Skip to main content

Materials Science

NREL provides fundamental and applied materials science discovery and problem-solving for current and next-generation renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.

Illustration with bottom row showing a ball-and-stick model and top row showing an orange and black band.  In the ball-and-stick model, the yellow balls are sulfur, the light purple balls are tin, and the gray balls are zinc.  The middle section is a dense configuration of zinc sulfide (ZnS) molecules; to the right and left on this band is a more open, regular configuration of tin sulfide (SnS). The top image represents output from atomic force microscopy for the molecular sections. The outer SnS sections exhibit a thinner irregular black band, and the central ZnS section exhibits a dense black band.

State-of-the-art advances in materials science come from a combination of experiments and computations. The image shows modeled electronic density of states (top panel) of the experimentally observed amorphous/crystalline interface (bottom panel). Note the electronic states that appear in the bandgap of the narrow-gap crystalline semiconductors (left and right sides of the image) when it is placed in contact with the wide-bandgap amorphous material (middle of image).

We're a recognized leader in creating new knowledge and accelerating the industrial impact of materials science research to support the nation's energy and environmental goals.

Materials Physics

Understanding and controlling fundamental electronic and optical processes in photovoltaic and solid-state lighting semiconductors

Electronic Structure Theory

Applying high-performance computing to understand atomistic-level material behavior and design and discover materials for energy applications

Analytical Microscopy and Imaging Science

Using microscopic techniques to measure chemical, structural, electrical, and other properties—from the macro to the atomic scale

Interfacial and Surface Science

Determining the chemical, elemental, and molecular composition as well as the electronic structure of surfaces and critical interfaces

Materials Discovery

Pursuing inorganic solid-state material innovation through a high-throughput combinatorial approach and targeted experiments

Thin-Film Materials Science and Processing

Using thin films to create and enable technologically useful applications such as thin-film photovoltaics

Reliability and System Performance

Testing modules and systems for long-term performance to improve photovoltaic reliability and develop better international standards

Nancy Haegel is the director of the Materials Science Center. The center is part of the Materials and Chemical Science and Technology directorate, led by Associate Laboratory Director Bill Tumas.