Discovering nanoscale functionality in materials for information and energy technologies using atomic force microscopy.

Welcome to the Balke Research Group!

The goal of our research is to understand and discover new nanoscale materials functionality driven by electric fields and potentials and explore the link to macroscopic materials performance for information and energy technology. This encompasses electromechanical, mechanical, and transport phenomena in inorganic materials and across fluid-solid interfaces. This is accomplished by utilizing state-of-the-art atomic force microscopy (AFM) with a strong emphasis on imaging and extraction of quantitative materials parameters which is necessary to connect to theory and complementary characterization techniques and to be a truly integrated part of multi-modal characterization approaches. AFM’s can be used to measure volume and stiffness changes as well as current and can, therefore, address a multitude of physical phenomena. Our research focuses on phenomena that can be studied through electro(-chemo)-mechanical coupling to take advantage of the high displacement sensitivity of AFM cantilevers in the areas of dielectric, piezoelectric, and ferroelectric properties of functional oxides and van der Waals materials and ionic transport in electrode materials for batteries and electrochemical capacitors. Of specific interest is also the structure and functionality of solid-liquid interfaces which can be used to store energy and manipulate materials.



Professor Nina Balke is an Associate Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Sciences from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, in 2006. After being a Feodor-Lynen Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of California in Berkeley, she became a research staff member at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2010 before she joined NCSU in 2021.