Project Info

Distortions-by-Design in Thermochromic “Smart” Materials

Annalise Maughan

Project Goals and Description:

Building heating and cooling represent a substantial energy investment. One way to mitigate the energy use and move towards more sustainable building technologies is the use of thermochromic materials. Upon heating and cooling, thermochromic materials undergo changes in color to control which wavelengths of light are transmitted or reflected. The goal of this project is to use engineered structural distortions to tune the color and transition temperature of the thermochromism in candidate materials. The material PbVO3Cl undergoes a thermochromic transition near T = 200 ºC that is driven by distortions of the lattice surrounding the lead atoms. This project aims to synthesize analogs of PbVO3Cl, including PbNbO3Cl and PbWO3Cl, and to understand how these distortions affect the thermochromic properties as a function of the transition metal (i.e. V, Nb, W). This project will demonstrate how structural distortions may be used as a design principle to elicit thermochromic properties in solid-state materials with implications for improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Not applicable.

Primary Contacts:

Annalise Maughan,

Student Preparation


Students working on this project should have completed General Chemistry I and II and the corresponding laboratories. Coursework or prior research experience in materials science are preferred.




Students engaged in this project will learn techniques to synthesize powder and single crystal specimens of new thermochromic materials and to characterize these materials via X-ray diffraction techniques. This project also presents an opportunity to travel to national laboratory user facilities for advanced structural characterization via synchrotron X-ray scattering or neutron scattering.


Students will be mentored by graduate student mentors to guide the project and oversee day-to-day activities. The PI will be involved in mentorship on a weekly basis. Students will be encouraged to explore their own questions and curiosities within the project to gain independence, and must exercise creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.


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