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Material Science and Engineering Department
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Making difficult-to-make materials

Wenhao Sun

Dow Early Career Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan

Event Details:

Wednesday, June 5, 2024
11:30am - 12:30pm PDT


Stanford University
350 Jane Stanford Way Stanford
Packard 101
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

This event is open to:

General Public

Abstract: Thermodynamically stable materials are sometimes surprisingly difficult to synthesize, as solid-state reactions can be impeded by a variety of kinetic barriers. Here I present three stories where the formation of a stable material is inhibited by the kinetics of 1) diffusion, 2) nucleation and 3) growth. First, I present strategies to overcome diffusion limitations in solid-state synthesis by designing unusually reactive oxide precursors. Using a robotic synthesis laboratory, we validate that our precursors lead to higher-purity yields for 35 target oxides relevant to Li-ion batteries. Second, I will present a technique to calculate the bulk and surface energies of quasicrystals from DFT. Using our method, we calculate that the ScZn7.33 quasicrystal is stable, but that its formation is nucleation limited. Finally, I will share the mystery of the ‘dolomite problem’—a carbonate mineral that forms entire mountain ranges in nature but is impossible to grow in the laboratory. We will explain why dolomite, counterintuitively, needs dissolution to activate its growth These three stories emphasize the need to more rigorously understand rate-limiting mechanisms during the synthesis of advanced materials.

1) Chen et al., Nature Synthesis (2024)

2) Baek et al., Arxiv (2024)

3) Kim et al., Science (2023)

Bio: Wenhao Sun is the Dow Early Career Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. He double majored in Materials Science and Engineering and Applied Mathematics at Northwestern University, and obtained his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT. The Sun Research Group uses high-throughput density functional theory, applied thermodynamics, and materials informatics to deepen our fundamental understanding of synthesis–structure–property relationships, while exploring new chemical spaces for functional technological materials. Wenhao was named a 2020 Materials Horizons Emerging Investigator, was awarded the 2020 Department of Energy Early Career Award, as well as the 2022 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Award for Machine-Learning in the Chemical Sciences.

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