Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Materials Science

Advancing the science and technology of materials

From actinides and architected materials to polymers and energetic materials, LLNL’s Materials Science Division (MSD) is constantly innovating in materials science.

Our multidisciplinary teams strive to create novel materials for security and energy applications and to understand the properties and performance of materials subjected to mission-relevant conditions.

We use state-of-the-art characterization technologies coupled with modeling and simulation to meet current and future national security needs, executing world-leading, discovery-class research in the fields of materials physics and chemistry. With these capabilities, MSD supports a broad range of existing and emerging LLNL programs.

Understanding how materials behave in various conditions drives MSD scientists to develop new materials for diverse applications:

Other efforts include innovations in materials assembly and processing to capture emergent properties at the nano-, meso-, and macroscale, as well as exploiting our characterization and synthesis expertise to optimize and scale the production of functional materials.

As a recognized and trusted leader for innovative, timely, and effective materials science solutions, MSD works closely with collaborators both inside and outside LLNL on a number of key national security and energy-focused initiatives. We also mentor the next generation of materials scientists through internship and postdoctoral fellowship programs.

Explore this page to learn more about the people, research, and resources that support our mission.

Research Areas

Researchers in a lab

Designer Materials and Applications

With access to world-class facilities and instrumentation, our researchers specialize in the synthesis, characterization, integration, and application of composites and soft matter.

Our research supports LLNL’s Global Security, Weapons and Complex Integration, and NIF and Photon Science organizations. Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Group leader: Scott McCall

With expertise spanning the gamut from surface science to magnetism to metallurgy, our scientists support global and national security missions through experimental work on actinide and lanthanide materials. We strive to understand the structural, chemical, mechanical, magnetic, and electronic properties of 4f- and 5f-electron systems. We also maintain capabilities for handling and preparing air-sensitive and radioactive samples (including transuranic materials).

Group leader: Kiel Holliday

We apply atomic-scale mechanistic understanding of chemical phenomenon to link material synthesis and manufacture with properties and performance. Our chemical operations expertise supports the Nuclear Materials Program within Weapons Technology and Engineering.

Group leader: Yong Han

We conduct research at the intersection of chemistry, materials science, and chemical engineering. We synthesize, characterize, and process diverse materials including organic compounds, composites, and inorganic materials at various length scales spanning the nano-meso-macro regimes. The breadth of our expertise in materials synthesis, characterization, integration, and application allows us to provide materials related solutions and expertise in energy and national security applications.

To learn more about our research, visit the Nanoscience at LLNL website.

Group leader: Trevor Willey

We design, develop, and characterize nanoscale architectures for a wide array of applications ranging from explosive materials to next-generation batteries.

To learn more about our research, visit the Nanoscience at LLNL website.

Researchers loading samples

Energetic Materials Science

Our researchers specialize in the modeling and experimentation surrounding the development, characterization, and effectiveness of energetic and reactive materials. We explore the energy released during energetic chemical reactions, such as in comparing composites to single-molecule materials, the mechanical response of those materials, and their long-term aging and chemical compatibility. We improve the safety, performance, and understanding of energetic materials and investigate advanced manufacturing techniques and new materials development.

We have created novel energetic materials, scaled them up to custom feedstocks, manufactured them into unique systems, and tested their performance.

Our researchers support research at the Energetic Materials Center (EMC). Learn more about each research group by expanding the sections below.

Group leader: Lara Leininger

We specialize in modeling and experiment surrounding the development, characterization, and surety of high-explosive materials.

Group leader: Rick Gee

We employ static and dynamic high-pressure techniques to probe chemical changes in matter that occur at pressures that challenge the bonding energy of atoms. We tightly couple modeling and experimental efforts to understand chemical decomposition and synthesis that occur under extreme conditions.

Researchers work on a laser

Materials for Laser Systems

To further LLNL’s national security mission, our scientists develop novel materials and precision assembly and characterization techniques for experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and other high-power laser facilities.

To learn more about our research, visit the Materials for Laser Systems website.

Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Group leader: Ted Laurence

We support the development and characterization of targets for advanced NIF experiments.

Group leader: Suhas Bhandarkar

We develop NIF optics through a focus on laser–matter interactions, including exploring the optical properties of materials as well as the development and propagation of damage due to high photon fluence.

Researchers looking in a microscope

Materials Structure and Properties

Our researchers strive to understand the properties and performance of materials under various conditions to support fundamental science projects and programmatic missions across LLNL. Our capabilities allow us to directly observe and characterize complex material structure and events, leading to a fundamental understanding of properties and allowing us to define models that aid in the design of new and improved materials and devices. Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Group leader: Kerri Blobaum

We support many groups across LLNL by maintaining sophisticated capabilities for electron microscopy, x-ray characterization, and sample preparation, with a special focus on handling special nuclear materials in moderate quantities. The research we support ranges from fundamental science projects to programmatic missions.

Group leader: Chance Carter

Our scientists are at the forefront of spectroscopic characterization, managing state-of-the-art capabilities to quantitatively identify chemical species in real-world materials.

Group leader: Joe McKeown

We use pulsed x-ray radiography, diffraction, and optically based velocimetry and in situ techniques to research the response of materials to strongly driven conditions. Our in situ techniques make time resolved measurements of materials structure using a Dynamic Transmission Electron Microscope (DTEM), which characterizes materials at the length scale of nanometers and timescale of nanoseconds. We employ various platforms including gas guns, high energy pulsed lasers, and high explosives to yield information on structural response, dislocation nucleation and glide, twinning, and phase transformations.

Group leader: Brandon Chung

Our multidisciplinary expertise in plutonium metallurgy and analytical chemistry allows us to use a comprehensive suite of analytical techniques within a nuclear facility to characterize special nuclear materials and develop technologies to deliver responsive solutions.

A computer animation

Materials Theory, Modeling, and Simulation

Using high-performance computing resources, our experts build versatile massively parallel computing capabilities for investigating chemical, electronic, structural, and kinetic properties of materials. These tools address critical challenges in clean energy, nuclear nonproliferation, and extreme-condition science.

To support both basic science and programmatic missions, we strive to ensure that our computational resources provide reliable, accurate results for use in theoretical and experimental research and discovery.

Learn more about our research groups by expanding the sections below.

Group leader: Robert Rudd

We research materials and dense plasmas using atomistic and mesoscopic simulation codes, focusing on multiscale modeling of strength and other constitutive properties. Some of our simulations use more than a million processors on LLNL supercomputers and are at the frontiers of high-performance computing. Our expertise includes developing tools like Cardioid, ddcMD, and ParaDiS for massively parallel simulations.

To learn more about our research, visit the Computational Materials Science Group webpage.

Acting group leader: Vincenzo Lordi

We combine state-of-the-art quantum simulation approaches with high-performance computing resources for accurate prediction of a wide range of material properties, providing opportunities to discover new materials with specific targeted properties and to examine states of matter that are difficult to access experimentally.

To learn more about our research, visit the Quantum Simulations Group website.

Career Opportunities

Our exciting work would not be possible without dedicated staff who advance materials science every day. We’re always looking for talented scientists to join our multidisciplinary materials science teams.

Browse our open positions or read about our two summer student internship programs: Computational Chemistry and Materials Science Summer Institute and Materials and Chemistry Institute (MaCI) Summer Program.

In the News

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Capabilities & Facilities

Our researchers utilize world-class scientific capabilities and modern high-performance computing facilities to support Laboratory programs. Listed below are some of LLNL’s state-of-the-art capabilities commonly used by our scientists.