Studying Oxides’ Conductivity
Oxides are well known as materials with low electronic conductivity. Upon closer examination, there is a great deal of variability in their ability to conduct charge, and much of this remains unexplained.
Richard Robinson, Materials Science and Engineering, Lena Kourkoutis, Applied and Engineering Physics, and Darrell Schlom, Materials Science and Engineering, are investigating a fundamental oxide question: how does atomic disorder affect conductivity in oxides? By elucidating these mechanisms, the researchers are opening new avenues to tailor the conductivity in oxides, important for applications such as semiconductor transistors, batteries, and fuel cells.
To investigate this question, the researchers are synthesizing ternary oxide spinels, characterizing the cation disorder, and correlating the disorder with the electronic transport. They are using x-ray emission spectroscopy, high-angle annular dark-field imaging, and electron energy loss spectroscopy to determine site occupancy, oxidation states, and local atomic segregation. The experimental results are coupled with theory to understand the mechanisms and outline a global model for transport.
The researchers are promoting science to the public by creating a website with online training videos for international science outreach. They are also designing an experiment on electronic conductivity in oxides for Lending Library Experiments.