Piezoelectric nanomaterials convert mechanical signals into electrical power and promise to revolutionize emerging self-powered technologies. Current methods for making piezoelectric nanomaterials are restricted by growth substrates, reaction pressure and temperature, which limits their economic manufacture. This award supports fundamental research to provide needed knowledge for the development of a low-temperature, substrate-free, scalable nanomanufacturing process. The novel process involves solution-based nanomanufacturing of a new piezoelectric nanomaterial, two-dimensional tellurene, with high productivity and high quality. Piezoelectric nanomaterials exhibit superior mechanical and piezoelectric properties to their bulk counterparts and are increasingly preferred for applications in energy, healthcare, sensors, and biomedical and wearable devices. Therefore, results from this research benefits the U.S. economy and society. This research involves several disciplines including manufacturing, materials science, electrical engineering, device physics, and data science. The multi-disciplinary approach helps broaden participation of women and underrepresented groups in research and positively impacts engineering education.
Hydrothermal solution process can overcome several limitations existing in nanomaterial manufacturing. These range from energy budget, scalability, environmental control, and working temperature. However, some scientific barriers are yet to be overcome to realize the full potential of the hydrothermal solution process for manufacturing of 2D nanomaterials. This research is will fill the knowledge gap on the mechanisms for the 2D tellurene formation during hydrothermal synthesis. The objectives are (1) to explore the unique advantage and capability of low-cost, scalable solution-based manufacturing for growth of tellurene nanomaterials with control over their production yield, morphology and dimensions, and (2) to uncover the process-structure-property-functionality relationships in designing, manufacturing, and integrating the tellurene-based wearable piezoelectric nanodevices. The research team will pursue a physics-based theoretical model to predict the structural and piezoelectric properties of tellurene manufactured by the hydrothermal process and conduct experiments to verify the model. The research team will test the hypothesis that surfactant type and concentration are the determining factors for controlling the thickness and hence the piezoelectric behavior of tellurene, and in so doing, will establish the relationships between process parameters and material functionality (e.g., piezoelectricity) in hydrothermal nanomanufacturing.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.