Combinatorial and high-throughput methods for the discovery and investigation of novel materials

Alfred Ludwig, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany

The design of new materials is a key challenge in materials science: e.g. new nanostructured materials for the sustainable production/storage/conversion of energy carriers are necessary to improve existing and to enable future energy systems. Efficient methods for discovery and optimization of new materials are necessary. By implementing and optimizing the thin-film combinatorial materials science approach in our group for >10 years, we are trying to contribute to this development. It comprises the fabrication and processing of thin film materials libraries by combinatorial sputter deposition processes (40 elements available) and optional post-deposition treatments (e.g. thermal oxidation, annealing, dealloying), followed by the high-throughput characterization of the different thin film samples contained in these libraries. The importance of defining adequate screening parameters and the according design of different materials libraries suitable for one or more screening parameters will be addressed. Our high-throughput material characterization methods are automated, fast, and mostly non-destructive: examples are EDX and RBS for composition, XRD for crystal structure, temperature-dependent resistance for phase transformation, high-throughput test stands for optical properties (color, transmission) and mechanical properties (stress, hardness, elastic modulus), and scanning droplet cells for photoelectrochemical properties screening. The obtained results for up to quinary systems are visualized in the form of composition-processing-structure-function diagrams, interlinking compositional data with structural and functional properties. The talk will cover and discuss examples of the combinatorial development of new materials. Examples include shape memory alloys, superalloy sub-systems, multiple principal element alloys, multinary nanoparticles, and metal oxide thin film materials libraries for solar water splitting.

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