The Kavli Foundation Early Career Lectureship in Materials Science

Laura Na Liu_Kavli_BlogLaura Na Liu, Universität Heidelberg
Dynamic Plasmonics

Written by Sean Langan

Late Thursday afternoon, MRS members who had not yet headed home from the conference were treated to a wonderful lecture from Laura Na Liu, who was selected to give The Kavli Foundation Early Career Lecture in Materials Science due to her outstanding work in the field of plasmonics, specifically DNA-based dynamic plasmonic nanosystems. She calls her work DNA origami. For this origami, hundreds of short DNA strands are formed into complex two- and three-dimensional architectures. These form templates for functionalized DNA capture strands that extend from the origami, and because of the nature of DNA binding, these functionalized capture strands can be placed with incredible accuracy, and be used as the basis for complex nanosystems with optical functionality. With these nanosystems Liu is successfully mimicking the motor-like functions present in biological cells, such as rotary motors like FOF1-ATP synthase, and linear motors like Kinesin-1, Myosin, and Kinesin-5.

Liu’s first example of her work was a system with rotation. Two of the DNA origami bundles form a cross-like structure, with functionalized gold plasmonic particles on its top and bottom, forming a rotary system. These can form chiral left-handed and right-handed configurations. When specific DNA strands are added to the solution with the rotary system, they interact with the functionalized capture strands on the DNA origami to cause it to rotate between a relaxed state, a right-handed state, and a left-handed state. Through circular dichroism spectroscopy, these three states can be identified.

A problem with this technique is system degradation because of dilution that comes from adding more DNA strands, so Liu and her team began to experiment with using light as a switch for the rotary system instead. To do this, Azobenzene molecules, which change from a trans configuration to a cis configuration when exposed to UV light, and vice versa when exposed to visible light, were used. These molecules were placed between DNA bases so the functionalized DNA could change from a hybridized form to a dehybridized form, and vice versa, when light interacts with it. With this, light can change the rotational system from a locked to relaxed state. Other methods of control such as magnetic or pH control are being investigated as well. This kind of rotational system can be functionalized to detect several compounds in real time—cocaine and ATP were given as examples—when used in conjunction with circular dichroism spectroscopy.

Liu went on to show that this technique could be used for more than just changing the angles of one of these structures, but for full rotation as well. To do so, a DNA origami ring has 8 pairs of complementary strands placed across from each other, and by adding the correct paired strands to the solution, a separate piece of DNA origami can rotate around this structure.

A similar technique can be used to make a gold nanorod “walk” across a DNA origami platform. The gold nanorod is functionalized, as is the origami platform at regular intervals. Strands of DNA are added to the solution, one causing a functionalized strand from the platform to release the nanorod, while another causes a strand on the platform to bind with the nanorod farther down, creating a walking effect across the origami platform.

Using the Kinesin-5 protein that moves microtubules in a cell as a model, Liu developed a system plasmonic sliding system as well. Two gold nanocrystals are placed between two DNA origami pieces, and act as rollers between them. Using the same technique as before, these two nanocrystals will slide the origami pieces in opposite directions.

To conclude, Liu reiterated that through manipulating DNA and plasmonics, artificial devices can be created. As a next step, Liu wants to bring the various systems she has developed, both rotary and linear motors, together to make a single device.

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.

Graduate Student Awards


MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials research display a high level of excellence and distinction. MRS recognizes the following students of exceptional ability who show promise for significant future achievement in materials research.

Gold Award

Hyeon Seok An, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology

Megan E. Beck, Northwestern University

Lucas M Caretta, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Janna Domenico, Drexel University

Mihai Duduta, Harvard University

William Gent, Stanford University

Seokhyoung Kim, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Zhe Li, Iowa State University

Yayuan Liu, Stanford University

Kelly W. Mauser, California Institute of Technology

Jing Yang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wenjie Yang, The Australian National University


Silver Award

Ankita Bhutani, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Snehashis Choudhury, Cornell University

Mohammad Faqrul Alam Chowdhury, McGill University

Mohamed Elhebeary, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Victor Fung, University of California, Riverside

Yue Gao, The Pennsylvania State University

Jianhe Guo, The University of Texas at Austin

Jiuk Jang, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology

Hariom Jani, National University of Singapore

Ivan Lemesh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lu Li, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Meng Li, Tufts University

Qi Li, Carnegie Mellon University

Wenjie Li, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Yanbin Li, Stanford University

Yongtao Liu, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Nathan Nakamura, Carnegie Mellon University

Xinchen Ni, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Khalil Ramadi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Xinjian Shi, Stanford University

Ruitao Su, University of Minnesota

Atsunori Tanaka, University of California, San Diego

Danqing Wang, Northwestern University

Kehao Zhang, The Pennsylvania State University


Arthur Nowick Graduate Student Award

In addition, this year’s Arthur Nowick award goes to Hariom Jani of the National University of Singapore. This award honors the late Dr. Arthur Nowick and his lifelong commitment to teaching and mentoring students in materials science. MRS acknowledges the generous contribution for the Nowick Award to the MRS Foundation from Joan Nowick in memory of her husband Dr. Arthur Nowick.

Science as Art Award Winners



First Place 

Brian Landi, Rochester Institute of Technology
Who Lives in Your Nanotubes

Armin Vahid Mohammadi, Auburn University
MXene Turtle Under The Sea

Simge Uzun, Drexel University
MXene Coral

Second Place 

Hakan Ceylan, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems
Monster Microrobots

Yiheng Chen, The Haverford School
Monarch Butterfly’s Wing

ZTO Nanostructures

iMatSci Award Winners



1st Place — Parc, a Xerox Company
Team: Eugene Beh, Michael Benedict, Elif Karatay, Jessy Rivest
Innovation: Redox-Assisted Dehumidification Air Conditioning

2nd Place — Magnomer
Ravish Majithia, Vishal Salian, Kumaril Kapadia
Innovation:Magnetizable Coatings for Recyclable Plastic Packaging

3rd Place — Membrion, Inc.
Team: Greg Newbloom
Innovation: Ultra-Low-Cost Ceramic Nanoporous Membranes with Tunable Porosity

Chemical Angel Network $10,000 Investment Winner — Membrion, Inc.
Team: Greg Newbloom
Innovation: Ultra-Low-Cost Ceramic Nanoporous Membranes with Tunable Porosity

EU-40 Materials Prize

Xinliang Feng_EU40_Blog (003)
Xinliang Feng, Technische Universität, Dresden
Exploring New Matters with Soft and Hard Features

Written by Sean Langan

The EU-40 Materials Prize is given by the European Materials Research Society for researchers showing exceptional promise as leaders in materials science for their research done while in Europe, and this year was no exception. This Prize presentation given by Xinliang Feng of the Technische Universität on Thursday evening at the MRS Fall Meeting in Boston is a combined effort by MRS and E-MRS, and celebrates mid-career research.

Feng started with a discussion of various types of matter, hard matter and soft matter, and their various properties. Hard matter is characterized as rigid and crystalline, and often electrically conductive. Soft matter often consists of macromolecular assemblies, can be more amorphous, and is less rigid. He also described materials that were “in-between,” like carbon nanotubes, graphene, and organic and polymer crystals. Feng then transitioned into talking about his research into one of these materials that combines the properties of hard and soft matter, organic two-dimensional (2D) materials.

He described, first, 2D supramolecular molecular crystals, and then 2D polymers. Two-dimensional polymers are highly ordered, and single-monomer-thick. A porous graphene was shown as an example. Its monomers were made of rings of benzene, that when combined make a structure that is like graphene, but with large “holes” in it.

After this, a number of graphene nanoribbon structures were discussed. By varying the thicknesses of the nanoribbon, the bandgap can be controlled and thus its electrical properties. These nanoribbons shapes can be altered, from straight to curvy. Furthermore, other atoms can be added to rings within the structure to dope the material.

Feng then examined how to use interface chemistry to make these materials and move them onto other substrates. His group uses a number of techniques within interface chemistry, such as liquid/liquid interfaces, gas/solid interfaces, gas/liquid interfaces, and the Langmuir-Blodgett method. The nature of these interfaces allow for lower temperature reactions, changing the surface roughness of the material, and controlling the materials molecular orientation.

This led to a discussion on 2D supramolecular polymers with metal-dithiolene links. These were created with the Langmuir-Blodgett method, allowing for good control of thickness and the ability to create large sheets of the material that could then be transferred to another desired substrate. The material had desirable mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, and crystallinity. It was also found that in water they can lead to a hydrogen evolution reaction.

Two-dimensional polymers can also be used to make supercapacitors on the microscale, as is the case with PiCBA, a semiconducting 2D polymer. Similar materials can also be magnetic semiconducting through metal-organic frameworks, as happens when PSC monomers are turned into PTC monomers by hydrolyzing the sulfur, and then after coordinating with iron to make the sheets of the material. These networks have good electrical conductivity, are semiconducting, and at low temperatures can go from paramagnetic to ferromagnetic.

The next topic was polyimine-based 2D polymers. Depending on the interface they are created with, the thickness can be varied. These polymers were shown to absorb more light than graphene. When mechanical properties were tested, it was shown that it had a higher Young’s modulus than steel, and could be used for membrane applications.

Feng’s group is also making 2D organic crystals, which has proven quite difficult. Both polyamides and polyimides were made in this fashion, and single crystals were able to be formed.

Concluding his lecture, Feng emphasized the diverse nature of his work pursuing new materials. These materials can be made through many kinds of processes, and have unique properties and shapes.


Materials Theory Award Talk

Guilia Galli_Blog-2Giulia Galli, The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory

The Long and Winding Road: Predicting Material Properties Through Theory and Computation

Written by Ashley White

Galli’s Thursday evening Materials Theory Award talk was centered around three scientific examples, or “short stories,” as she called them. The stories had a common thread of the relationship between structure and function, and how we can understand, predict, and eventually control this relationship to design an optimal material. This approach was discussed in the context of optimal materials to absorb light in photo-electrochemical cells, optimal nanostructured materials for solar cells and electronic devices, and defects in semiconductors for quantum information devices.

In her first story on photo-electrochemical cells, Galli emphasized the importance of understanding, first and foremost, the interface between the electrode and water, as well as the band offsets, which control how charge travels in the system. Galli discussed two examples—silicon surfaces and tungsten oxide. In computing the absolute positions of the bands of liquid water and the band offsets between liquid water and the solids, Galli found that: (1) the solid-liquid interaction is not negligible; (2) multiple combined effects are present; and (3) surface functionalization can be tailored to optimize the photoabsorbent properties. In particular, she emphasized that understanding the electronic structure of solvated surfaces at finite temperature is critical for optimizing the materials system. Overall, she cautioned that studying the intrinsic properties of a material is insufficient, and in some cases misleads one away from predicting the optimal material.

Galli’s second story focused on electronic transport properties in nanoparticles, which may be enhanced through the use of inorganic ligands. In this example, she emphasized the importance of closely and iteratively incorporating experiment with simulations. To develop a structural motif for their models, Galli’s group had to work closely with experimentalists to refine and validate their calculations. Only after the model was validated by experiment could they use it as an input for further molecular dynamics simulations to successfully predict the electronic properties of their materials.

Galli’s third story was about manipulating defects in semiconductor materials for quantum information science. In this case, Galli explained, it is important to understand not only the electronic structure but also the spin decoherence, since it is related to interconnections between defects. Through a combination of approaches, including coupling the electronic structure calculation to the spin Hamiltonian, Galli was able to get excellent agreement between theory and experimental results for di-vacancy in silicon carbide—an approach which can now be extended to other systems as well.

An overarching challenge and goal for the future, Galli said, is to solve the “inverse problem” of being able to design new materials with pre-determined properties based on theoretical and computational information. In closing, Galli dedicated her talk and her award to Alessandro De Vita, a professor of physics and materials science at King’s College London and a collaborator of Galli’s, who passed away unexpectedly in October.

The Materials Theory Award, endowed by Toh-Ming Lu and Gwo Ching Wang, recognizes exceptional advances made by materials theory to the fundamental understanding of the structure and behavior of materials. Galli received the award “for the development of advanced first-principles simulation methods and their application to the understanding, prediction and design of complex nanostructured materials.”

Best Poster Award Winners – Thursday



Yunya Zhang, University of Virginia
Bio-Inspired, Metal Based, Layer-by-Layer Structured Composites with Exceptionally High Toughness

Sri Ayu Anggraini, AIST
Controlling the Polarity of Aluminum Nitride Thin Films Using Si-Based Dopants

Young-Woon Byeon, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Korea University
Lattice Strain and Phase Transition Induced by Li Migration in Cyclic NCM111 (LiNi1/3Co1/3Mn1/3O2)

Kriti Agarwal, University of Minnesota
Geometrical Modification of Hybridized Plasmon Modes in 3D Graphene Nanostructures

Wenhao Sun, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Non-Equilibrium Crystallization Pathways of Manganese Oxides in Aqueous Solution

Von Hippel Award

VonHip_800Width 230x230Hideo Hosono, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Element Strategy in Materials Science

Written by Arthur L. Robinson

Hideo Hosono of the Research Center for Element Strategy at the Tokyo Institute of Technology received the 2018 Von Hippel Award “for the discovery of high-Tc iron-based superconductors, creation of transparent oxide semiconductors and inorganic electrides.” His Wednesday Von Hippel Award presentation neatly tied these three types of discovery to a common theme, realizing valuable functionality in new materials by fully utilizing abundant elements and revealing the hidden potential of these elements in materials research.

As Hosono explained, the function of a material is inextricably tied to the characteristics of the constituent elements, such as the size, charge, orbit, and spin. Combined with structural factors (e.g., nanostructure, interface, defect), these lead to functional properties. There are over 100 elements in the periodic table, but the number of these that can actually be used for functional materials is limited to 60 or 70 because of issues like scarcity and toxicity. For the past two decades, Hosono took as his challenge coaxing electro-active functionality out of oxide-based materials containing abundant elements. The fruits of his labor—high-Tc iron-based superconductors, amorphous transparent indium-gallium-zinc-oxide semiconductors with high mobility for thin-film displays, and calcium-aluminum-oxide intermetallic electrides for ammonia-synthesis catalysts—are based on the main components of modern buildings: iron, glass, and cement.

The traditional view of superconductors holds that superconductivity and magnetic order are competing interactions; what’s good for one is bad for the other and vice-versa. By this reasoning, iron would be one of the last elements to choose for exploring new superconductors, yet when Hosono’s group reported that lanthanum-iron-phosphorous-oxide are superconducting, following on the earlier cuprate high-Tc revolution two decades earlier, it led to a new high-Tc fever highlighted by the 2008 discovery that samarium-iron-arsenic-oxide was superconducting at 55 K. Like the cuprates, the crystal structure of the iron-based superconductors consist of planes containing lanthanides and oxygen with spacer layers of the other constituents, in this case iron and a pnictide element between. Electron doping due to fluorine or hydrogen substituting for oxygen in samarium-oxygen planes drove the high Tc .

Turning to transparent oxide semiconductors, Hosono began by outlining the structure of active-matrix liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) based on thin-film transistors (TFTs), which require low tail states (states near the band edges) and low defect densities. A TFT is a field-effect transistor with thin films of an active semiconductor along with dielectric layers and metallic contacts on an insulating substrate, such as glass.
He then quickly reviewed the history of amorphous semiconductors, including switching and memory effects in amorphous chalcogenide thin films and amorphous silicon-hydrogen, flexible electronics, for which novel amorphous semiconductors are required. From here, he described a ternary oxide, indium-gallium-zinc-oxide (IGZO), which has higher mobility than amorphous silicon, reviewed its electronic structure, and illustrated its use in flexible TFTs.

Electrides are ionic crystals in which electrons serves as the anions. A constituent of alumina cements, 12CaO-7Al2O3 (C12A7) is an insulator with a bandgap of 7 eV. It has a crystal structure comprised of densely packed sub-nanosized cages, and free electrons can be injected into the material by replacing oxygen ions in the cages with electrons. After reviewing the electronic structure of this material, Hosono discussed the metal-insulator transition in which the metallic state is characterized by the electrons localized in cages conduct via hopping between lattice sites. Electron-doped C12A7 is characterized by a low work function and chemical inertness. He pointed out this metal is composed of typical insulators: lime and alumina. Hosono then turned to the use of this material in low-temperature and -pressure catalyst for onsite ammonia synthesis. Since 1913 this has been produced by the Haber-Bosch process in large plants. To produce the electride, catalyst, rubidium nanoparticles are deposited on the electride to capture nitrogen molecules. Tests showed the new catalyst successfully produces ammonia at a ten-times lower pressure and 200 K lower temperature than those in the Haber-Bosch process.

The Materials Research Society’s highest honor, the Von Hippel Award, is conferred annually to an individual in recognition of the recipient’s outstanding contribution to interdisciplinary research on materials.

Best SciVid Award Winners – Wednesday

SciVid800WidthFront: Simge Uzum (2nd Place), Stephanie Castillo (1st Place), Antoni Forner Cuenca (accepting for Rodrigo M. Ortiz de la Morena, PEOPLE"S CHOICE), Vladislav Khayrudinov (3rd Place)

Back: Bilen Akuzum (2nd Place), Babak Anasori (SciVid Organizer), Stephen Aldersley (President, Goodfellow)

(SciVid 2018-B) A Little Silicon is a Big Deal—1st place
Video Produced by: Stephanie Castillo, Alice Leach, Vanderbilt University, USA

(SciVid 2018-H) Smart Textiles, Future of Fashion—2nd Place
Video Produced by: Simge Uzun, Bilen Akuzum, Genevieve Dion, Yury Gogotsi, Drexel University, USA

(SciVId 2018-D) Nanowires Tiny Structures that Shape the Future of Humanity—3rd Place 
Video Produced by: Vladislav Khayrudinov, Aalto University, Finland

(SciVid 2018-M) 3D Printed Rigid Biodegradable Oil Absorbants—Honorable Mention
Video Produced by: Duanduan Han, Texas A&M University, USA

(SciVid 2018-C) What are SAMS—People's Choice
Video Produced by: Rodrigo M. Ortiz de la Morena, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

MRS Presents the Inaugural Nelson "Buck" Robinson Science and Technology Award for Renewable Energy

The winner of the inaugural Nelson “Buck” Robinson Science and Technology Award for Renewable Energy, Aaswath P. Raman of the University of Pennsylvania, discusses his award-winning work and is joined by Sophie Robinson, daughter of Nelson “Buck” Robinson and endower of the award.