of tune it is, the more power the phone needs to use to get a clear signal for the caller. A material with a polarization gradient capable operating over large temperatures regimes could reduce the power needed to tune the signal.

Faster detectors enable new imaging techniques

Understanding the polarization gradient entailed the use of epitaxial strain, a strategy in which a crystalline overlayer is grown on a substrate, but with a mismatch in the lattice structure. This strain engineering technique, commonly employed in semiconductor manufacturing, helps control the structure and enhance performance in materials.

Recent advances in electron microscopy have allowed researchers to obtain atomic-scale structural data of the strained barium strontium titanate, and to directly measure the strain and polarization gradient.

"We have established a way to use nanobeam scanning diffraction to record diffraction patterns from each point, and afterwards analyze the datasets for strain and polarization data," said study co-author Andrew Minor, director of the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. "This type of mapping, pioneered at Berkeley Lab, is both new and very powerful."

Another key factor was the speed of the detector, Minor added. For this paper, data was obtained at a rate of 400 frames per second, an order of magnitude faster than the 30-frame-per-second rate from just a few years ago. This technique is now available for users at the Foundry.

"We're seeing a revolution in microscopy related to the use of direct electron detectors that is changing many fields of research," said Minor, who also holds an appointment as a UC Berkeley professor of materials science and engineering. "We're able to both see and measure things at a scale that was hard to imagine until recently."

Co-lead authors of the study are postdoctoral researcher Anoop Damodaran and graduate student Shishir Pandya at UC Berkeley's Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Other study co-authors include researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Rutgers University.  

This work included support from DOE's Office of Science, the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.