The Materials Sciences and Engineering Division supports research that explores the origin of macroscopic material behaviors and their fundamental connections to atomic, molecular, and electronic structures. At the core of the Division is the quest for a paradigm shift for the deterministic design and discovery of new materials with novel structures, functions, and properties. To accomplish this goal, the portfolio stresses the need to probe, understand, and control the interactions of phonons, photons, electrons, and ions with matter to direct and control energy flow in materials systems over multiple time and length scales. Such understanding and control are critical to science-guided design of highly efficient energy conversion processes, such as new electromagnetic pathways for enhanced light emission in solid-state lighting and multi-functional nanoporous structures for optimum charge transport in batteries and fuel cells.
This Division also seeks to conceptualize, calculate, and predict processes underlying physical transformations, tackling challenging real-world systems—for example, materials with many atomic constituents, with complex architectures, or that contain defects; systems that exhibit correlated emergent behavior; and systems that are far from equilibrium. Such understanding will be critical to developing predictive capability for complex systems behavior, such as in superconductivity and magnetism. The Division also supports the development and advancement of the experimental and computational tools and techniques that in turn enable the understanding of the behaviors of materials, especially their reactivity under the full range of extreme conditions and the ability to predict the structure and properties of formed phases. Finally, the Division exploits the interfaces between physical and biological sciences to explore bio-mimetic processes as new approaches to novel materials design.
The Division supports basic research that underpins a broad range of energy technologies. Research in materials sciences and engineering leads to the development of materials that improve the efficiency, economy, environmental acceptability, and safety of energy generation, conversion, transmission, storage, and use. For example, advances in superconductivity have been introduced commercially in a number of demonstration projects around the country. Improvements in alloy design for high temperature applications are used in commercial furnaces and in green technologies such as lead-free solder. The Division also plays a major role in enabling the nanoscale revolution. The development of new nanoscale materials, as well as the methods to characterize, manipulate, and assemble them, create an entirely new paradigm for developing new and revolutionary energy technologies.