Inorganic Materials in the context of the Materials Department at UCSB, comprises functional oxides, chalcogenides, pnictides, intermetallics, and even hybrid organic-inorganic materials, prepared as a variety of platforms, ranging from bulk amorphous and polycrystalline materials to single crystals and epitaxial thin films. The emphasis of the research is two-fold: The first is that the materials or materials architectures are either new compositions of matter or new crystal structures and architectures (for example, heterostructures) or both, ensuring that the materials are at the forefront of academic research. The second emphasis is on function, meaning that the physical properties of the materials are an important emphasis. A key overarching goal in this area is to establish relations between material function, structure at the length-scale of the unit cell and smaller, and composition, while appreciating the utility of such relations in the development of new materials. Faculty members in this emphasis area employ state-of-the-art preparative tools, in conjunction with advanced characterization techniques and property measurement. Theoretical and computational techniques are use to both understand and predict known and new materials. World-leading on-site capabilities are employed in addition to large-scale user facilities, such synchrotron and neutron sources and the high-magnet field labs at Los Alamos and Tallahassee.
A sampling of specific research areas being pursued by faculty members and their research groups:
Perovskite oxide heterointerfaces: The growth and characterization of highly perfect perovskite oxide heterointerfaces that allow interesting questions to be posed regarding the control and switching of insulator-to-metal transitions. These studies of fundamental properties of correlated oxide materials could potentially impact the future paradigms of optoelectronics, sensing, and computing.
Single-crystal growth and studies of correlated materials: Advancing an understanding of the fundamental physical properties of materials has frequently relied on having high quality single-crystal samples. For many materials of interest, growing single crystals of a reasonable size –– for example, that would allow detailed neutron scattering studies to be carried out –– is itself a scientific challenge. Some of the problems of interest include the role played by dimensionality and spin-orbit coupling in correlated materials, and associated insulator-to-metal transitions, and the creation and detection of complex magnetic ground states.
Functional inorganic and hybrid materials for energy conversion and storage: New innovations in materials play a key role in advancing sustainable renewable energy technologies, including those associate with waste-heat recovery, more efficient lighting and refrigeration, and the ability to store and deliver energy from intermittent sources. The goals of the research in this area is to link the fundamental science of materials to achieving ever improved performance, while being sensitive to issues such as elemental abundance and material life-cycles.