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Feature Stories

  •  Using advanced NMR spectroscopy methods to guide materials design

    How do small defects in the surface of solar cell material affect its ability to absorb and convert sunlight to electricity? How does the molecular structure of a porous material determine its ability to separate gases from one another? Understanding the structure and function of materials at the atomic scale is one of the frontiers of energy science.

  • CaloriCool Consortium’s goal: game-changing refrigeration technology within a decade

    ~ by Laura Millsaps

    Refrigeration has been such an integral part of our everyday lives for so long that we rarely think of it. Our food is fresh and our offices and living rooms temperature-controlled thanks to the vapor compression technology developed over a century ago, and it is an integral part of medical care, transportation, military defense, and more.

  • Nature provides myriad examples of unique materials and structures developed for specialized applications or adaptations. An interdisciplinary group of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory is trying to unlock the secrets that organisms use to build such complex structures so that power can be used to create materials not found in nature and not capable of being synthesized by conventional means.

  • Some people wear their emotions on their sleeve, but Elizabeth Wille -- who spent the last four months learning crystal growth techniques from Ames Laboratory senior physicist Paul Canfield --  took it skin deep, tattooing her affection for the crystal ruthenium on her bicep.

  • Cooling materials super-quickly, called rapid solidification, prevents the normal crystalline structures of materials from forming, often creating unique properties in the process. If single crystal growth techniques sit at one end of the materials synthesis spectrum, promoting the growth of that material’s equilibrium crystalline structure, rapid solidification techniques promote the opposite effect, cooling the material so quickly from liquid to solid, that the crystals formed are small, or in some cases non-existent, becoming amorphous or glass-like with no discernable crystalline pattern to their overall molecular structure. (3/27/17)