Thank you!

While the 2023 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit came to conclusion with the end of The Virtual Experience on December 7th, Meeting content will be available online to registered participants through the end of January 2024.

Our congratulations go to the 2023 MRS Fall Meeting Chairs Derya Baran, Alexandra Boltasseva, Julien Pernot, Kristofer Reyes, and Jonathan Rivnay for putting together an excellent technical program along with various special events. MRS would also like to thank all the Symposium Organizers and Session Chairs for their part in the success of this Meeting. A thank you goes to the Exhibitors, Symposium Support, and to the sponsors of the Meeting and of the special events and activities.

Contributors to news on the 2023 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit include Meeting Scene reporters  Birgül Akolpoglu, Sophia Chen, Alison Hatt, Corrisa Heyes, Ankita Mathur, Matt Nakamura, Mruganka Parasnis, MD Afzalur Rab, Rahul Rao, Vineeth Venugopal, and Elizabeth Wilson; bloggers Cecilia Hong and Utkarsh Misra; and graphic artist Stephanie Gabborin; with newsletter production by Jason Zimmerman.

Thank you for subscribing to the MRS Meeting Scene newsletters. We hope you enjoyed reading them and continue your subscription as we launch into the 2024 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit. The conversation already started at #S24MRS! We welcome your comments and feedback.

Symposium DS04: Accelerating Data-Driven Materials Research for Energy Applications

Roman Garnett, Washington University in St. Luis

Active Search for Efficient Discovery of Visible Light-Activated Azoarene Photoswitches with Long Half-Lives

Written by Matthew Nakamura and Md Afzalur Rab

A photoswitch is a kind of molecule that can transform its structure, geometry, and chemical properties when the molecule is excited with electromagnetic radiation. In this talk, Roman Garnett from Washington University of St. Luis discussed an uncommon statistical method called “active search”— a variant of Bayesian optimization—to discover potential azoarene photoswitches.

In statistics, sequential analysis is a kind of hypothetical testing where the sample size is not known in advance. So the data are tested as they are collected and sampling is stopped according to some predefined rules. Bayesian optimization is a type of sequential analysis, where the size of samples are taken as undefined. Bayesian optimization is useful to test black box type functions where only inputs and outputs are known but intermediate processes are unknown.

Garnett highlighted the challenge of identifying rare, valuable subsets of photoswitches within a vast pool of possibilities and introduced nonmyopic-yet-efficient policies to address this complexity. Garnett emphasized the significance of active search in optimizing the discovery process, particularly where optimizing specific properties is crucial to overall performance of new materials. The discussion also showcased a successful application of active search to the discovery of photoswitches with desirable properties. Overall, Garnett’s talk provided valuable insights into the potential of intelligent experimental design utilizing active search to enhance the efficiency of discovery processes in various scientific domains.

Symposium SB08: Bio-Based Polymers and Composites for Sustainable Manufacturing

Mitra Ganewatta, Ingevity Corporation, University of South Carolina, Sandia National Laboratories

Industry–Academic Partnerships: Valorizing Lignin Through De-Aromatization and COOH Functionalization

Written by Mruganka Parasnis

Commercial lignin can improve the economic viability of lignocellulosic biorefineries. Depolymerization of lignin monomers is not viable. A new approach is chelator mediated by Fenton chemistry. In Mitra Ganewatta’s work, lignin was obtained from paper pulp and was sulphonated to different polymer products used in agriculture in making powders, granules, etc. The mechanism of action is due to the ionic repulsion polymers of the coated particles that eventually undergo steric stabilization. Sandia labs produce oxidized lignin and a CMF process optimization where the aromaticity, molecular weight and COOH functionality was controlled. Ingevity Corporation tested the products on a large scale and technoeconomic analysis was performed for commercial application. Researchers at the University of South Carolina studied heavy metal removal for different heavy metals such as Co, Cu, and Zn. Thus, Fenton chemistry was optimized successfully for tailoring -COOH groups and molecular weight. The lignin feedstock purity was critical for high performance.

Symposium SB08: Bio-Based Polymers and Composites for Sustainable Manufacturing

Written by Mruganka Parasnis

Liesl Schindler, Trillium

Sustainable Manufacturing of Acrylonitrile

Trillium Renewable Chemicals is scaling up a sustainable alternative to acrylamide. Acrylonitrile has been used in aerospace, Legos, and automobile industries and this will benefit the consumers and government. Glycerol, the starting product can undergo dehydration and ammoxidation to acetonitrile which is a biobased alternative and can be commercialized. A lab-scale synthesis is performed, and it will scale to a pilot scale testing which will be optimized and conducted further. It will then be validated and processed and used for applications in various industries. The final stage is still in progress where the market deployment is to be continued for multiple applications until 2026 to provide customers volumes of samples. The alternative can produce low carbon footprint acrylonitrile product.

Adnan Memic, King AbdulAziz University

Lignin/PBS Filaments for 3D Fused Deposition Modeling of Medical Orthoses

Cutting-edge technology is the need of the hour to solve many challenges in the pharmaceutical and biomedical industry. It can be overcome through 3D printing. Combining 3D printing with nanotechnology can be used to develop new materials and engineer unique properties for reconstructing bone, controlled drug delivery, and injectable biomaterials. Adnan Memic reported that the 3D printing method can have applications in fabricating bracing materials. It was combined with lignin that is the second most abundant biomaterial. Lignin PBS was tested for its rheological and mechanical properties using a custom-built extrusion instrument. Parameters such as temperature and speed were optimized to produce a film of desired diameter. The concentration of lignin was optimized for producing a smooth film observed through SEM. Studies were conducted to coat nanomaterials on lignin PBS, acting as an antioxidant and an antibacterial agent that can eliminate body odors when placed on body. The next step of this study is the durability and biodegradability testing of the film.

David Zamora Cisneros, McGill University

Mussel Byssus as a Green Fiber Manufacturing Platform

Taking inspiration from nature’s manufacturing processes, an attempt was made to mimic mussel byssus (a thread fabricated by marine mussels) as a sustainable functional method. David Zamora Cisneros reported that collagen obtained from mussel byssus has a self-assembly, self-healing, and enhanced mechanical properties. The objectives were to study the stability of this material under thermodynamic driving force, attain vesicle-vesicle interactions and fiber formation under flow conditions. Studies were conducted to characterize the free energy landscape using parametrization in terms of order parameters and was used to describe smectic LCs. Classical curvatures such as gaussian and mean and new soft matter geometric methods were applied to the energy landscape using quenching regimes. Modelling was performed using the Landau-de Gennes model for Isotropic Smectic A phase transition. Mathematical tools such as level set curves, steepest descent, lines of curvature, and geodesics were used, and equations were used to predict the temperature changes using a phase diagram. Stability changes were observed as the temperature increased. Smectic was stable at most temperatures. Level- set curves helped to locate the possible states present. Steepest descent and stability criteria determined the tendency of the states to follow as the temperature was varied. Geodesics connecting the stable points were found to have a linear trend within the energy landscape framework.

Symposium EN01: Energy Solutions for Unconventional Applications

Huolin Xin, University of California Irvine 

Advancing Solid Polymer Electrolytes: Enhancing Ionic Conductivity, Transference Number and Li0-SSB Cycle Life Through Conduction Mechanism Design and Integration of Zero-Strain Cathodes

Written by Matthew Nakamura

In his invited talk, Dr. Huolin Xin from the University of California, Irvine discussed advancements in solid polymer electrolytes (SPEs) for energy storage applications. He highlighted the challenges faced by SPEs, such as limited room-temperature ionic conductivity and non-selective ion transport, and proposed methodologies to overcome these issues. Xin emphasized the importance of finely tuning the composition of SPEs to achieve high conductivity at room temperature. Additionally, he introduced innovative strategies for single-ion conduction, significantly improving the transference number to unity. Furthermore, Xin explored the integration of zero-strain cathodes in Li0-SSB full cells, addressing strain-related issues and substantially enhancing cycle life. The presentation included experimental results demonstrating improved performance, such as a high capacity retention of 91% after 400 cycles. Xin’s research extended to sodium-ion systems, showcasing promising results with the addition of plasticizers like fluoroethylene carbonate, leading to conformal solid electrolyte interphase formation and improved sodium deposition morphology. The talk concluded with a glimpse into next-generation solid electrolytes, coupled with zero-strain cathodes, demonstrating over 2,000 cycles of cycle life and practical applicability in lithium metal solid batteries. Overall, Xin’s findings contribute to advancing the field of solid polymer electrolytes and their application in energy storage.

Symposium EL19: Atomically-Thin 2D Materials and Heterostructures—Synthesis, Properties and Applications

Medini Padmanabhan, Rhode Island College

Potential, Scope and Limitations of Liquid Interface Assembly as a Technique for Synthesizing 2D Thin Films

Written by Mruganka Parasnis

Solution fabrication of large-area thin films with 2D materials is an active field of study. In the work of Medini Padmanabhan  and colleagues, natural graphite and MoS2 flakes at a heptane-water interface spread out and arranged themselves as a thin film at the interface. The second step was transferred to a glass substrate. Two properties were combined: the light absorbing properties of MoS2 and the high conductivity of graphite to make composite films that exhibit photoconductivity. The flakes arranged themselves in a single layer and resisted stacking. The conductivity of the film was correlated with its porosity. It was an effective technique for combining it into a single layer.

Symposium EL12: Perspective on Applications of Metasurfaces—Advances in Metasurface Design, Fabrication, Integration and Material

Vahid Karimi, University of New Mexico

Multimode Coupling and Bound States in the Continuum in High-Index Metasurface

Written by Matthew Nakamura

Vahid Karimi's presentation on "Multimode Coupling and Bound States in the Continuum in High Index Metasurface" sheds light on the potential of high-refractive-index metasurfaces for nanoscale light manipulation. The study, conducted at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, focused on a GaAs nanopillar array. Through simulations the investigation revealed the metasurface's capacity for multimode coupling, leading to narrow Fano resonances. The interplay between nanoantenna dimensions and silicon quality, influenced by rapid thermal annealing, emerged as pivotal for controlling light propagation. Optimizing silicon quality decreased optical losses and enabled precise tuning of collective modes. The work underscores the importance of nanopillar dimension control for achieving tunable metasurface functionality. Additionally, it highlights the role of the Kerker effect in manipulating light scattering properties. The findings point to the possibility for integrated optoelectronic devices with advanced light modulation capabilities, offering a starting dataset to establish future optimized metasurfaces.

Symposium EL10: Understanding the Inorganic-Organic Interface—The Case of Colloidal Nanoscale Materials

Merve Karabiyik, Izmir Institute of Technology

Selective On-Off-On Polymer Bonded Quantum Dot-Nitroxide Radical Fluorescent Sensor to Detect Cd2+ Ion in Aqueous Media

Written by- Mruganka Parasnis

Heavy metal pollution is a serious issue and can cause long-lasting health problems. WHO has determined Cd as pollution due to high exposure in the environment. A sensitive and selective analytical method for its detection is a need of the hour. Many techniques have been used such as AAS, AES, ICP. However, new and powerful techniques such as fluorescent sensors can be used for the detection of heavy metals in which the selection of fluorophore is based on molar absorption coefficient. In this study Merve Karabiyik and colleagues developed a polymer-based fluorescent sensor with high mechanical strength. Development of a polymer-based nanoprobe complex was through the integration of QD4AT complex on polymer surface due to the electron transfer. iCVD process was used in thin film polymer coatings, for the integration of QD nitroxide radical formations which had many advantages as it can be used at lower temperatures, high deposition rates, with a variety of substrates. Poly glycidyl methacrylate (PGMA) had a high strength and functionality due to SH, NH2, OH groups observed through FTIR. The covalent bond to PGMA was through epoxy ring opening interactions. Polymer functionalization with amine group enhanced the detection limit and sensitivity of Cd. A good linear response was obtained for fluorescence intensities and Cd detection. Along with Cd, other heavy metals were also successfully detected.

Symposium SB05: Biohybrid and Soft Functional Interfaces

Lawrence Renna, Intelligent Optical Systems, USA

Microneedle Array Optical Sensing for Wearable Real-time Hydration Monitoring

Written by Birgul Akolpoglu

Lawrence Renna's talk on wearables addressed the critical need for real-time hydration monitoring, particularly in long-duration missions where pilot performance is impacted by insufficient water intake. Their engineered device involves a transparent microneedle array embedded with sensors and optics for continuous probing of interstitial fluids. Using a combination of materials including PDMS, Polyhydroxyethylmethacrylate (pHEMA) hydrogel, and polyester film, they created a microneedle sensor patch capable of monitoring individual biomarker levels. The sensors included pH, water activity (Aw), and sodium (Na). By leveraging the solvent polarity and proton-donating ability, the technology measures phase-resolved luminescence. Testing on porcine and PDMS-based mechanical skin models revealed no adverse effects, and a human study demonstrated the array's effectiveness as a physiological monitor during exercise. The promising results set the stage for a larger human subject study next year, showcasing the potential of microneedle array optical sensing in enhancing hydration monitoring for various applications.

Symposium DS04: Accelerating Data-Driven Materials Research for Energy Applications

Xiangyu Yin, Carnegie Mellon University

Deep Reinforcement Learning for Dopants Design in Crystalline Materials

Written by Matthew Nakamura

Xiangyu Yin delivered a comprehensive talk on the challenges and innovative solutions in deciphering the atomic or crystal structure of doped materials. He stated the main complexity arises from the minute scale of materials, dopant disruption, and intricate interactions between dopants and host materials, compounded by quantum mechanical effects. Yin proposed a groundbreaking approach, utilizing reinforcement learning (RL) to tackle issues faced by existing computational dopant design methods. By framing dopant design problems as RL games, the framework enables an interactive and iterative design process. The introduction of an invariant, explainable policy network through a policy gradient method ensures an optimal doping strategy that is both effective and interpretable. Applying this novel RL-based design approach to oxygen storage material (CeZrO4) and garnet phosphor host material (Y3Al5O12) showcased its impressive search efficiency, generalizability to larger systems, and robustness in handling varied dopant concentrations. Yin's research promises an efficient and adaptable pathway for designing doped materials.