The Powderly Group seeks to develop and utilize new synthetic pathways to discover extended solids with magnetic, electronic, and non-trivial topological properties of interest in quantum information science and to explore new fundamental bonding in materials.
Figure 1. (Top left) Alternative synthesis routes: we seek to develop and employ synthetic routes that target metastable materials over thermodynamically stable products. (Top right) In situ study and structural determination: we will utilize in situ X-ray diffraction at high temperatures and high pressures to study the formation of new solid phases. (Bottom) Probing magnetism, topology, and superconductivity: we will study properties of interest in quantum information science with variable-temperature physical properties measurements and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy.
Conventional syntheses of solid-state materials require high temperatures (>800 °C) and long heating times (days to weeks) to allow atoms to diffuse and form the most thermodynamically stable phase(s) at that temperature. Many interesting materials have been discovered under these conditions; however, certain combinations of atomic structures and elemental compositions, which may give rise to desirable electronic and magnetic properties, are not accessible with conventional solid-state synthesis. We will employ alternative synthetic methods, including solution-phase synthesis to facilitate diffusion, high pressure to shift the thermodynamic landscape, and assembly of pre-synthesized building blocks for “designer” structures, to access metastable materials that exhibit quantum spin liquid behavior, superconductivity, and non-trivial topology.
Our research focuses on:
- developing synthetic protocols and probing reactions in situ to discover new metastable materials, which form under non-traditional synthetic conditions and may be “trapped” at ambient pressure and room temperature;
- solving their crystal structures and investigating their magnetic, electronic, and thermal responses to explore properties of interest in quantum information science;
- collaborating with physicists and engineers to further study our materials under extreme conditions and in new devices.
Specific research directions include:
- Design and assembly of 2D spin-nets from molecular cluster precursors
- In situ study of diffusion-suppressed routes to intermetallics
- High-pressure metathesis for new noble-gas solids
In the Powderly group, researchers will learn and apply synthetic and characterization techniques including solution-phase synthesis of nanoclusters and metal complexes, in situ X‑ray diffraction and thermal analysis to probe solid-state transformations up to 1000 °C, high-pressure solid-state ion-exchange reactions in diamond anvil cells, and variable-temperature magnetic, electronic, and thermal characterization to explore materials’ quantum behaviors.