Science of Interfacial Phenomena
Fundamental understanding of the physical and chemical properties of interfaces in natural and engineered materials is a critical component of environmental and energy-related research, understanding and controlling global warming, and the development of technologies important to the mission of DOE and society. The importance of interfaces has been highlighted in the "DOE BER Strategic Plan for Research at the Interface of the Biological and Physical Sciences" and at DOE science workshops on topics that include geosciences, solid-state lighting, solar energy, and advanced nuclear energy systems.
Tailored or designed surfaces and interfaces are important as model systems for detailed study of processes that occur on natural heterogeneous materials present in atmospheric or subsurface environments and for developing materials with new properties for
energy production, catalysis, and numerous other applications.
The behaviors of complex heterogeneous materials in the environment (such as aerosol photochemistry) will never be fully understood without model systems that allow specific aspects of that complexity to be examined in detail. Likewise, material systems with interfaces optimized with specific properties are essential for developing technologies needed for a stable environment and a secure energy future. An understanding of complex interfaces requires capabilities like those at EMSL for characterization of naturally complex materials and minerals found in the environment and to understand and design increasingly complex materials synthesized for a desired functionality. These science issues complement and naturally intersect those of the biological and subsurface science themes.
Two of the significant scientific challenges related to advancing interfacial science are: 1) developing (and verifying) predictive models for interfacial processes with energy and environmental implications, and 2) advancing the understanding of structure-function relationships in complex multi-component interfacial systems. The Science of Interfacial Phenomena science theme is focused on research activities that address these two scientific challenges in specific areas of high environmental or energy impact that involve:
- Nucleation and growth in multiphase and multicomponent systems (e.g., aerosols, the solid-liquid interface in batteries, materials synthesis, carbon sequestration, and geochemical processes)
- Phase separation and transformation (e.g., dissolution, precipitation, deliquescence, efflorescence, and ice formation)
- Charge and mass transport processes at interfaces that influence chemical transformations and energy production or storage as relevant to aerosol interactions in the environment, fuel cells and batteries, catalysis and photocatlysis, photocatalysis and solid-state lighting.
- Rational synthesis of materials and interfaces optimized for developing models of natural systems, energy production, energy storage, sensing, catalysis and photocatalysis, photovoltaics and solid-state lighting.
Many fields and technologies will be impacted by the improved understanding and control of molecular-level structural, dynamic, and transport properties of interfaces, including those related to energy production and storage, understanding the impact of aerosol chemistry on global warming and atmospheric contamination, chemical processing and production of many types of advanced materials. To enhance the impact of user projects, EMSL is currently focusing attention on two topics that address scientific, technological and societal problems: the formation and evolution of aerosol chemistry in the environment and the development of energy storage materials. In addition, EMSL's annual Call for Proposals solicits ideas to address an announced set of focused topics within each of these key areas.
Research capabilities and expertise at EMSL enable the design and characterization of a variety of material systems with specialized atomic, electronic, and ionic transport and interfacial properties. EMSL's unique blend of capabilities and staff expertise makes it a premier laboratory for the study of oxide materials and mineral surfaces.
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