Student and post-doc reporters and bloggers—Application deadline extended to March 31, 2017

Graduate students and post-docs who are interested in contributing to the Meeting Scene® newsletter and the Meeting Blog for the 2017 MRS Spring Meeting are encouraged to apply. Reporters will be required to attend talks in a variety of symposia and write brief summaries of four talks each day; bloggers will be required to post at least five items per day and also tweet about their experiences at the meeting. For completing these daily assignments, reporters and bloggers will receive reimbursement up to the student registration rate and a $50 stipend.

To apply, please send an email by March 31, 2017 to stating your qualifications and your reasons for wanting to report or blog for us. We need only four reporters and four bloggers, so we will not be able to accept everyone who applies. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Materials in sustainability appeals to undergraduate journalism students

Last year in Phoenix, undergraduate students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication reported news from the MRS Spring Meeting:

Special Message

The 2016 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston came to a successful conclusion on Friday, December 2, with over 6000 attendees and over 245 exhibitors. Our congratulations go to Meeting Chairs Bernard Bewlay, Silvija Gradečak, Sarah Heilshorn, Ralph Spolenak, and T. Venky Venkatesan for putting together an excellent technical program along with various special events. MRS would also like to thank all the Symposium Organizers, Session Chairs, and Symposium Assistants for their part in the success of this meeting.

Contributors to news on the 2016 MRS Fall Meeting include Meeting Scene reporters Xiwen Gong, Don Monroe, Aditi Risbud, Arthur L. Robinson, Armin VahidMohammadi, Vineet Venugopal, and Yuanyuan Zhu, with additional contributions from Omar Zahr; photographers Andrea Pekelnicky and Rebecca Tokarczyk; Joe Yzquierdo, newsletter production; and Bloggers Li Cai, Amrita Kaurwar, and Humaira Taz, with additional blog contributions from Ela Calinao Correa and Keroles B. Riad.

Thank you for subscribing to the Meeting Scene e-mails from the 2016 MRS Fall Meeting. We hope you enjoyed reading them. We welcome your comments and feedback.

iMatSci Innovation Winners

Innovators presented their technologies and were judged, with cash prizes awarded, based on the following criteria: clarity, presentation, value proposition, impact, and scalability.

F16 iMatSci Winners

First Place (center)
Roger Diebold, Samuel Shian, and Matthew Aprea
Solchroma Technologies, Inc.
Electroactive-polymer driven, full-color, reflective displays

Second Place (right)
Jinxin Fu, Xujun Zhang, Rachel Borrelli, Mohan Srinivasarao, and Paul Russo
MetaOptics, Inc.
Particle Sizing and Diffusion in Homogeneous Systems

Third Place (left)
Daniel Hayes
The Pennsylvania State University
Bone Foam- Injectable Bone Graft

Best Poster Award Winners - Thursday

Katherine L. Van Aken,
Drexel University
Ionic Liquid Electrolyte to Increase Temperature Range Potential Window, and Capacitance in Eletrochemical Capacitors


Avik Halder,
Argonne National Laboratory
Electrochemical Behavior of Naked Sub-Nanometer Cu Clusters and Effect of CO2

Maha Ahmed Alamoudi,
Photophysical Processes in Polymer: Non-Fullerene Small Molecule Acceptor Bulk Heterojunctions for Organic Solar Cells


EM 11.10.23
James E. S. Haggerty,
Oregon State University
The Effects of the Amorphous State on the Polymorphic Transitions in TiO2 Thin Films Produced via Pulsed Laser Deposition

iMatSci Keynote Speaker

ImatsciDan Button, AIRY:3D

If you’re not on the edge, you’re taking up too much space…

Written by Omar Zahr

As a serial materials science entrepreneur, Dan Button had a lot to share with iMatSci’s audience of innovators and entrepreneurs at the MRS Fall Meeting this year. He has raised over $100M in financing for four materials science startups, and has overseen two of the companies make their successful exits by being bought by, or merging with, another company. Calling on his experience at Fortune 500 companies Dupont and Corning, as well as his time commercializing five university inventions (now working on his fifth in three-dimensional computer vision), Button emphasized the need for a fledgling startup to be on the cutting-edge of technology if it ever hopes to compete against established industry leaders. Yet this is simply a starting point. A central challenge is financing. Investors often balk at the prospect of investing in a materials science-based startup, as they perceive a risk of low capital efficiency and a protracted time-to-market.  

Button highlighted five practical strategies to address those fears: Focusing on a single market, application and product at entry; Dropping-In to existing industry ecosystems wherever possible; Designing-In the solution across the value chain; Practicing production and application of your product to learn, improve and validate; and Diversifying one’s options, finances, and capabilities.

Ultimately, the essence of Button’s message is to do what it takes to get to the market as quickly as possible, with as little equity capital as possible.

ES1: Materials Science and Chemistry for Grid-Scale Energy Storage

Juchen Guo, University of California-Riverside

Reversible Electrochemical Aluminum Intercalation in Metal Sulfides

Written by Armin VahidMohammadi

Aluminum-ion batteries are considered one of the potential candidates to substitute lithium-ion batteries due to their high volumetric capacity, abundant amount of aluminum in earth, and also higher safety compared to flammable lithium-based batteries. Juchen Guo from the University of California-Riverside in the last session of this symposium (Friday), went over their interesting research on utilizing metal sulfides as potential cathodes for aluminum-ion batteries. Chevrel phase (Mo6S8) was the cathode material that was used in this research for reversible aluminum intercalation using aluminum metal as the anode. An ionic liquid was used to enable the intercalation of aluminum inside the system, and different ratios of salt to the ionic liquid were investigated to find the optimum electrolyte composition and exact mechanism of charge storage inside the system. The talk summarizes different capacitances of Chevrel phase material as well as other metal sulfides that were tested in Guo’s group for aluminum batteries and discusses the intercalation sites for the ions species inside the structure of the cathodes. The future direction for these types of cathode materials, such as making their particle size smaller to overcome the diffusion limitations, were discussed. To conclude and by considering the different talks given in this year’s MRS Fall Meeting, we can say that the future of energy storage devices lies in different battery systems beyond lithium-ion batteries due to the many advantages they can provide but there is still a long way left to make them actually market-ready.

Symposium X: Frontiers of Materials Research

Symp-xNicola Spaldin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH Zürich)

Multiferroics—Past, Present and Future

Written by Aditi Risbud

At Thursday’s lunchtime Symposium X talk, Nicola Spaldin conveyed her enthusiasm for the field of multiferroics—materials that combine two or more of the primary ferroic order parameters—ferromagnets, ferroelectrics, and ferroelastics—simultaneously in the same phase. Piezoelectrics are an example of multiferroic materials.

Spaldin noted the scarcity of materials exhibiting both ferromagnetic and ferroelectric behavior. Coexistence of these two properties could result in single-component inductors or capacitors, or integrated dielectric/storage devices.

Taking the idea one step further, magnetoelectric coupling would lead to electrical field-based control over magnetism—the “holy grail” of the field from a technological point of view. Spaldin cited “frightening” projections of annual information technology consumption in the decades ahead suggesting IT will consume 50% of the world’s energy by 2030 if scientists do not come up with entirely new device paradigms.

“if we want to keep information technology consumption to what is it today, around ten percent of world energy consumption, not even Moore’s Law scaling will suffice—we have to come up with new ideas for devices based on new materials,” noted Spaldin.

Although the term “multiferroics” did not appear in the scientific literature until a 2000 publication by Spaldin, Russian scientists Lev Landau and Evgeny Lifshitz had introduced the concept of magnetoelectrics in the 1960s. The search for magnetic ferroelectric materials took much longer, because the chemistry that promotes one functionality—filled or empty d-orbitals—often prohibits the other.  

The multiferroic researcher community has come up with several approaches to address this contradiction. For example, two cations—one magnetic, one ferroelectric—can be used in a transition metal oxide to combine the two properties in one material. (This is “the least clever approach, and I can say that because it’s the way I worked on it,” Spaldin said.) Transition metal oxides are ideal because they are stable and have strong correlations between electrons.

Spaldin went on to discuss promising systems with the potential for multiferroic properties, including BiFeO, which her group has extensively studied with her long-time experimental collaborator Ramamoorthy Ramesh at the University of California, Berkeley. Another potential route is to make a composite multiferroic, made of alternating layers of ferroelectric and ferromagnetic materials, where the coupling is mediated by strain. Darrell Schlom’s group at Cornell University achieved this concept with “designer multiferroic composites” in the lutetium iron oxide system.

Lastly, Spaldin discussed her intriguing work in using multiferroics to understand cosmology. By studying the ferroelectric domain structure of yttrium manganese oxide, she determined the meeting points of these domains in the oxide are actually one-dimensional strings. What’s more, the structural phase transition in multiferroic YMnO3 provides an exact mathematical analog to the formation of cosmic strings in the early universe.


Spaldin now collaborates with cosmologists—previously “thwarted by their inability to replay the Big Bang,” joked Spaldin—to study the early universe. By cooling YMnO3 at different rates through the structural phase transition and counting how many domain intersections form, the team can simulate expansion at different rates across the “Grand Unification Transition.”

For the students and early-career researchers in the audience, Spaldin discussed how she became interested in multiferroic materials, when she and a fellow postdoc at Yale University pondered the idea of a material being both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic. A weekend’s worth of library research unveiled no such material.

The quest to find multiferroics became Spaldin’s “obsession,” and she made it an integral part of her research when she became an assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara. The moral of the story? “Don’t neglect drinking coffee with your colleagues—it’s very important!”

“It’s exciting to be involved in a field from the very beginning, watching it evolve, sometimes being able to nurture the field in the direction you’d like it to go, and seeing it blossom into directions I hadn’t envisaged,” she said.

The Kavli Foundation Early Career Lectureship in Materials Science

KavliAndrea Alù, The University of Texas at Austin

Designer Matter—Fascinating Interactions of Light and Sound with Metamaterials

Written by Don Monroe

The past 15 years have seen revolutionary new ideas about the interactions of waves with matter. Assembling metamaterials that have emergent properties very different from their constituents promises negative–refractive-index lenses, invisibility cloaks, and other surprises. But practical applications that show these effects over large scales have been slow in coming, said Andrea Alù of the University of Texas at Austin, the recipient of the Kavli Foundation Early Career Lectureship in Materials Science, in his talk on Thursday.

These exotic structures tend to have high losses and limited bandwidth, lack reconfigurability, be nearly linear, and be limited by symmetry constraints, Alù said, but his group has been varying additional parameters to extend the possibilities. Their extensive results include theory and simulation as well as acoustic, radio-frequency (RF), and optical experiments.

In one example, Alù described patterning tiny structures on multi–quantum-well structures to enhance and control their nonlinear properties. The results showed efficient wavelength conversion for a mirror that was one-twentieth of the wavelength, avoiding the usual challenges of phase matching for exploiting nonlinear processes.

A large part of Alù’s presentation addressed reciprocity, which means that the strength of wave propagation is equally strong when source and detector are swapped. A well-known theorem concludes that this always occurs if the medium is symmetric, time-invariant, and linear. Current nonreciprocal devices, such as isolators that protect lasers from back-reflection, exploit magnetic materials that break time-reversal symmetry, but because magneto-optic effects are weak, these devices tend to be large.

A magnetic field breaks the degeneracy between clockwise- and counterclockwise-traveling modes in a circular cavity. Alù’s team produced the same effect in an acoustic cavity by introducing fans to spin the air in a circular acoustic waveguide. They achieved 40 dB isolation with an air speed that was only a tiny fraction of the speed of sound. A similar effect is expected for light in ring waveguides by introducing a modulation that moves very rapidly around the ring to replicate the effect of a moving medium.

In addition to allowing compact isolators and circulators, the breaking of time-reversal symmetry allows an analog of the topological insulators that have generated tremendous excitement in condensed-matter physics. Specifically, a lattice of symmetry-broken rings will support a mode that propagate in only one direction around the edge of the lattice. Such topological modes are insensitive to the details of how the lattice is terminated, because there are no corresponding modes for scattering into the bulk or in the reverse direction.

Alù showed that introducing a moving modulation in a planar surface avoids reciprocity for free-space modes as well, enabling absorbers such as photovoltaics that do not emit or antennas that transmit without receiving.

Another approach for breaking reciprocity exploits nonlinearity. Among other results, Alù and his co-workers constructed an array that acts as a topological insulator for high intensities of RF.

Using a single nonlinear resonance to create asymmetric propagation imposes a fundamental penalty with insertion loss, Alù and his colleagues have shown. However, by using a pair of resonances they designed an isolator that is fully transmissive in one direction and fully reflective in the other, which they verified in an RF structure.

Alù also described a strategy for cloaking that uses an active medium to cancel scattering and to fill in the shadow of an object. This technique avoids the tradeoff that limits the useful bandwidth of a passive cloak of a particular size. Applied to two planar surfaces, one with loss and one with gain, this method provides a way to achieve negative refractive index.

With these and other diverse examples, Alù showed that there are still many opportunities for novel manipulations of wave propagation.

The Kavli Foundation is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research and supporting scientists and their work.