Research in JLAB follows one fundamental thrust and one applied thrust:

THRUST 1: Far-From-Equilibrium materials discovery

Our group studies the role of external electromagnetic fields, such as microwave and millimeter waves in accessing regions of the free energy/phase space diagram of a material, hitherto unavailable to conventional synthesis routes. Examples include structurally integrated disordered glass-like alloys and oxide-polymer composites with unexpected electronic and mechanical properties, adaptive oxides for resistive switching, supersaturated mixed oxide solid solutions with hierarchical structure. An additional benefit involves employing low temperatures (< 200 °C) for directly processing such materials on fibers and flexible, light-weight substrates.

Our combined electrical and computer engineering and materials science backgrounds help us combine electromagnetics with the thermodynamics of materials processing and multiscale material structure characterization to bring an unique perspective to field-assisted materials synthesis. We use our expertise with thin film engineering of both ceramics and polymers to design exploratory experiments to decouple the effects of the field and thermal effects. Examples of our unique synthesis facilities include a microwave enhanced materials synthesis reactors and two chemical vapor deposition (CVD) polymerization systems.

In collaboration with CMU Machine Learning, JLAB also explores new synthesis routes for materials that can integrate experimental data with analytical and computational models to accelerate the discovery of new ceramic and polymeric materials, as well as hybrids of the two systems.

Microwave assisted rapid synthesis can crystallize ceramic oxide thin films like ZnO, TiO2, ZrO2, at temperatures as long as 150 – 200 °C
CVD polymerization reactors at CMU
CVD polymerization reactors at CMU
13nm polymer coating on particleUltra-thin dielectric polymer coating on single particle
Conducting polymer film patterned during synthesis
Conducting polymer film patterned during synthesis
Scalable CVD polymerization can precisely engineer few nanometers to 10s of micrometer thick films of 70 polymer chemistries (ranging from insulating to conducting) on any substrate (paper, plastic, glass, textiles, biological specimen)with planar and textured features.

THRUST 2: Structurally integrated energy storage and sensing

Our applied research aims to structurally integrate far-from-equilibrium materials into everyday objects like textiles. Our broad vision is that the knowledge from Thrust 1 can thus significantly advance technology development in applications for sustainability. Here we have 3 goals, as illustrated above:

  1. design new multifunctional hybrid materials incorporating organic, inorganic and biological constituents at the molecular or nanometer scale
  2. process these materials into nanoscale thin films that form precisely engineered, covalently grafted interfaces with diverse materials like inorganic surfaces, polymers, and biomolecules (proteins)
  3. investigate how the morphology and chemistry of these materials and their interfaces influence mass and charge transport.

Our applied research engineers devices for energy and biosensing as described below:


Materials and their interfaces hold the key to efficient energy harnessing and storage

JLAB is currently investigating the role of nanoscale, hybrid polymeric films as interface modifiers in energy harnessing (solar cells) and energy storage (batteries). Our aim is to formulate a fundamental understanding of charge and heat transfer processes at organic-inorganic heterojunctions in such devices, which is key for improving operational efficiency and stability. Hybrid ceramic-polymer solar cells and thin film (solid-state) batteries are two specific areas we are interested in.


Between 3-6 million people in the US suffer from chronic autoimmune disorders like celiac disease or from allergic reactions caused by ingesting gluten, a group of proteins found in cereals like wheat. Motivated by Prof. Jayan’s personal struggle with celiac disease, our research will address the urgent need for a highly specific and highly sensitive sensor to detect gluten proteins of all sizes and forms that trigger autoimmune and allergic reactions. The GF foods market (worth $20 billion in 2014) is growing fast, stimulating the demand for such an accurate, cost-effective and user-friendly gluten sensor.


Air Force Office of Scientific Research Army Research Office
Department of Defense USA
US Department of Energy Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance & Center for Machine Learning and Health CMU
Eberly Center