A University of California, Riverside electrical engineering professor will receive the 2013 MRS Medal for his work on thermal properties of graphene, a single atomic plane of carbon atoms, and development of a new materials characterization technique.
Alexander A. Balandin, who is also the founding chair of the materials science and engineering program at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, will receive the MRS Medal Dec. 4 at the 2013 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston. The MRS Medal is awarded annually by the Materials Research Society for a specific outstanding recent discovery or advancement that has a major impact on the progress of a materials-related field. It is one of the highest recognitions a materials scientist can receive.
Balandin is being honored for his discovery of unusual thermal properties of graphene and two-dimensional crystals, development of an original optothermal measurement technique for the investigation of thermal properties of graphene, and theoretical explanation of the unique features of the phonon transport in graphene.
Balandin pioneered the graphene thermal and phonon engineering fields, which resulted in major advances in understanding the thermal properties of low-dimensional materials, physics of phonons, and led to development of practical applications of graphene in heat removal and thermal management. Balandin’s contributions range from the first-principle theory to experiments and to demonstration of prototype devices.
Phonons are quanta of crystal lattice vibrations that carry the heat, affect the optical response of materials and scatter electrons, thus limiting electrical conduction. Phonons reveal themselves in all electrical, thermal and optical phenomena in materials.
In the late 1990s, Balandin recognized that nanostructures open opportunities for tuning the properties of phonons in a way similar to electrons. An approach for controlling the phonon spectrum of materials for specific applications was termed phonon engineering or nanophononics. The advent of graphene and quasi two-dimensional materials, also referred to as van der Waals materials, resulted in a discovery of a wealth of new phonon physics and created opportunities for better control of phonon interactions.
The exceptionally high thermal conductivity of graphene can be used in thermal interface materials, heat spreaders and thermal phase change materials, which are used for heat removal from computers, laptops and batteries. Balandin and his group members are currently working on developing practical technologies for graphene applications in thermal management of electronic and optoelectronic devices.