This article as been adapted from this Berkeley Lab press release.
Presented by R&D Magazine, the R&D 100 Awards, which are selected by an independent panel of judges, recognize the year’s 100 most innovative and disruptive technology products from industry, academia, and government-sponsored research. Established in 1963, the R&D 100 Awards is the only science and technology awards competition that recognizes new commercial products, technologies, and materials for their technological significance that are available for sale or license. This year, Foundry researchers were involved in 3 winning technologies.
Getting clearer “view” with novel superconducting nanotips
Building the next generation of quantum technologies begins with understanding how novel materials work at the nano-scale. While electron spectroscopy and microscopy tools allow researchers to “see” the structure and composition of these materials, their resolution is hampered by a phenomenon called “energy spread” of the probing electron beam. Foundry User Alexander Stibor and Staff Scientist Cameron Johnson have invented the Cryo-FE, a novel electron emitter that reduces this effect by 10-20 times. The device consists of a superconducting nanotip that leverages resonant quantum states forming at the apex and the cryo temperatures to produce an electron beam with an unprecedentedly narrow energy distribution. The Cryo-FE’s emission can be tuned with an applied electric field to achieve an extremely monochromatic, bright, and coherent electron beam, surpassing the best technologies currently available. This advancement can enable new discoveries in materials science and novel high-resolution tools for spectroscopy and microscopy.
Cost-effective and clean hydrogen production with molten catalysis
Hydrogen as a new fuel is critical to decarbonizing our economy and reducing our environmental impact. However, many processes that produce hydrogen also produce carbon dioxide (CO2), a known greenhouse gas. A team of Berkeley Lab researchers, including the Foundry’s David Prendergast and Jeff Urban has improved a process called methane pyrolysis to produce hydrogen and carbon without CO2 emissions. The researchers developed a ternary-liquid-metal-catalyst for methane pyrolysis. Their new “multi-catalyst” could simultaneously perform with high efficiency, selectivity, and durability for methane pyrolysis at mild temperatures (450-800 oC). Most importantly, this new catalyst can be easily fabricated using non-precious metal elements, making it both scalable and cost-effective for industrial use. The technology was filed for US patent application (Homogeneous Ternary Liquid Metal System for Clean Hydrogen Production – Intellectual Property Office) and the core science understanding was recently published in journal Science.
AI analysis pipeline for materials discovery
From microelectronics to environmental contamination, scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) allows researchers to characterize atomic-scale structures. The new generation of 4-dimensional STEMs (4D-STEM) detectors produce datasets of millions of images filled with information about material properties such as local structure, phase, orientation, and deformation. This is a wealth of information, but also a challenge to analyze. A team led by the Foundry’s Colin Ophus developed a software tool that combines several analysis tools with deep learning algorithms to harness this wealth of information. The open source software tool, called py4DSTEM, allows the user to choose between different characterization modes and provides pathways for effective analysis. With this new tool, researchers can accelerate their research on materials for the next generation of technology.
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