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Research Highlight | Center for Nanoscale Materials

Tiny impurities have large impacts in solid electrolytes

In a study published in Nature Materials, researchers investigated grain boundaries in a solid electrolyte at an unprecedentedly small scale. The insight could provide new avenues for improving material performance.

Scientific Achievement

Two powerful techniques – electron holography and atom probe tomography – allowed observation of solid electrolyte grain boundaries at small scales and the potential effects of trace impurities of less than 25 parts per million.

Significance and Impact

Reducing resistance to the flow of ions in solid electrolytes can improve battery and fuel cell efficiency; chemical tunability of grain boundary potential may be an effective strategy.

Research Details

  • Off-axis electron holography was performed at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) to characterize the potential variations around grain boundaries.
  • Atom probe tomography was performed at Northwestern University to map impurity distributions around grain boundaries.

Work was performed in part at CNM.


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About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://​sci​ence​.osti​.gov/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​-​a​t​-​a​-​G​lance.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.