Staff Highlight

Nina Balke E-mail Nina Balke

Nina is a newly appointed staff member with the CNMS

I am working in the Imaging Nanoscale Functionality Group in the theme Origins of Functionality at the Nanoscale. Before I came to ORNL, I was a Feodor-Lynen Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt foundation) which allowed me to work with Prof. Ramesh at the University of California in Berkeley where I started to work with Scanning Probe Techniques. After I spent some time at CNMS through the user program, I decided to move to Tennessee to continue my fellowship.

Since I am a fresh CNMS employee, my duties here at CNMS concentrate on research, the development of my own research direction, and to support users in our group. My favorite aspect of working at CNMS (besides the incredible instrumentation) are the ‘short ways’ between people working here. This means people working with different techniques collaborate very closely together which allows you to conduct research very efficiently.

My research area can be summarized as probing local functionality in various material systems using Scanning Probe Microscopy with the main focus on multiferroic and energy storage related materials. My favorite recent research result is that we were able to develop a method to investigate the dynamics of Li-ions in active battery materials with a resolution down to 10nm, which allows us to correlate the microstructure or single defects and battery functionality which was not possible before. This knowledge can be used to engineer better battery materials.

Thomas Maier E-mail Thomas Maier

Thomas is a staff member in the CNMS Nanomaterials Theory Institute

My research is in the broad area of theoretical studies of strongly correlated electron systems. In particular my recent work has focused on developing a fundamental understanding of the complex phenomena observed in the cuprate and iron-pnictide high-temperature superconductors. Following a PhD at the University of Regensburg in Germany, I had a two year appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati, after which I joined the Computer Science and Mathematics Division at ORNL as a Wigner Fellow. At the CNMS, I work in the Nanomaterials Theory Institute (NTI) and I am part of the "Understanding Emergent Behavior" Theme.

My research involves the development of theoretical simulation techniques and their application to study materials at the scientific frontier. The CNMS allows me to perform this fundamental research and development under the in-house science program, and apply these techniques and knowledge to a broad class of problems in collaboration with leading scientists through the user program. My current research interests include the link between nanoscale inhomogeneities and superconductivity in the high-temperature superconducting cuprates, the pairing symmetry and mechanism in the iron-pnictide superconductors, and the artificial design of higher-temperature superconductors through nanostructuring.

My current research collaborators outside of ORNL include Doug Scalapino at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Peter Hirschfeld and Hai-Ping Cheng at the University of Florida, Werner Hanke at the University of Würzburg, Germany, Emanuel Gull and Andrew Millis at Columbia University, and Thomas Schulthess at ETH Zürich. As a theorist, the only equipment I use at the CNMS is the NTI computational cluster. My favorite recent research result has been the fundamental understanding we have developed of the pairing mechanism that leads to superconductivity in the Hubbard model of the cuprate superconductors, and our finding that electronic structure inhomogeneities such as the nano-scale stripes that have been observed in the cuprates can act to optimize superconductivity in these compounds.

Kunlun Hong E-mail Kunlun Hong

Kunlun is a long time staff scientist

My research area is in synthesis (anionic, control radical) and characterization of linear and branched polymers /copolymers with controlled structures, including deuterated monomer and polymers, optoelectric active polymers, polyelectrolytes and polymer electrolytes. Before joining the CNMS, I worked with the Chemical Science Division here at ORNL in preparation, helping to develop the science program, select the state-of-the-art instruments, and foster interaction with users. I work with the Macromolecular Nanomaterial group within the Functional Polymer Architectures theme.

My main duty in CNMS is synthesis of various polymers for several user projects; synthesis, characterization, and dynamics of charged star polymers and rod-coil block copolymers. My current research interests include star polymers as a model colloidal; functionalized conjugated polymers and copolymers; and polymer electrolytes for energy storage. I enjoy the exciting independent research programs here, as well as challenges from potential users. Recently, we successfully synthesized selectively deuterated PAMAM dendrimer and studied their structures and dynamics with SANS, SAXS and NMR, which are some of my favorite tools.