The useful properties of chemical compounds are determined by the elements from which they are made and the arrangement of the atoms. However, there are often several ways atoms of the same elements can be arranged to form a solid. Wisconsin MRSEC researchers are particularly interested in a series of compounds formed from rare-earth elements and iridium. One phase, Pr2Ir2O7, is of particular interest because it exhibits novel magnetic phenomena and can open new opportunities in the field of quantum materials.
The creation of novel materials often involves the painstaking and time-consuming synthesis and characterization of a series of samples with small differences. This process is slow and slows the pace of materials innovation. For example, creating sequences of thin layers of metals is an important route to the discovery of new 2D materials for quantum electronics, but it is slowed by the need to explore a large range of thicknesses of the individual layers.
Preparing students for careers inside and outside academia is a key mission for the Wisconsin MRSEC and its Advanced Materials Industrial Consortium (AMIC). AMIC sponsors student-led seed research projects to help students learn essential skills. AMIC companies suggest project areas, then company engineers work with MRSEC students to develop research proposals that leverage the student’s expertise. The AMIC Board selects projects, and students lead the resulting research, managing the budget, junior personnel like undergraduates, and reporting. Company engineers mentor the student leaders.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin MRSEC developed and disseminated inclusive science activity kits. The project started in partnership with a local food pantry as an effort to engage with economically disadvantaged members of the Madison community. Food pantry staff and clients provided crucial insight to make the kits accessible and inclusive, such as including all the necessary materials including common household items like tape and including instructions in Spanish and English.