Designing Optical Materials with Small-Molecule Ionic Isolation Lattices (SMILES)
The research team will undertake a multidisciplinary project to create advanced materials with desired optical properties by computational design. This effort will address a long-standing problem in which most fluorescent molecules, which work perfectly in solution, lose their brightness when turned into the solid forms needed for making robust consumer products. This project will attempt to solve this problem by using the brightest fluorescent materials ever discovered, which were created by members of this project team and their collaborators. The materials are called small-molecule ionic isolation lattices (SMILES). They are easily made by mixing two chemicals together; one is a dye that generates the ability to manipulate energy in the form of light and the other is a structure-making compound, called cyanostar, that helps organize the dyes into a checker-board lattice of positive and negative ions. The significance of this project stems from the importance of optical materials in modern technologies such as 3D displays, and for clean energy technologies such as the harvesting of low-energy solar radiation. The project will benefit society by training graduate students, undergraduate students, and postdoctoral coworkers in research, communication, data science and multi-disciplinary collaboration. Outreach will be conducted with museum exhibits and web-based materials for careers in STEM. Technology transfer will be undertaken with start-up, Halophore, Inc. Open-source software and databases will be generated. This project aligns with the Materials Genome Initiative by developing a data-backed computing and experimental workflow for making materials twice as fast or even faster, with a target of also reducing cost.