Science and Engineering

Colorado State University

Amy Prieto, James Neilson
Fort Collins, CO
$1,000,000
December 2015

Materials enable and limit the invention of new technologies, yet most new materials have been discovered by serendipity.  Hence a challenge facing the field is how to efficiently and effectively discover new materials with technology-enabling properties without relying on chance.  A team at Colorado State University proposes to approach this problem in a new way.  Instead of starting with a known compound and trying to optimize its properties, or using inadequate theoretical models to guide the discovery, they will use the fundamental physical properties required for a specific application to guide and select for both the synthetic conditions and the resulting materials.  The approach uses “natural selection” to make next-generation chemically dynamic materials for diverse applications.  By emphasizing the properties required by a certain application, the approach aims to establish a paradigm where materials that behave in a desired way are the only materials that form.  The focus will be on chemically dynamic materials that permit ion mobility, as used for electrolytes in sensors, batteries, fuel cells, and for membranes in water purification and catalysis.  If successful the methodology will enable new pathways to the discovery and implementation of materials with useful properties across a diverse range of technologies.

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