The National Science Foundation awarded $624,000 to Boise State University’s Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering to support a controlled-environment atomic force microscope, to be used to characterize the electronic properties of materials at the nano level. The microscope provides the ability to directly relate the structure and properties of a surface to how it was made and how it performs. The proposal was submitted by faculty members Elton Graugnard, Michael Hurley, Hui (Claire) Xiong and Paul Davis, manager of the Surface Science Laboratory.
Understanding materials relationships gives researchers the information needed to create advanced materials for a wide range of applications. Housed within the Surface Science Laboratory, the new instrument will significantly expand the research capacity in Idaho and meet the expanding needs of a broad research community that includes five universities, several local industries and two national laboratories.
“Many of the new materials we research in the lab are air and moisture sensitive, so we were limited in how we could study them,” explained Graugnard, principal investigator of the proposal. “With this new tool, we will be able to directly obtain key structure-property relationships for these materials, which accelerates our research. This tool will be the only one of its kind in the northwest, and we’re excited to fill a gap in our region’s capabilities and be a valued resource to our community.”
The controlled environment capabilities significantly expand the range of materials that can be characterized at the nano-dimensional level. Some applications include the investigation of corrosion mechanisms of alloys, the controlled integration of DNA nanostructions with semiconductor surfaces, and interphase evolution of air-sensitive metal-ion battery electrodes for stable, safe and high-capability energy storage.