Studies on the behavior of ions and electrons in solids possessing complex crystal structures and strong Coulomb interactions will improve our knowledge of collective emergent behavior in matter. Materials synthesis therefore forms a foundational aspect and brings a collaborative dimension to scholarship. Themes we work on include:

  • Strongly correlated semiconductors for neuroscience and intelligence
  • Evolutionary biology inspired organismic matter
  • Adaptive electromagnetic materials

Organismic Materials and Intelligence

Adapting evolutionary knowledge from nature and the corresponding plasticity displayed by living beings into the physical world may lead to paradigm shift in designing artificial brains, haptic intelligence and animal-machine interfaces. We are interested in exploring the use of correlated semiconductors as model systems (‘organismoids’) to design tunable electronic states via learning and adaptation. Materials synthesis, discovery of new phase change systems and understanding electronic structure of orbitally non-degenerate crystal lattices under various environmental stimuli form an important aspect of scholarship in this program. Long term vision includes advancing physical analogs for ancestral intelligence and can open up a new branch of inquiry, ‘organismic’ materials science.

Physics of ion conductors and complex fluid interfaces

Ion injection and transport under extreme chemical potentials offers an elegant non-thermal route to design properties in functional materials and ion-selective membranes to mimic natural entities. Understanding the thermodynamic (with condensed matter theorists) and kinetic (dynamical relaxation) aspects of these processes combined with in-situ diagnostics (with DOE collaborators) is of interest. A fundamental problem is how to interpret glassy dynamics in carrier transport that appears inherent at such dissimilar interfaces and may be used to create analogs for information processing in animals possessing central nervous system.

Materials Synthesis in extreme environments

Experimental realization of synthetic neural circuits and haptic interfaces require advances in materials synthesis and test structures that allow interrogation of the intrinsic properties. Two problems in this regard are of particular interest: (1) experimental techniques to advance crystalline materials synthesis via extreme thermodynamic environments and (2) methods to study phase formation in-operando in a dynamic environment. A significant part of this research is conducted in close collaboration with researchers at national laboratories.

Laboratory and Instrumentation

We have custom thin film growth chambers (physical vapor deposition) to synthesize a variety of multi-component oxides and metal electrodes, oxidation systems to controllably vary non-stoichiometry, several unique probe stations to perform electrical, electrochemical measurements at high temperature (over 1000 degC) and controlled environment (over 30 decades in oxygen pressure).

Most of the equipment has been designed and built in-house by group members including undergraduate students allowing for unique transport property measurements in designer environments.

Research Sponsors

We are grateful to our sponsors: National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, ARPA-E, Semiconductor Research Corporation, as well as others in industry for supporting our research.


We collaborate extensively with academic researchers in fields spanning Condensed Matter Physics, Photonics, Physical Chemistry, Biology, Bio-engineering, Computational Science and Electrical Engineering, as well as at industrial and DoD labs. This is not surprising since we invest many years learning to synthesize a few materials systems. Please contact Shriram at shriram@purdue.edu if you are interested in exploring collaborative studies.