This award provides funding for the synthesis and study of oxide nanocomposite materials in order to control and manipulate the physical properties of oxides. A variety of techniques are available to prepare bi-layer or multi-layer laminate nanocomposites. However, the technique to prepare self-assembled nanocomposites is solely by pulsed laser deposition. This project aims to develop a new technique to self-assembled nanocomposites and broaden the composite systems with varied compositions and microstructures. The main objectives of this project are: 1) to use a novel chemical solution approach, the polymer-assisted deposition to synthesize the bi-layer and self-assembled nanocomposites of the same two-phase materials; 2) to analyze the morphology and microstructure; and 3) to evaluate the physical properties. The polymer-assisted deposition has all the benefits of a chemical-solution approach: low cost, easy set-up, and large area coatings. However, it is unique since the solutions are very stable for years, where polymers in the solutions actually bind with metal ions, which prevents the metals from undergoing hydrolysis. Therefore, it provides extremely straightforward to synthesize the composites and precise control of the stoichiometry. In addition, the microstructure of the self-assembled nanocomposites prepared by the polymer-assisted deposition is different from the films prepared by pulsed-laser deposition, which will allow us to compare and understand how the microstructure and morphology affect the functionality of oxides.
If successful, the project will directly contribute to important advances in the knowledge of 1) the principles of predicting two-phase nanocomposite systems; 2) functionality as determined by morphology and microstructure of the oxide nanocomposites; and 3) the necessary conditions for achieving enhanced functionality or multifunctionality. This project holds great promise for enhancing various fundamental and applied studies of oxide nanocomposites. Furthermore, the understanding of oxide systems can have great technological impact on nitrides and carbides and their composites as well. The technical aspects of the project will be integrated with an educational mission in form of course development, teaching laboratories, and special seminars. The graduate and undergraduate students will be trained through a multidisciplinary environment and the students will get an opportunity for training and working at national laboratories.