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Recent MRSEC-supported work in bio-inspired materials


Three recent articles on the research of the Cohen and Rubner groups at MIT explore their work with superhydrophobic, superhydrophilic, and superoleophobic materials that are inspired by designs in the natural world.

"Design parameters for superhydrophobicity and superoleophobicity"
Anish Tuteja, Wonjae Choi, Gareth H. McKinley, Robert E. Cohen, and Michael F. Rubner.
MRS Bulletin 33 (8), 752-758 (August 2008)

"Self-cleaning materials: Lotus leaf inspired nanotechnology"
By Peter Forbes, Scientific American (July 30, 2008)

"Biomimetics: Design by nature"
By Tom Mueller, National Geographic (April 2008)

"Partially reversible changes in magnetic properties of CrO2 nanoparticles through electrochemical cycling"
Vikram Sivakumar, Naoaki Yabuuchi, Caroline A. Ross, and Yang Shao-Horn
Journal of Applied Physics 103, 07D708 (2008)
Correspondance to Yang Shao-Horn,

"Hydrothermal treatment of nanoparticle thin films for enhanced mechanical durability"
Zekeriyya Gemici, Hiroomi Shimomura, Robert E. Cohen, and Michael F. Rubner
Langmuir 24 (5), 2168-2177 (2008)
Correspondence to: Robert E. Cohen, or Michael F. Rubner,

"Multimaterial photodetecting fibers: A geometric and structural study"
Fabien Sorin, Ayman Abouraddy, Nick Orf, Ofer Shapira, Jeff Viens, Jeremy Arnold, John D. Joannopoulos, and Yoel Fink
Advanced Materials 19 (22), 3872-3877 (2007)
Correspondence to: Yoel Fink,



"Collodial quantum-dot light-emitting diodes with metal-oxide charge transport layers"

J.M. Caruge, J.E. Halpert, V. Wood, V. Bulovic, M.G. Bawendi
Nature Photonics 2, 247-250 (2008)
Correspondence to: Vladimir Bulovic,

This article reports on recent work of the Bulovic and Bawendi groups of the MIT MRSEC. These researchers have used metal oxides as charge transport layers in collodial quantum dots, demonstrating for the first time that all-organic, quantum dot-containing devices can be systematically engineered.



"Spin dynamics of the spin-1/2 kagome lattice antiferromagnet ZnCu3(OH)6CL2"

J.S. Helton, K. Matan, M.P. Shores, E.A. Nytko, B.M. Bartlett, Y. Yoshida, Y. Takano, A. Suslov, Y. Qiu, J.-H. Chung, D.G. Nocera, Y.S. Lee
Physical Review Letters 98,107204 (2007)
Correspondence to: Young S. Lee,

image of a kagome latticeThis article reports on important theoretical work of the Nocera and Lee groups of the MIT MRSEC. These researchers have performed thermodynamic and neutron scattering measurements on the S=1/2 kagomé lattice antiferromagnet ZnCu3(OH)6Cl2.  Their results suggest that an unusual spin liquid state with essentially gapless excitations is realized in this kagomé lattice system.



"Large-scale optical-field measurements with geometric fiber constructs"

Ayman F. Abouraddy, Offer Shapira, Mehment Bayindir, Jerimy Arnold, Fabien Sorin, Dursen S. Hinczewski, John D. Joannopoulos, Yoel Fink
Nature Materials 5, 532-536 (July 2006)
Correspondence to: Yoel Fink,

Photograph showing a sphere made of optical fibersThis article reports on the work of the Joannopoulos and Fink groups involving a new, geometric approach to optical-field measurements, which allows greatly enhanced access to information about an optical field's length and volume.  Based on this information, the researchers were able to construct two- and three-dimensional spherical, web-like structures from polymeric photo-detecting fibers.  These unique spheres of fiber are capable of measuring important properties of light, including direction, intensity, and phase, without the use of lenses or detector arrays.

(Image courtesy/Greg Hren at RLE)


"Patterned superhydrophobic surfaces: Toward a synthetic mimic of the Namib desert beetle"

Lei Zhai, Michael C. Berg, Fevzi C. Cebeci, Yushan Kim, John M. Milwid, Michael F. Rubner, Robert E. Cohen
Nano Letters 6(6), 1213-1217 (2006)
Correspondence to: Robert E. Cohen, or Michael F. Rubner,

Photograph showing (a) small droplets sprayed on a superhydrophobic surface, and (b) photograph of the same patterned hydrophillic area shown at 1 cm equals 750 micronsA recent article in Nano Letters describes a finding of Professors Robert E. Cohen and Michael F. Rubner in surface chemistry and water control, inspired by the tiny Stenocara beetle of Namibia. This beetle's pattern of water-attracting (hydrophilic) and water-repelling (superhydrophobic) wing regions enables it to collect moisture from the air, convert it into drops, and then direct the drops into its mouth.   Professors Cohen and Rubner and their colleagues have been able to emulate this superhydrophobic patterning and also create a superhydrophilic surface, for potential uses in fog- and dew-harvesting materials. They are now working to incorporate antibacterial agents that would decontaminate the water as it accumulates, making it safe for consumption and irrigation in arid environments.   Other potential uses include microfluidic chips and microarrays for diagnostic testing.

"Electrodes with high power and high capacity for rechargeable lithium batteries"

Kisuk Kang, Ying Shirley Meng, Julien Breger, Claire P. Grey, Gerbrand Ceder
Science 311, 977-980 (Feb. 17, 2006)
Correspondence to: Gerbrand Ceder,

Diagram showing optical properties of the general class photonic crystalsThis article describes a crucial advance in the use of lithium nickel manganese oxide as a cheaper, more efficient alternative to the sort of lithium ion batteries currently used in laptop computers, digital cameras, and many other devices. MRSEC researchers at MIT, in collaboration with scientists from the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SUNY), have re-engineered the crystalline form of Li(Ni 0.5 Mn 0.5)O2, creaing a material that exhibits more than a ten-fold increase in its capacity under high rate conditions. Because this material does not contain cobalt, a relatively expensive element present in current battery materials, it has the potential to be a safer, non-toxic and inexpensive battery material for use in hybrid electric cars.

"Achieving centimetre-scale supercollimation in a large-area two-dimensional photonic crystal"

Peter T. Rakich, Marcus S. Dahlem, Shelia Tandon, Mihai Ibanescu, Marin Soljacic, Gale S. Petrich, John D. Joannopoulos, Leslie A. Kolodziejski and Erich P. Ippen
Nature Materials 5(2), 93-96 (Feb. 2006)
Correspondence to: Peter T. Rakich,

Photonic CrystalsThis work demonstrates for the first time how photonic crystal nano-engineering can produce an artificial material whose macroscopic optical properties differ dramatically from those of any naturally occurring material. It opens new opportunities for highly integrated optoelectronic circuits that incorporate all-optical beam steering, waveguide-free optical interconnects and non-diffractive micro-imaging - and may ultimately lead to major advances in information processing for communication networks and high performance computer systems.




"Spin chirality on a two-dimensional frustrated lattice"

Daniel Grohol, Kittiwit Matan, Jin-Hyung Cho, Seung-Hun Lee, Jeffrey W. Lynn, Daniel G. Nocera and Young S. Lee
Nature Materials 4(4), 323-328 (2005)
Correspondence to: Young S. Lee,

The Kagomé lattice antiferromagnet (shown below), formed of corner sharing triangles, is one of the most highly frustrated two-dimensional lattices. This article reports new synthesis methods of pure, single crystal samples of KFe3(OH)6(SO4)2 (iron jarosite), an ideal Kagomé lattice antiferromagnet with S=5/2. This success has allowed for magnetization and neutron scattering measurements which revealed novel magnetic behavior related to two types of spin chirality: vector and scalar.

The researchers have found the surprising result that the vector spin chirality may be ordered even in the absence of broken spin-rotational symmetry; in addition, they have discovered a transition to a state with non-zero scalar chirality which can be controlled by application of a magnetic field. Thus, materials based on jarosites may be promising candidates for studies of the coupling between non-trivial spin textures and the transport of electrons in frustrated systems.

Diagram showing optical properties of the general class photonic crystals

“Structurally chiral photonic crystals with magnetooptic activity: Indirect photonic band gaps, negative refraction and superprism effects”

Ion Bita, Edwin L. Thomas
Journal of the Optical Society of America B, 22(6),1199-1210 (June 2005)
Correspondence to: Ion Bita,

In this article, the authors report on a first comprehensive study of the optical properties of the general class photonic crystals defined by the simultaneous absence of space-inversion and time reversal symmetries. The study focused on a model material system, exhibiting structural chirality and magnetooptic activity. It is shown that these two symmetry constraints alone fundamentally change how light propagates in materials. The most dramatic difference is not obeying the well-known reciprocity principle of optics: light will not trace back its original path if, after exiting from such a photonic crystal slab, it is sent back with a mirror. For the first time, it is shown that photonic band gaps become indirect, which has deep consequences for the physics of tunneling of frequencies in the band gap.

The Kagomé lattice antiferromagnet

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