Exploring the What, When, Where and Why of Materials Synthesis
Materials science is fundamentally about synthesizing materials with unique and useful properties and using those materials to make useful devices and structures. Synthesis of new materials typically proceeds through a complicated set of metastable states, and sophisticated processes have been developed which rely on the kinetic properties of these states. While these processes are often well understood on a phenomenological level through indirect and ex-situ measurements, many of the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood.
The latest X-ray sources (e.g. the Advanced Photon Source and the Linac Coherent Light Source) allow us to observe the dynamic mechanisms of synthesis of real materials, under real conditions in real time. In this talk, I will present results from our research programs at the APS and LCLS including phase transitions in ultra-thin ferroelectric thin films and efforts at three-dimensional heteroepitaxy. I will discuss how new x-ray techniques will allow the observation of synthesis processes not only as statistical averages, but also as events resolved in both space and time; and speculate on how that knowledge will help create a new science of synthesis.