The coupling of chemical potential and mechanical strain through the reversible switching of active compounds affords a straightforward means to manipulate the cooperative motion of atoms using external stimuli. By investigating how structural design in organic-inorganic materials can be used to control reaction induced mechanical flexing, we will develop new, non-biologically derived muscular systems. In doing so we will learn to manipulate the motion of material interfaces at the molecular level, explore how chemical structure relates to phase transitions that yield bulk material deformation, and realize the impact of 2D interfaces on the macroscopic scale through classical mechanics.
The advent of graphene-based electronics motivates the search for other low-dimensional materials with a diversity of electronic structures and functionalities. We will target the self-assembly of new layered metal–organic hybrid conductors composed of fundamentally important layered inorganic structure types. Using organic structures as templating groups we will stabilize reactive lattices that are difficult or impossible to isolate by existing methods.
Multivalent-ion batteries based on Mg2+ and Al3+ offer potentially massive gains in energy density and affordability compared to state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries by storing multiple electrons at a single metal center. We will create new organic–inorganic magnesium and aluminum electrodes and explore electrolyte participation in these new electrochemistries. Ultimately, we hope to construct new batteries poised to transform the energy storage landscape and learn how to control phase selectivity in electrochemical systems and address modern problems in energy storage.