SOFI’s members are instrumental in our continued efforts to accelerate the commercialization of a renewable fuel from the sun. This March, SOFI is pleased to have the Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology (IAMDN) at Rutgers University as our highlighted member.
Enjoy our interview IAMDN’s Director Dr. Leonard Feldman and get to know a little bit more about SOFI’s members.
SOFI: What is your role at Rutgers’ Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology (IAMDN)? How long have you been in this position and what are your other responsibilities at Rutgers?
Feldman: I came to Rutgers in 2007 as the director of IAMDN, which stands for the Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices and Nanotechnology. At that time, I was also appointed the Vice President for Physical Sciences and Engineering Partnerships. I hold appointments at Rutgers as Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.
SOFI: How has IAMDN’s mission statement/motivation changed since its founding, in 2007?
Feldman: The overall mission of IAMDN focuses on science and technology driven by the atomic scale and nanoscale manipulation of materials. This is its broad operating principle.
We have a core of high quality people and superb instrumentation that now forms the base of IAMDN. With this core we are in a position to foster greater collaboration, more multi-PI investigations and opportunities for interdisciplinary based funding. The Institute stimulates the cross-school, cross-department, cross-discipline approach necessary to achieve success in today’s research environment. Universities are basically discipline structured, thus Rutgers’ IAMDN helps build the bridges.
The goal is: the creation of important, highly visible and innovative science and engineering in all the fields covered by our area of expertise.
SOFI: What is IAMDN’s focus in 2016?
Feldman: We have a number of priorities including expanding the new and excellent imaging materials capabilities (scanning transmission electron microscopy and He ion microscopy), delving further into “quantum materials” and two-dimensional structures and their applications, and further expanding our role in the energy-based sciences. We also see an opportunity to build bridges with the bio/medical community employing IAMDN-based tools and expertise in those areas. In addition, a strong sub-group of our participants is focused on catalysis, exploring new collaborations, seeking ways to incorporate the homogeneous to heterogeneous transitions, to span the pressure gap, and to involve deeper theory-experiment into the program.
Education in nano-scale science is also a critical responsibility. A 2016 educational focus is the expansion of such activities at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
SOFI: Can you give us an idea of how many people are involved with IAMDN? For example – what departments are involved? How many professors, researchers, post-docs, graduate students are working within IAMDN or on IAMDN projects?
Feldman: IAMDN is a loose conglomeration of Rutgers scientists and engineers involved in nano and atomic scale manipulation of materials. Participating departments include the natural sciences, Physics and Chemistry, Engineering departments- electrical, mechanical, materials science and chemical, and other institutes such as the Rutgers Energy Institute and the Institute for Proteomics. In total approximately 30 faculty are closely connected to IAMDN activities; and about 80 faculty, and their students/post-docs, make use of our facilities.
SOFI: As many of our readers are aware, publications and patents are the primary way academic research highlights successes. What are some of the most exciting publications/patents to come from IAMDN’s research?
Feldman: 4 recent and highly regarded IAMDN papers are:
- Vibrational spectroscopy in the electron microscope – First reports of the observations of phonons via STEM inelastic scattering
[Ondrej L. Krivanek, Tracy C. Lovejoy, Niklas Dellby, Toshihiro Aoki, R. W. Carpenter, Peter Rez, Emmanuel Soignard, Jiangtao Zhu, Philip E. Batson, Maureen J. Lagos, Ray F. Egerton and Peter A. Crozier Nature 2014, 514, 209-212]
- Phase-engineered low-resistance contacts for ultrathin MoS2 transistors – Report of a possible low contact resistance device in a 2-D material phase changes
[Rajesh Kappera, Damien Voiry, Sibel Ebru Yalcin, Brittany Branch, Gautam Gupta, Aditya D. Mohite and Manish Chhowalla Nature Materials 2014, 13, 1128-1134]
- Metal-free B-doped graphene with efficient electrocatalytic activity for hydrogen evolution reaction – Graphene as a new catalyst
[Bhaskar R. Sathe, Xiaoxin Zou and Tewodros Asefa Catalysis Science & Technology 2014, 4, 2023-2030]
- Structural basis for differing electrocatalytic water oxidation by the cubic, layered, and spinel forms of lithium cobalt oxides – Comparison of different crystal structures, same compound, as to their effectiveness in electro-catalytic water oxidation.
[Graeme Gardner, Jafar Al-Sharab, Nemanja Danilovic, Yong Bok Go, Katherine Ayers, Martha Greenblatt and G. Charles Dismukes Energy & Environmental Science 2016, 9, 184-192]
SOFI: How does IAMDN see its members and projects advancing the field of solar fuels research?
Feldman: Rutgers has intellectual strength and physical resources in several fields needed to advance solar fuels technologies. With theory group in strongly correlated electron-phonon interactions, multi-electronic structure, and meso-scale materials simulations, as well as expertise in electrocatalysis, solid state synthesis, materials characterization, and device fabrication, the challenge is to bring such a diverse set of scientists and engineers together to work on this critical need.
SOFI: What do you believe to be the most exciting advancement in solar fuels today?
Feldman: Certainly, there has been a lot of change in terms of electrocatalysts for photovoltaically driven water splitting. Notably, the replacement of scarce noble metals with lower cost, more abundant elements for both water oxidation and water reduction. Professors Dismukes and Greenblatt have developed these materials. Some of these catalysts are being tested in commercial electrolyzers in partnership with a Connecticut R&D developer, Proton OnSite, as highlighted in the last publication above.
Another area is metal-free carbide/nitride materials for direct photolytic water splitting. No one dreamed it could be possible to split water without metals. Professor Asefa has developed these materials in collaboration with Professor Chhowalla. Graphene based contacts may contribute to improving the electrical coupling of PV cells to these catalysts. Another growing area is the increasing power densities supported by organic photovoltaic materials.
Last but not least, I point to the alkane metathesis catalysts developed by Professor Goldman and his collaborators. These catalysts allow reforming of alkanes from petroleum feedstocks that are now currently disposed of on a huge scale –for example, the Bakken Shale Fields in North Dakota flare 15-20% of their crude product. This advance allows low molecular weight alkanes to be converted to diesel fuels, improving energy efficiency per C atom up to 30%. That’s real research progress!