I will provide three material examples, reversible Li metal anode in battery [PNAS 115 (2018) 1156], ton-scale radiation-resistant metallic nanocomposite [Advanced Science (2018) 1800115], and thermal shock synthesis of high-entropy-alloy nanoparticle catalysts [Science 359 (2018) 1489], of how fundamental understanding of nanoscale mechanisms can inform and inspire the development of new macroscale materials and devices. Recent advances in nano-manipulation, environmental TEM and MEMS allow us to investigate coupled mechanical and electrochemical phenomena with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. For example, we can now quantitatively characterize liquid-solid and gas-solid interfaces at nm-scale. These experiments greatly complement our modeling efforts, and together they help provide insights into how materials are transformed in synthesis and how they behave in service due to combined electrochemical-mechanical forces. Applying theory, modeling and lab-on-a-chip microscopy, together with cost modeling, can judiciously guide the scalable production of high-performance energy materials.
Ju Li is BEA Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. His group (http://Li.mit.edu) performs computational and experimental research on mechanical properties of materials, and energy storage and conversion. Ju obtained a PhD degree in nuclear engineering from MIT in 2000, and Bachelor’s degree in Physics from University of Science and Technology of China in 1994. He was a recipient of the 2005 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 2006 MRS Outstanding Young Investigator Award, and 2007 TR35 award from Technology Review magazine. Ju was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2014 and Fellow of the Materials Research Society in 2017. In 2016, Ju Li co-founded one of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) Low-Carbon Energy Centers, the Center for Materials in Energy and Extreme Environments (CME).