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Xinqi ChenDr. Xiaobing Hu, Research Assistant Professor

What inspired you to work in this field?

The story of materials is really the story of civilization. Materials are the fundamental buliding blocks of culture. Materials science is an interdisciplinary field involving the properties of matter and its applications to various areas of science and engineering.

In materials science, we instead aim to understand materials fundamentally so that new materials with the desired properties can be created. The basis of all materials science involves relating the desired properties and relative performance of a material in a certain application to the structure of the atoms and phases in that material through characterization. Then, characterization of the materials at atomic scale is very critical in understanding many fundamental problems. Now, the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is the only instrument that can give the structural and chemical information of materials at atomic scale. So I selected the field of TEM.

What’s the most interesting project or achievement that you’ve been involved in at NUANCE?

The most interesting project I've been involved with here is revealing the localized structural and chemical ordering within various secondary precipitates in superalloys. We can see many fantastic things at the atomic scale. By understanding the fundamental mysteries, we can now design the superalloys with better overall properties.

What are the everyday practical applications of your research/work? How does what you’re doing make a difference to non-scientists?

Superalloys has wide applications in the hot sections of turbine engines. Furthermore, they are also broadly used in powerplants, aerospace, and marine. Wherever both high temperature mechanical properties are needed, you can find superalloys.

What excites you most about the future of nanotechnology?

Future nanotechnology will be down to a much lower scale. Many functionalities can be integrated into one small device. Sensors will be smaller, more complex, and more energy efficient. These sensors will produce more information than we've ever had to deal with before -- so we'll need big data analysis. Nanotechnology is helping to create ultra-dense memory that will allow us to store this wealth of data.