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Synthesizing the Materials of the Future

Jülich, 16 Juli 2018 – How can materials be synthesized and processed more easily using electric and magnetic fields? A team of researchers from six German universities and research institutions headed by Jülich materials scientist Olivier Guillon summarize the current state of research in this field. The study was published in the specialist journal Materials Today.

High-performance materials are crucial for technological progress. For example, they provide the basis for a sustainable, flexible, and efficient energy supply based on renewables. The synthesis and processing of such high-performance materials, however, is often time-consuming and has a high energy demand. Currently, about 7 % of the total primary energy demand in Germany is used for industrial heat treatments for the production of metallic and ceramic components. Innovative processing methods can significantly lower this energy demand – for example processing materials using electric and magnetic fields.

"Electromagnetic energy can be used in different ways for materials processing," explains Olivier Guillon from Jülich's Institute of Energy and Climate Research (IEK-1). "It offers the option of producing materials with unprecedented functionalities. It can accelerate production or increase the plasticity and processability of materials that are usually brittle and difficult to process." Furthermore, such methods can be used to synthesize special alloys and material compositions that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to produce without the use of electric or magnetic fields. Expensive critical materials could be replaced with materials that are more readily available, for example, permanent magnets made of neodymium or cobalt could be replaced with iron–nickel magnets. In addition, degradation mechanisms in electrochemical cells for solid-oxide electrolysis and solid-state batteries will be better understood.

Materials processing by means of electric and magnetic fields is an interdisciplinary area of research: "It combines the traditional engineering aspects of materials science and processing techniques with fundamental scientific issues," says Guillon. "Through our research, we will develop an elementary understanding of the interactions between atoms, ions, and defects and electric and magnetic fields. We want to understand how matter is transported – on all levels, from the atom up to entire components.

The article in Materials Today provides a broad overview of the ways in which electric and magnetic fields can affect materials. Particular emphasis is placed on the synthesis and processing of materials such as ceramics and metals. The study was conducted as part of a six-year priority programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG), which was initiated and coordinated by Guillon.

Original publication:

"Manipulation of matter by electric and magnetic fields: Toward novel synthesis and processing routes of inorganic materials",
Materials Today, by Olivier Guillon, Christian Elsässer, Oliver Gutfleisch, Jürgen Janek, Sandra Korte-Kerzel, Dierk Raabe, Cynthia A. Volkert,
DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2018.03.026

Further information:

Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Materials Synthesis and Processing (IEK-1)

FieldsMatter, priority programme SPP 1959


Prof. Olivier Giullon
Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Materials Synthesis and Processing (IEK-1)
Tel: +49 2461 61-5181