"Navigating phase space for inorganic materials discovery"
There are tens of thousands of inorganic materials already known and cataloged. When is it necessary to make more? For some materials with useful but counterintuitive properties, such as conductors that are transparent, or magnets that can become superconducting, surprisingly few candidates exist. Creating new materials allows us to understand the fundamental physics of these complex behaviors. The challenge of materials discovery is to navigate nature’s collection of stable, or near-stable, crystal structures. We are exploring inorganic phase space experimentally to identify new electronic and magnetic functionalities in new and old materials. We are often guided by theory and computation, while our experimental work utilizes a unique in-situ X-ray diffraction platform that allows us to interrogate a wide variety of synthesis reactions. I will present how we find new materials and engineer reaction kinetics to create layered compounds with frustrated magnetism, materials with large alkali ion channels, and semiconducting sulfides. With a clearer view of how materials form, we can critically evaluate computational predictions and explore novel reactions with improved reaction selectivity and kinetics.