"Atomic Scale Understanding of Material Synthesis and Material Degradation Mechanisms: Two Sides of the Same Coin "
Materials scientists studying processing–microstructure–property relationships dream of knowing how processing influences the exact location of each atom in a material and how that affects its properties. Such detailed understanding of material microstructure can inform novel material processing approaches, including solid-phase deformation processing and/or additive manufacturing, to design breakthrough materials with improved properties and performance. This same ideal applies to researchers interested in understanding how atomic locations in materials are modified from the initial state when exposed to extreme environments, such as under corrosive environments or neutron irradiation in nuclear fission and fusion reactors, or at high temperature and stress in internal combustion engines. Understanding atomic-scale mechanisms of material degradation under such extreme conditions enables researchers to design long-lasting, damage-tolerant, and high-performance materials. However, given the multiple length and time scales involved in both material synthesis and degradation phenomenon, often no single characterization method can provide information on materials from the physical component level down to the atomic scale. Therefore, multiple in situ and ex situ materials characterization approaches must be seamlessly integrated with computational simulations and mechanical testing where possible to enable a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between material processing, microstructure, properties, and material degradation under various extreme environments. In Dr. Devaraj’s research team at PNNL, methods spanning electron microscopy, in situ atom probe tomography (APT), and in situ synchrotron-based high-energy X-ray diffraction, are coupled with relevant predictive computational modeling and simulations to obtain a comprehensive understanding of material synthesis and degradation mechanisms.