Allen receives grant to conduct nanocalorimetry measurements
CSL Professor Leslie Allen recently received a $345,000, three-year NSF Solid State Materials Chemistry grant titled “Two-Dimensional Materials: Synthesis and Thermodynamic Nanocalorimetry Measurements.” Allen, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, will be synthesizing and investigating the thermodynamic and electrical properties of ultra-thin crystals of two-dimensional materials.
Since developing the nanocalorimeter, Allen has continued to study materials, including the extremely thin crystals of two-dimensional layered materials that are the focus of the new NSF grant.
“Instead of just studying spherical indium clusters, we have started to go toward measuring layered material, as analogous to graphene,” Allen said. “We’re able to look at a single layer of these crystals, which is the ultimate in thinness with the nanocalorimeter.
Through the grant, Allen’s group will continue to develop the nanocalorimeter, as well as develop a new type of chain molecules. They will synthesize, characterize and model the new material to determine its melting point, building on their recent discovery that materials have different melting temperatures when they are stacked on top of each other in layers.
“This is basic science,” Allen said. “It’s learning the basic properties of these materials, such as understanding why the melting point goes down when the size of this material goes down. We’re looking at the size-dependent properties of new materials by using model systems.”
The project’s findings will open doors for discovering complex, commercially viable and unique material systems. Allen added that the results of this study will have impacts in the nanoelectronics technology field, including nanolithography and molecular electronics. In addition, the new material will be composed of mostly alkane chains similar in chemistry, size and shape to the molecules that make up the thin membranes that encapsulate living cells. Hence, this research may also have a direct impact in the biophysics arena.
In addition to that research, the NSF award will allow Allen to work with undergraduate and high school students on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana, where he will teach a hands-on engineering summer camp. Allen has an excellent record of mentoring students, as half of his Ph.D. students have won the prestigious Materials Research Society (MRS) Graduate Award and he has been named to the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students ten times as a result of nominations from his undergraduate laboratory class students at Illinois.