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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VIII. Earth Earns: An Open Participatory Earthropocene to Ecosmocene CoCreativity

1. Mind Over Matter and Energy: Quantum, Atomic, Chemical Connectomics

Bose, S. K., et al. Evolution of a Designless Nanoparticle Network into Reconfigurable Boolean Logic. Nature Nanotechnology. 10/12, 2015. We cite as another instance among many this entry by University of Twente, Netherlands researchers of future potentials just opening for human avail by way as an intentional continuance of nature’s procreative complex network systems.

Natural computers exploit the emergent properties and massive parallelism of interconnected networks of locally active components. Evolution has resulted in systems that compute quickly and that use energy efficiently, utilizing whatever physical properties are exploitable. Man-made computers, on the other hand, are based on circuits of functional units that follow given design rules. Hence, potentially exploitable physical processes, such as capacitive crosstalk, to solve a problem are left out. Until now, designless nanoscale networks of inanimate matter that exhibit robust computational functionality had not been realized.

Our system meets the criteria for the physical realization of (cellular) neural networks: universality (arbitrary Boolean functions), compactness, robustness and evolvability, which implies scalability to perform more advanced tasks. Our evolutionary approach works around device-to-device variations and the accompanying uncertainties in performance. Moreover, it bears a great potential for more energy-efficient computation, and for solving problems that are very hard to tackle in conventional architectures. (Abstract)

Braga, Dario. Crystal Engineering. Chemical Communications. 22/2751, 2003. In this regard a professor at the University of Bologna envisions the “bottom-up construction of functional materials from molecular or ionic building blocks.”

Canfield, Paul. New Materials Physics. Reports on Progress in Physics. 83/016001, 2020. The DOE Ames (Iowa) Laboratory senior condensed matter physicist introduces and surveys this open frontier of the historic transfiguration of cosmic substance from its long, contingent phase to a radically intentional, informed, sustainable, biocreative futurity. As a spokesperson for this national and global research community, a new era of material recreation and enhancement beckons whence all manner of formulations can be beneficially made anew.

This review presents a survey of, and guide to, New Materials Physics research. It begins with an overview of the goals of New Materials Physics and then presents important ideas and techniques for the design and growth of new materials. An emphasis is placed on the use of compositional phase diagrams to inform and motivate solution growth of single crystals. The second half of this review focuses on the vital process of generating actionable ideas for the growth and discovery of new materials and ground states. Motivations ranging from (1) wanting a specific compound, to (2) wanting a specific ground state to (3) wanting to explore for known and unknown unknowns, will be discussed and illustrated with abundant examples. The goal of this review is to inform, inspire, an even entertain, as many practitioners of this field as possible. (Abstract)

Humanity needs to find the materials that will ease is growing needs for reliable, renewable, clean, energy and/or will allow for greater insight into the mysteries of collective and, in some cases, emergent states. In this talk I will present a broad overview of New Materials Physics and discuss the three basic motivations for making n advance: wanting a specific compound; wanting a specific ground state; searching for known and unknown unknowns. Materials discussed will span superconductors, quasicrystals, heavy fermions, fragile magnets, topological electronic systems, local moment magnets and more. (PC 2017 APS talk)

Cao, Shan Cecilia, et al. Nature-Inspired Hierarchical Steels. Nature Scientific Reports. 8/5088, 2018. A seven person team from UC Berkeley, City University of Hong Kong, Zhejiang University, Virginia Tech, and MIT describe an imaginative, biomimetic combine of nature’s strongest organic materials with a 21st century steel metallurgy to achieve much improved qualities. The clever project is seen to augur for a new range of extra-superalloys.

Materials can be made strong, but as such they are often brittle and prone to fracture when under stress. Inspired by the exceptionally strong and ductile structure of byssal threads found in certain mussels, we have designed and manufactured a multi-hierarchical steel, based on an inexpensive austenitic stainless steel, which defeats this “conflict” by possessing both superior strength and ductility. These excellent mechanical properties are realized by structurally introducing sandwich structures at both the macro- and nano-scales. Our experiments and micromechanics simulation results reveal a synergy of mechanisms underlying such exceptional properties. This synergy is key to the development of vastly superior mechanical properties, and may provide a unique strategy for the future development of new super strong and tough, lightweight and inexpensive structural materials. (Abstract excerpt)

Carrasquilla, Juan and Roger Melko. Machine Learning Phases of Matter. Nature Physics. 13/5, 2018. Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics researchers conceive a meld of physical principles, cerebral architectures and computational acumen as an effective way to venture upon a new era of intentional material procreation.

Condensed-matter physics is the study of the collective behaviour of infinitely complex assemblies of electrons, nuclei, magnetic moments, atoms or qubits. Here, we show that modern machine learning architectures, such as fully connected and convolutional neural networks, can identify phases and phase transitions in a variety of condensed-matter Hamiltonians. Readily programmable through modern software libraries, neural networks can be trained to detect multiple types of order parameter, as well as highly non-trivial states with no conventional order, directly from raw state configurations sampled with Monte Carlo. (Abstract excerpt)

Ceder, Gerbrand and Kristin Persson. The Stuff of Dreams. Scientific American. December, 2013. MIT and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory materials scientists write of awesome quantum and computational capabilities so as to create anew nature’s chemical substances for a better life, world and future. For a technical report, see The Materials Project by Anubhav Jain, et al, including Gerbrand and Persson, in the new online journal APL Materials (1/1, 2013), where it is dubbed a “materials genome approach.”

Engineered materials such as chip-grade silicon and fiber-optic glass underpin the modern world. Yet designing new materials has historically involved a frustrating and inefficient amount of guesswork. Streamlined versions of the equations of quantum mechanics – along with supercomputers that, using those equations, virtually test thousands of materials at a time – are eliminating much of that guesswork. Researchers are now using this method, called high-throughput computational material design, to develop new batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, computer chips, and other technologies. (Summary)

Accelerating the discovery of advanced materials is essential for human welfare and sustainable, clean energy. In this paper, we introduce the Materials Project (www.materialsproject.org), a core program of the Materials Genome Initiative that uses high-throughput computing to uncover the properties of all known inorganic materials. This open dataset can be accessed through multiple channels for both interactive exploration and data mining. The Materials Project also seeks to create open-source platforms for developing robust, sophisticated materials analyses. Future efforts will enable users to perform ‘‘rapid-prototyping’’ of new materials in silico, and provide researchers with new avenues for cost-effective, data-driven materials design.

Chen, Zian, et al. Topics in the Mathematical Design of Materials. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. May, 2021. An introduction to a special issue by authors posted Hong Kong, Slovenia, Bristol, UK, Bologna, Italy, Bilbao, Spain and Bucharest, Romania which provides a wide survey of techniques and advances. Some titles are Chromonic Liquid Crystals, Origami and Materials Science (abstract below), and The Theory of Composites.

We present a perspective on several current research directions relevant to the mathematical design of new materials. We discuss: (i) design problems for phase-transforming and shape-morphing materials, (ii) epitaxy as an approach of central importance in the design of advanced semiconductor materials, (iii) selected design problems in soft matter, (iv) mathematical problems in magnetic materials, (v) some open problems in liquid crystals and soft materials and (vi) mathematical problems on liquid crystal colloids. The presentation combines topics from soft and hard condensed matter, with specific focus on those design themes where mathematical approaches could possibly lead to exciting progress. (Abstract)

Origami, the ancient art of folding thin sheets, has practical value in diverse fields: architectural design, therapeutics, deployable space structures, medical stents, antenna design and robotics. Here we show how the rules for constructing origami have direct analogues to the analysis and microstructure of materials. At atomistic level, the structure of crystals, nanostructures, viruses and quasi-crystals all link to simplified origami methods. Underlying these linkages are basic physical scaling laws, the role of isometries, and the role of group theory.

Cheng, Ji, et al. Stability of Ar(H2)2 to 358 GPa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114/3596, 2017. An international team of geophysicists with shared postings at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Carneige Institution of Washington progress toward the laboratory preparation of metallic Hydrogen. This extreme form was conjectured to only be present in the compressed cores of gas giant planets. (GPa stands for gigaPascals, after Blaise, whence 1 GPa is ~ 145,000 pounds per square inch.) Into the 21st century, who are we peoples that whose instrumental, collaborative prowess can advance nature’s deepest material realms?

Pressure-induced metallization of solid hydrogen is a problem of certain prominence in high-pressure physics. However, it is extremely challenging to be achieved experimentally. It was proposed that “chemical precompression” (introducing impurity atoms or molecules into hydrogen) may facilitate metallization under pressure. In this paper, we selected Ar(H2)2 as a model system and explored the intermolecular interactions of H2 molecules and the metallization of hydrogen in the presence of a weakly bound impurity (Ar). Combining our experimental data and theoretical calculations, we found that Ar does not facilitate the molecular dissociation and bandgap closure of H2, moreover it works in the opposite direction. Our work provides a solid basis for future searches of hydrogen-rich materials which facilitate metallization of hydrogen. (Significance)

Cole-Turner, Ronald, ed. Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Enhancement. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011. The editor is a professor of theology and ethics at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. A spate of recent books of this genre alternatively exalt instant powers to remake human and nature, a near singularity but sans checks or balances, or look aghast at an often misconceived Pandora’s box of genetic or social “engineering.” This volume presents a rare admission that a promised, recreated future is unavoidably opening, but we ought to only proceed with utmost careful, wise, spiritual guidance. As the contents and much text viewable on Amazon.com attest, the essays are a thoughtful attempt to engage and give meaningful depth to this new creation quite bursting upon us. Of note are lead chapters: “Contextualizing a Christian Perspective on Transcendence and Human Enhancement: Francis Bacon, N. F. Fedorov, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin” by Michael S. Burdett, and “Transformation and the End of Enhancement: Insights from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin” by David Grumett. Another humane contribution is Celia Deane-Drummond’s “Taking Leave of the Animal? The Theological and Ethical Implications of Transhuman Projects.”

Collins, Sean, et al. Materials Design by Evolutionary Optimization of Functional Groups in Metal-Organic Frameworks. Science Advances. Online November, 2016. University of Ottawa, Center for Catalysis Innovation researchers describe endeavors within the field of “computational materials science” (search Ceder) to “optimize” ligand compounds (molecules bonded to a metal atom) by way of machine learning and genetic algorithms. See also The Thermodynamic Scale of Inorganic Crystalline Metastability by Wenhao Sun, et al in this journal, for another advance.

A genetic algorithm that efficiently optimizes a desired physical or functional property in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) by evolving the functional groups within the pores has been developed. The approach has been used to optimize the CO2 uptake capacity of 141 experimentally characterized MOFs under conditions relevant for postcombustion CO2 capture. A total search space of 1.65 trillion structures was screened, and 1035 derivatives of 23 different parent MOFs were identified as having exceptional CO2 uptakes of >3.0 mmol/g. The structures of the high-performing MOFs are provided as potential targets for synthesis. (Collins Abstract)

The space of metastable materials offers promising new design opportunities for next-generation technological materials, such as complex oxides, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, steels, and beyond. We report a large-scale data-mining study of the Materials Project, a high-throughput database of density functional theory–calculated energetics of Inorganic Crystal Structure Database Structures, to explicitly quantify the thermodynamic scale of metastability for 29,902 observed inorganic crystalline phases. We reveal the influence of chemistry and composition on the accessible thermodynamic range of crystalline metastability for polymorphic and phase-separating compounds, yielding new physical insights that can guide the design of novel metastable materials. (Sun Abstract)

Copie, O., et al. Structure and Magnetism of Epitaxial PrVO3 Films. Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. 25/49, 2013. Université de Caen Basse Normandie and CNRS-Ecole Centrale Paris researchers prepare, study and avail this especially versatile class of materials. We select this contribution out of thousands each month as an example of the worldwide project to discern and recreate the chemical substance of nature, for which we seem to have a limitless capacity. (The paper intrigued because in 1962 I grew one of the first GaAs epitaxial single crystal films in a laboratory in New York City.) And what a fantastic scenario on the face of it as some kind of universe that stochastically evolves sentient beings who are then able to so quantify its materiality as to begin a new, better, intentionally ordered “second genesis.”

Epitaxial means growing a crystal layer of one mineral on the crystal base of another mineral in such a manner that its crystalline orientation is the same as that of the substrate. Pr is the rare earth element Praseodymium.

The interplay between charge, spin, orbital and lattice degrees of freedom in transition metal oxides has motivated extensive research aiming to understand the coupling phenomena in these multifunctional materials. Among them, rare earth vanadates are Mott insulators characterized by spin and orbital orderings strongly influenced by lattice distortions. Using epitaxial strain as a means to tailor the unit cell deformation, we report here on the first thin films of PrVO3 grown on (001)-oriented SrTiO3 substrate by pulsed laser deposition. An extensive structural characterization of the PrVO3 films, combining x-ray diffraction and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy studies, reveals the presence of oriented domains and a unit cell deformation tailored by the growth conditions. We have also investigated the physical properties of the PrVO3 films. We show that, while PrVO3 exhibits an insulating character, magnetic measurements indicate low-temperature hard-ferromagnetic behavior below 80 K. We discuss these properties in view of the thin-film structure. (Abstract)

Crocker, John. Directed Self-Assembly, Statistical Mechanics and Beyond. www.physics.umass.edu/seminars. The web page for a Condensed Matter Seminar at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 8, 2015, by the University of Pennsylvania biomolecular engineer. As the Abstract cites, the talk was first about how DNA dynamics can exemplify complex scalar structures. These nonlinear qualities also distinguish soft matter substances, all of which are found to exhibit, by way of a landscape model, a fractal self-similarity. In conclusion it was noted that financial markets, far from molecular domains, yet hold to the same form and process. So again from another angle, an independent universality from chemicals to economies is well quantified.

DNA is a versatile tool for directing the equilibrium self-assembly of nanoscopic and microscopic objects. The interactions between microspheres due to the hybridization of DNA strands grafted to their surface have been measured and can be modeled in detail, using well-known polymer physics and DNA thermodynamics. We use these interactions to generate a large and expandable library of DNA-labeled colloidal building blocks by utilizing colloidal crystal templates and reprogrammable DNA interactions. These clusters in turn possess directional interactions that can be used for hierarchical self-assembly of still more complex ordered structures. The second half of the talk will discuss the physical origin of the unusual rheological properties of many non-equilibrium complex fluids, collectively termed soft-glassy materials (SGMs) such as soap foams, mayonnaise, toothpaste and living cells. When activated by internal energy sources, SGMs display dynamic shear moduli that have an unusual power-law frequency dependence, super-diffusive particle motion, and large cooperative particle rearrangements, or avalanches. We hypothesized that these SGM phenomena may emerge simply from properties of their high-dimensional energy landscape function. Surprisingly, we find that the steepest-descent configuration space path is a self-similar fractal curve, resembling a river cascading down a tortuous mountain canyon. The unusual SGM phenomena in our model stem directly from these paths' fractal dimension and energy function, suggesting that such physics may emerge generically in non-equilibrium systems having fractal energy landscapes. (Abstract)

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