Materials Science Research

For photovoltaics and other energy applications, NREL's primary research in materials science includes the following core competencies.

A photo of laser light rays going in various directions atop a corrugated metal substrate

Materials Physics

Through materials growth and characterization, we seek to understand and control fundamental electronic and optical processes in semiconductors.

An image of multiple, interconnecting red and blue particles

Electronic Structure Theory

We use high-performance computing to design and discover materials for energy, and to study in detail the physical mechanisms that determine the material's behavior on an atomistic level.

An image of interconnecting yellow and red particles

Analytical Microscopy and Imaging Science

We apply transmission/scanning electron and scanning probe techniques to understand the chemical, structural, morphological, electrical, interfacial, and luminescent properties on the nano to Angstrom scale.

Image of irregular-outlined, light-colored shapes on a dark background. Represents a tapping-mode atomic force microscope image of gallium phosphide on silicon.

Interfacial and Surface Science

We develop and apply a wide range of techniques to determine the chemical, elemental, and molecular composition, and the electronic structure of surfaces and critical interfaces.

Images of red and yellow particles

Materials Discovery

Our experimental activities in inorganic solid-state materials innovation—from basic science through applied research, to device development—rely on a high-throughput combinatorial materials science approach followed by traditional targeted experiments.

Photo of a stainless steel piece of equipment with multiple hoses and other equipment attached.

Thin-Film Materials Science and Processing

We focus on using thin films to create and enable technologically useful applications, with a prime example being thin-film photovoltaics for renewable energy.

A test of solar cells at NREL's Outdoor Test Facility

Reliability and System Performance

We test modules and systems for long-term performance, stressing them in the field and with accelerated testing equipment to improve PV reliability.

The Materials Science Center is part of the Materials, Chemical, and Computational Science directorate, led by Associate Laboratory Director Bill Tumas.