Heron Lab: Multiferroic Materials - Making Our Future Technologies More Energy-Efficient

U-M assistant professor John Heron believes that high-entropy alloys—metal mixtures that contain as many as 20 different elements instead of an ordinary alloy’s two or three--could one day drive a new generation of post-silicon computing devices. With the speed of RAM and the non-volatility of a hard drive, they could deliver superior performance while consuming a fraction of the power.

The trick is to develop alloys whose conductive and magnetic properties can be dialed in independently. This could create a metal whose magnetic polarity can be “flipped” with a pulse of electricity. Within the bounds of traditional alloying, it’s an extremely difficult feat.

Heron’s approach breaks those bounds by piling dozens of elements into an alloy, which creates disorder, or entropy. In the metallurgical chaos, the metal begins to make its own rules, creating order from disorder and opening the door to a new world of alloys that are far more tunable and versatile. His lab is researching them right now.