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Program Highlights

Accessing pluripotent materials through tempering of dynamic covalent polymer networks

In this highlight, researchers at the University of Chicago MRSEC report the development of a polymeric, pluripotent material that can be tempered (akin to the process in metallurgy) to access a wide range of room temperature mechanical properties, from stiff and high strength to soft and extensible, from a single feedstock. The feedstock was composed of a benzalcyanoacetate-based Michael acceptor, a tetrathiol crosslinker, and a dithiol chain extender to form dynamic thia-Michael networks.

Machine learning interpretable models of biomaterials from chemistry

This work, carried out by the University of Chicago MRSEC, shows how to integrate neural networks in the construction of predictive phenomenological models in cell biology, even when little knowledge of the underlying microscopic mechanisms exist.

CryoEM finds complexity in structural evolution of active materials

UCI MRSEC researchers have performed the first in-depth time-resolved cryo-electron microscopy study on molecular active materials formed under dissipative self-assembly conditions and compared the results to the same molecular formed under thermodynamic control. They found that the dissipative self-assembly conditions can stabilize the formation on transient, thermodynamically unstable phases and that these phases can be highly ordered.

Discovery of Ni Activated Sintering of MoNbTaW Guided by a Computed Grain Boundary “Phase” Diagram

This study, carried out by researchers at UCI MRSEC, demonstrated the first example of activated sintering of a high-entropy alloy. It also revealed a segregation-induced grain boundary prewetting (disordering) transition.

Sustainability efforts gain institutional support and international recognition

​The MRSEC’s sustainability initiative for research labs expanded in its second year to 29 labs across Penn State University Park and six branch campuses. Over 400 researchers have been involved thus far. Labs completing My Green Lab certification can be paired with one of 17 undergraduate Sustainable Lab Ambassadors who apply their sustainability training to the lab setting through engaged scholarship.

Interface-induced superconductivity in magnetic topological insulators

An IRG1 team employed molecular beam epitaxy to synthesize heterostructures stacking a ferromagnetic topological insulator with a quantum anomalous Hall state, Cr-doped (Bi, Sb)2Te3, and an antiferromagnetic iron chalcogenide, FeTe, with an atomically sharp interface. An unexpected phenomenon emerges: interface-induced superconductivity.

High-entropy engineering of the crystal and electronic structures in a Dirac material

Quantum materials have the potential to revolutionize technologies ranging from sensing to telecommunication and computation. However, advancement has been limited by the development of topological and Dirac materials. IRG2 researchers demonstrated a novel and widely applicable strategy to engineer relativistic electron states to develop such materials through a high-entropy approach.

Superlubricious Hydrogels from Oxidation Gradients

Hydrogels are hydrated three-dimensional networksof hydrophilic polymers that are commonly used in the biomedical industry due to their mechanical and structural tunability, biocompatibility, and similar water content to biological tissues.

Rapid Generation and Screening of Complex Polymer Morphologies

Block copolymers, with their complex morphologies, are widely used in many applications. A grand challenge associated with these materials is accelerating their design and discovery.

Record Voltage-Based Tuning of Thermal Conductivity in La0.5Sr0.5CoO3-d

A team from IRG-1, working with collaborators at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Utah, have demonstrated continuous room-temperature electrical tuning of the thermal conductivity of La0.5Sr0.5CoO3-d by a factor of more than five (a record for a single-step process) via ion-gel gating. Application of a gate voltage in these devices drives a transformation from a metallic perovskite phase to an insulating brownmillerite phase via the formation and migration of oxygen vacancies, realizing the record range of measured thermal conductivities.