Unusual Material Discovery Sets the Stage for Energy Efficiency Advances

Unusual Material

The arrangement of atoms in a material is very important. It controls whether a material is strong or weak, its magnetic properties, and, indeed, almost every other property that might make the material useful. Scientists strive to control the arrangement of atoms and this is done in various ways, often transforming one structure to another. This is typically done by adjusting the composition or changing the processing temperature.

Materials transform in different ways, some of which are more common than others. A spinodal decomposition is a relatively unusual type of microstructural transformation; only about 20 spinodal decompositions have been reported. Typically only one such decomposition is observed for a particular system. Compounds that undergo spinodal decompositions are desirable because of their potential use in thermoelectric devices that convert waste heat into electricity. Researchers have discovered a new material system that exhibits not just one but five spinodally-related phases. This discovery is valuable not only for its potential uses, but also because researchers can use it to gain a fundamental understanding of where to expect spinodal decompositions, thus enabling additional, key material discoveries.

Contact: John D. Corbett, jdc@ameslab.gov

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