About PLS

Functional Material Synthesis & Integration Group

The Functional Materials Synthesis & Integration Group in the Chemical Sciences Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conducts research at the intersection of chemistry, materials science, and chemical engineering. Diverse materials including organic compounds, composites, and inorganic materials are synthesized, characterized and processed at various length scales spanning the nano-meso-macro regimes. The breadth of our expertise in materials synthesis, characterization, integration and application allows us to provide materials related solutions and expertise to various LLNL programs, which includes National Ignition Facility, Weapons Complex Integration, and Global Security programs. We also perform basic science R&D in support of externally funded research with energy and national security applications.

Morphology Evolution of Cu2O particles

Additive Manufacturing and Ceramics Processing

We are engaged in advanced ceramic synthesis and processing of hard materials for cutting/grinding/polishing and defense applications. Our processing methods include additive manufacturing techniques where functionally graded materials and unique composites have been synthesized. Fundamental understanding of electrical and transport properties is being explored and simulations of materials assembly provide real time comparisons with experimental parameters.

Microstructure of ceramic-metal composites for armor applications
Arbitrary dopant profile in transparent ceramic enabled through custom additive manufacturing

Biomaterials, Interfaces and Catalysis

Our group's research at the interface between functional materials and biological systems integrates the highly evolved and unparalleled selectivity, specificity, and function of enzymes, proteins, and cells with materials designed to harness this potential for specific applications. These applications include biocatalysis for energy, biological sensing, and biomaterials. Recent and ongoing projects in our group involve the synthesis and testing of new enzyme active site mimics for carbon capture, the incorporation of a hydrogen producing enzyme into a synthetic scaffold to enhance enzyme solubility and stability, and the design of new materials to facilitate biocatalysis for methane conversion to liquid fuels. These efforts have required interdisciplinary teams with expertise in computational, inorganic, polymer, analytical, and materials chemistry. Additionally, we have recent and ongoing projects in protein-directed materials synthesis, optically active materials for biological sensing, and patterned surface chemistry for improving the electrical interface between neurons and microelectrode arrays.

Polymer mediated biocatalysis
Surface functionalized electrodes for cell adhesion

Organic and Polymer Synthesis and Processing

Our group has expertise in organic and polymeric chemistry, supporting a wide range of research needs at LLNL. We are also residents of the High Explosives Applications Facility (HEAF) where an extensive infrastructure is set up for energetic materials synthesis, formulation and testing. We design and synthesize new energetic compounds in an effort to improve their safety, cost, and performance over current industry standards. We synthesize a wide variety of heterocyclic compounds as both precursors compounds and energetic heterocycles. We also formulate explosives with various polymers, plasticizers and additives to produce a formulation that has specific physical characteristics to meet the needs of a sponsor.

We also have unique explosive processing equipment that converts newly synthesized explosives, plasticizers, binders and other additives into melt cast explosives, cast-cure explosives or plastic bonded explosives (PBXs). The miniature Holston slurry coating process for developing research PBXs is shown below as one example. Instrumentation dedicated to the characterization of explosives and their formulation available in HEAF includes: FTIR, NMR, thermal methods, rheological and mechanical measurements, optical and SEM, and particle size and density distribution.

Polymeric materials for HE detection, encapsulation for carbon capture, and thin film generation for NIF targets are some of the other diverse projects being pursued.

Microcapsules for CO2 capture

Materials Characterization

Our group has access to world-class facilities and instrumentations for characterizing material's physical, chemical and mechanical properties. Routine instrumentations utilized for material characterization include (but not limited to) scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, solid state and liquid UV-Vis spectrophotometer, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, micro-Raman spectroscoy, X-ray diffractometer, zeta potential analyzer, particle size analyzer, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, rheometer, contact angle goniometer, Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy, gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometer, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy.