Properties of solid inorganic materials are governed by their elemental composition and the arrangement of their atoms.

Since composites can be designed to exhibit favorable properties of their component materials, the combination of disparate materials to form composites opens a new design space.

More intriguing, within a thin region adjacent to the interface between the components, the properties can strongly diverge from either pure component. This presents new opportunities for engineering of materials whose interfaces dominate their properties.

Owing to a high density of interfaces, nanocomposites (in which the components have nanometer-scale dimensions) are an ideal platform for systematically studying interfacial properties and for developing materials engineering strategies.

This Early Career Award enabled our development of nanocomposite thin films with electrochromic properties, where an electrochemical potential controls the optical transmittance.

These nanocrystal-in-glass composites control visible and infrared light passing through glass on demand and may enable energy-saving smart windows for buildings and transportation. Their efficiency for visible light control was enhanced five-fold, based on restructuring of the glass at the nanocrystal interface.

Such electrochemical enhancement may also allow improvements in battery or capacitor electrode materials. And the chemical strategies developed during this project are enabling systematic study of interfacial effects on a broad range of material properties.


Delia J. Milliron is the T. Brockett Hudson Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, formerly a staff scientist in the Molecular Foundry, Division of Materials Science at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


The Early Career Award program provides financial support that is foundational to young scientists, freeing them to focus on executing their research goals. The development of outstanding scientists early in their careers is of paramount importance to the Department of Energy Office of Science. By investing in the next generation of researchers, the Office of Science champions lifelong careers in discovery science. 

For more information, please go to the Early Career Research Program.


Inorganic Nanocomposite Electrodes for Electrochemical Energy Storage and Energy Conservation

This project aims to develop a combinatorial approach to solution‐processed inorganic nanocomposite materials as a new route to the complex physical properties required for efficient energy storage and conservation devices. The research will apply a new, general solution‐processing approach to fabricate well‐controlled, chemically and morphologically tunable inorganic nanocomposites for battery and electrochromic device electrodes. Modular combinations will be made of different nanoparticle compositions sizes, and of secondary phase materials (electronic insulators, semiconductors, and metals). From the ionic and electronic transport properties of the resulting composites, design rules will be derived to guide the development of highly efficient mixed ionic and electronic conductors. This nanocomposite platform will be further developed to resolve fundamental questions to guide the development of advanced battery and electrochromic device electrodes. Nanocomposite electronic materials will be then developed for applications in physics, chemistry and biology.


A. Llordes, G. Garcia, J. Gazquez, and D.J. Milliron, “Tunable near-infrared and visible light transmittance in nanocrystal-in-glass composites.” Nature 500, 323 (2013). [DOI: 10.1038/nature12398]

R. Buonsanti, T.E. Pick, N. Krins, T.J. Richardson, B.A. Helms, and D.J. Milliron, “Assembly of ligand-stripped nanocrystals into precisely controlled mesoporous architectures.” Nano Lett. 12, 3872 (2012). [DOI: 10.1021/nl302206s]

G. Garcia, R. Buonsanti, E.L. Runnerstrom, R.J. Mendelsberg, A. Llordes, A. Anders, T.J. Richardson, and D.J. Milliron, “Dynamically modulating the surface plasmon resonance of doped semiconductor nanocrystals.” Nano Lett. 11, 4415 (2011). [DOI: abs/10.1021/nl202597n]



Additional profiles of the 2010 Early Career Award winners can be found at https://www.energy.gov/science/listings/early-career-program.   

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.energy.gov/science.