At different high temperatures, the team actually produced four new materials that they collectively refer to as GMO. They captured video of the process using Selected Area Electron Diffraction (SAED) in a transmission electron microscope.
Because GMO is formed in single sheets, Gajdardziska says the material could have applications in products that involve surface catalysis. She, Hirschmugl and Chen also are exploring its use in the anode parts of lithium-ion batteries, which could make them more efficient.
But the next step is more science. The team will need to find out what triggered the reorganization of the material, and also what conditions would ruin the GMO's formation.
"In the reduction process, you expect to lose oxygen," says Michael Weinert, professor of physics and director of UWM's Laboratory for Surface Studies. "But we actually gained more oxygen content. So we're at a point where we're still learning more about it."
Weinert points out that they have only made GMO at a small scale in a lab and are not certain what they will encounter in scaling it up.
The team had to be careful in calculating how electrons flowed across GMO, he adds. Interactions that occur had to be interpreted through a painstaking process of tracking indicators of structure and then eliminating those that didn't fit.
"It was a long process," says Weinert, "not one of those 'Eureka!' moments."
|Contact: Junhong Chen|
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee