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Optimizing Materials for Nanosize Products

Newswise — A Central Michigan University faculty member’s study may trigger new ways to build nanosize devices for use in medicine and industry.

If he can maximize the voltage properties of a common mineral, Marco Fornari, an assistant professor in CMU’s physics department, said the materials could be used to build extremely small and robust solid-state devices, such as nanosize microphones, speakers and electrical motors.

He received a $24,218 Cottrell College Science Award for his exploration of ways to optimize the piezoelectric (electric voltage) properties of materials using a common mineral structure called perovskite. His study is titled “Interacting Pseudo Jahn-Teller Effects: Application to Perovskite Alloys.”

In sonography, piezoelectric materials are used to generate high frequency sounds and help detect the echoes used to create images of babies during pregnancy. They also are used in the sonar in submarines and ships and in active mirrors of modern telescopes. In metallurgy, they are used to monitor the development of cracks in aircraft.

“The ability to efficiently manage ultrasound, as well as to build nanosize actuators, is the driving force behind our search for optimized piezoelectric materials,” said Fornari.

Although he is using basic scientific methods and complex calculations to understand microscopic physics, interpret experimental results and predict new materials, Fornari’s work goes beyond what’s already known in this field.

“Some things are already known about simple perovskite oxides, and the originality of my project is to extend this approach to more complex systems,” said Fornari.

The CCSA award is from the Research Corporation, a private foundation that aids basic research in the physical sciences at U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities.


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