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Olivier Delaire: Atomic Dynamics in Energy Materials

Friday, February 10, 2017

Olivier Delaire, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, illustrates how, by combining experiments and simulations, his research group investigates how atomic vibrations impact functional performance in thermoelectrics, ferroelectrics, phase-change materials, or superionic conductors for battery materials. Current and future technologies rely on the design of materials with targeted functionalities, which stem from the materials’ microscopic structure. For energy applications in particular, materials development and optimization require an atomistic understanding of energy transport and conversion processes. The atoms that make up materials are not static, and Delaire's research focuses on probing and understanding how the atomic dynamics affect micro- and macroscopic material behavior. Measuring and rationalizing atomic dynamics is critical for establishing microscopic theories of thermal transport and thermodynamics. Modern large-scale instrumentation has revolutionized our ability to characterize the atomic structure and vibrations (phonons) in materials, with synchrotron X-ray beams and neutron beams providing us with comprehensive "big data." In addition, quantum mechanical computer simulations of the atomic dynamics enable the rationalization of these extensive experimental datasets.

About Olivier Delaire

Olivier Delaire became an associate professor in the departments of mechanical engineering and materials science and physics at Duke in January 2016. He is an expert in the field of atomic dynamics in materials. He holds a joint faculty appointment with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was a member of the research staff before joining the Pratt School of Engineering. Delaire received a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award in 2014. He earned his PhD at the California Institute of Technology in 2006.