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Defect assemblies and interactions

Even the most perfect materials contain myriad defects — deviations from crystalline perfection that are critical ingredients for the function of matter.

Examples abound:

  • Dopant species in ultrapure silicon make semiconductor technology possible.
  • Vacancies or surface asperities on metal nanoparticles create catalytic active sites.
  • Minute concentrations of impurities give steel its strength.
  • Nitrogen atoms in pure diamond create quantum states that may one day lie at the heart of quantum computers. 

A grand challenge is creating and manipulating such defects for desired outcomes. We seek to discover how multiscale interactions govern the synthesis and organization of point and extended defect complexes in matter. Such knowledge will make possible new ways to design and create chemical, magnetic, electronic and quantum states. This theme draws on Argonne’s demonstrated expertise in defect synthesis, structure determination, properties measurement and modeling across a wide range of materials, such as battery cathodes, nanominerals, superconductors, diamond nitrogen-vacancy centers and magnets.


Designing an in situ reactor employing hard X-rays for growth of silicon carbide as a successor platform to diamond in research related to quantum information science. This project is laying the groundwork for directed synthetic control of targeted defect complexes that reside among multiple competing silicon carbide polytypes and imbue it with superior functionality for quantum information science. 

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