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Nanoscale Synthesis and Characterization

We design and study atomic-scale to meso-scale materials with implications for energy, the environment, and coherent information transfer and sensing.

The Quantum and Energy Materials (QEM) group seeks to investigate and manipulate materials at the atomic, molecular, and mesoscopic scale to better understand and utilize their behavior and properties. Through this understanding and control, we aim to pave the way for breakthroughs in next-generation energy conversion technologies, materials synthesis, and quantum information science.

The QEM group explores several key areas of exploration to address priority research objectives of DOE. These include but are not limited to research on (a) low-dimensional materials (defects in WSe2 and (b) atomic-scale molecular assembly and manipulation. The QEM hosts numerous characterization, deposition, and synthesis capabilities focused on nanoscale systems.  These include but are not limited to: (c) XRD, (d) Rheo-SAXS, (e) Lesker deposition tool, and (f) a suite of ultrahigh vacuum scanning probe instruments.

The QEM research comprises several key areas, including understanding of (1) electronic, mechanical, and optical response on the atomic and molecular scale, especially in low-dimensional materials, self-assembled systems, single-molecule and defect studies on surfaces, and molecular motors on surfaces and (2) structural organization, energy transduction, and dissipation on the mesoscopic scale. The latter includes nanoscale self-assembly and dynamics of nanoparticles in complex fluids.

Investigation of nanoscale phenomena often requires experimental approaches that extend beyond conventional techniques. To that end, QEM exploits highly advanced instrumentation, such as ultrahigh vacuum scanning probe microscopies (UHV SPM), single-particle laser spectroscopy, and novel approaches for hybrid, organic, and nanoparticle materials synthesis.

Research activities include:

  • Low-dimensional materials synthesis and characterization
  • Atomistic investigations of engineered surfaces, interfaces, and molecular self-assemblies
  • Optical interactions and photo-physics on nanometer and atomic length scales
  • Quantum information and sensing with dopants/defects near surfaces
  • Hybrid nanoparticles and nanomaterials for energy applications
  • AI-driven nanomaterial synthesis to enable unique nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications.
  • Particle dynamics and energy dissipation in complex fluids under nonequilibrium conditions.


  • UHV SPMs: Omicron VT-AFM/STM, Omicron Cryo SFM, Omicron LT-STM/q+AFM, Createc LT SPM, and Omicron UHV VT-AFM/q+/STM with optical access
  • Synchrotron X-ray scanning tunneling microscopy at APS Sector 4 (XTIP)
  • Ambient AFMs, including an Asylum Cypher S (bluedrive) and Bruker (Veeco) MultiMode 8
  • Physical vapor deposition (Lesker CMS 18 and PVD 250)
  • Magnetic property measurement system and physical property measurement system
  • Colloidal chemistry and self-assembly techniques
  • Rheo-SAXS-XPCS
  • Lakeshore probe station