Materials Discovery

NREL's research in materials discovery serves as a foundation for technological progress in renewable energies.

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

Diagram of high-throughput experimental approach capabilities.

High-throughput experimental approach for materials discovery.

  • Our high-throughput experimental approach capabilities include combinatorial thin-film synthesis, spatially resolved characterization, and data processing, analysis, and visualization.

  • Once we identify the most interesting candidate materials, they can be further optimized using targeted growth and measurement methods and specialized analysis algorithms.

The Center for Next Generation of Materials by Design (CNGMD) is an Energy Frontier Research Center of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The CNGMD dramatically transforms the discovery of functional energy materials through multiple-property searching, incorporating metastable materials into predictive design and developing theory to guide materials synthesis.

The CNGMD couples first-principles theory with state-of-the-art synthesis and characterization to understand and predict structure, properties, and phenomena at the molecular, nano, and meso scales. The center is specifically designed to overcome four critical scientific "gaps"—multiple-property design, accuracy and relevance, metastability, and synthesizability—to make computational materials design a robust tool delivering new functional materials.

Our initial materials focus is semiconductors for solar energy conversion, solid-state lighting, and related technologies.