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Published on : Sep 01, 2014

Scientists always aim at theorizing about new compounds and materials; however after Researchers have made use of X-ray scattering in a process known as molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) to understand atom behavior as a kind of material called as layered oxides were getting formed. For computational predictions of new materials, the available observations were utilized for providing insights on the best combination of atoms for forming stable new structures.

MBE refers to the build-up of new materials one layer at a time with each atom being one-atom in thickness. When researchers used a type of MBE system to observe the growth of oxide thin films, they observed that the layers get spontaneously rearranged to reach a lower energy and a desired configuration but not the intended configuration. Generally, scientists and researchers do not expect layers to move about this way, however, this information is of manufacturing the material; it may not work as per expectations. 

With a view to developing a new strategy for material designing, scientists and researchers at Argonne National Laboratory brought together two independent approaches at two separate facilities for new material synthesis. The new strategy provides quicker feedback on the best growth schemes. As a result, this helps to decrease the manufacturing timeframe for creating stable materials for conversion applications and energy transport. 

While experimenting with strontium titanates, a class of oxides the research group observed that when a layer of titanium was placed on two layers of strontium, the layer of titanium exchanged places with the second layer of strontium thereby becoming the middle layer. When titanium gets placed on several strontium layers the former switches places with the layer of strontium right below it.