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About the Integrated Materials Research Laboratory (IMRL)

The Integrated Materials Research Laboratory… A Facility to Enhance National Security and Economic Competitiveness

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Materials enable the ideas of scientists to meet the needs of engineers. Research into the relationships between the atomic structure of materials and their physical and mechanical properties, both in the United States and elsewhere, is leading to exciting new alloys and compounds that can be designed to exhibit a wide range of useful properties. For this reason a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and advisory bodies, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Research Council, have identified materials as a critical technology vital to our nation's national security and economic competitiveness.

The Integrated Materials Research Laboratory (IMRL) enables Sandia to develop new and superior materials that meet government and industrial needs. This 140,000 square foot building houses most of the advanced materials research and development functions at Sandia. The facility integrates research from the atomic scale, through the development of electronic devices, to full scale mechanical components. The experimental work is augmented by advanced computer modeling and simulation techniques, another area of Sandia's expertise.

A wide variety of types of materials will be investigated: advanced metallic alloys, semiconductors for electronic and photonic applications, high temperature superconductors, ceramics, metals with properties tailored for improved resistance to friction, wear, corrosion and erosion, etc., and laser, optical and dielectric materials.

The IMRL has been built outside of Sandia's secure area to facilitate technical cooperation with researchers from industry and universities. The new four story building has permitted Sandia to bring together some 250 materials researchers previously scattered about the campus. It also includes space for postdoctoral researchers and guests from other organizations, facilitating the collaborative generation of new ideas, and the subsequent transfer of novel pre-competitive technologies to practice.

The IMRL is strategically located with our microelectronics development, compound semiconductor research and robotics manufacturing science and engineering laboratories. This drives the integration of materials research with advanced microelectronic component development creating a set of leading edge facilities in what may be termed an integrated microsystems technology park.

We have developed a variety of solution chemistry routes to ceramic powders in order to control such important powder properties as particle size, agglomerate structure, dopant levels, and impurities. The ability to control powder properties is important because the microstructural and electrical properties of ceramics are strongly influenced by the nature of the powder used in their fabrication. This solution processing approach is illustrated above for the Sandia-developed process to prepare high field ZnO varistor materials. This patented process has been successfully transferred to industry and has been qualified as a material source for varistor Lightning Arrestor Connector granules and other weapons components.

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Scanning tunneling microscope image
Scanning tunneling microscope (STM) image of the Si (001) crystal surface magnified approximately 10 million times. Single-atom-height steps and rows of surface atoms are observed. These direct images and the ability to track individual atoms provide new insight into the atomic-level origins of material properties.

solutions image
Solutions used to prepare
varistor precursor powder.

Calcined varistor powder image
Calcined varistor powder (agglomerates of
700 doped-ZnO crystallites).

Related Links:

Map and Driving Instructions to IMRL


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