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NSF funds new center for advanced 2-D coatings; energy conversion and storage

A new NSF-funded Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) at Penn State and Rice University will study the design and development of advanced coatings based on two-dimensional (2D) layered materials to solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges that include: corrosion, oxidation and abrasion, friction and wear, energy storage and harvesting, and the large-scale synthesis and deposition of novel multifunctional coatings.

The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings, (ATOMIC), is one of more than 80 Industry/University Cooperative Research Program centers established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage scientific collaboration between academia and industry. It is the only NSF center dedicated to the development of advanced 2-D coatings.

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Image of an atomically thin coating. Image: M. Breshnehan, Penn State. Click to enlarge.

Two-dimensional nanoscale coating materials have unique properties that can be exploited in glass and polymer manufacturing, automotive and electronics sectors, civil infrastructure, and marine antifouling and anticorrosion coatings. ATOMIC will integrate world-class research faculty at Penn State and Rice with leading industrial partners and national laboratories.

Leading the ATOMIC center for Penn State are Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, professor of chemistry and professor of materials science and engineering, and Joshua Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and Corning Faculty Fellow. Jun Lou and Pulickel M. Ajayan, both professors of materials science and nanoengineering, are leading the ATOMIC center at Rice University.

The Penn State site will be located in the new Millennium Science Complex (MSC). he Rice site of ATOMIC will be located in the Cox building of the brand new Materials Science and Nano Engineering Department.

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SEM image of a battery cross-section produced with spray painting. Source: ATOMIC. Click to enlarge.

Among the energy-related list of initial topics for ATOMIC is the Synthesis and Characterization of Atomically Thin Materials Applied in Energy Storage Devices Fabricated in Coatings.

The objective of this topic is to develop methods of immersing atomically thin materials into matrices that are functional in energy storage devices and facilitate coating techniques. The researchers will study each functional part of the energy storage devices, focusing on interface properties and processing techniques. The researchers hope to achieve high specific capacity/capacitance energy storage systems which will conform to arbitrary substrate shapes, be flexible or transparent, or have a combination of these properties.

The Principal Investigator (PI) is Pulickel Ajayan. Various projects are proposed under this topic and include:

  1. Preparation and characterization of individual energy storage components from 2D materials.

  2. Preparation and electrochemical characterization of multi-layer structures built with techniques developed in Project 1.

  3. Investigations of the key parameters of the thin film preparation techniques and optimizing device properties based on materials selection, processing, and preparation techniques.

  4. Investigating the effects of temperature, pressure, mechanical stress/strain, and packaging on the coatings.

In the Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) model, the NSF contributes seed funding over an initial five-year phase to encourage long-term partnerships among industry, universities and the government. Members pool their funds to conduct precompetitive research to benefit entire industries.

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