NonTechnical Abstract: The Wisconsin MRSEC brings together teams of researchers - undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty - from diverse disciplinary backgrounds from across the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other key partner universities to understand at the level of atoms and molecules how to create new materials that will enable next-generation technologies. By addressing fundamental challenges related to a critical void in knowledge involving disorder in materials, and the emergence of order from disordered materials, new materials for telecommunications, clean energy, quantum information sciences and biotechnologies are being developed. The Center integrates the discovery and sharing of new knowledge with national leadership in development and dissemination of research-inspired educational materials for K-12 and the public, innovative projects that broaden participation of groups underrepresented in STEM fields, development of new characterization facilities that integrate data analysis and sharing, industry outreach to promote regional economic development, and professional development and international opportunities that train the next-generation US workforce.
Center research is organized into two interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs) each addressing complex challenges involving metals, inorganic oxides, semiconductors and organic molecular assemblies. The IRGs unite 44 senior investigators from 9 disciplines, and integrate synthesis, structural characterization, theory/simulation, property evaluation and applications. IRG1, entitled Stability in Glasses: New Materials and New Insights, leverages the cross fertilization of ideas and techniques from inorganic and organic glass research to address fundamental questions related to processes, structure and properties of glasses, building on the discovery that physical vapor deposition can increase kinetic and thermodynamic stability of organic glass films. IRG1 is enabling diverse applications by creating ultrastable glass thin films of various materials, including ultralow-loss oxide dielectrics for quantum computing and mirrors, ultra-smooth metallic glass hard coatings, and materials for organic electronics. IRG2, entitled Order from Disorder: Approaches for New Thin-Film Oxides, understands and engineers the growth of structurally, chemically and topographically complex epitaxial metal oxide crystals from amorphous layers, with a focus on compositions of oxides unconstrained by requirements of thermodynamic stability, and 3D geometries that are inaccessible via current methods. IRG2 controls atomic reordering and solid-state mass transport during crystallization to impact technologies from electronics, ionic transport, and optics to areas as diverse as glass devitrification in nuclear storage and biomineralization. Both IRGs provide an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional learning environment for graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates, in which the research focuses on the important area of glass science and the development of multi-functional and earth-friendly materials.