Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew J. Beck


First-principles calculations based on quantum mechanics have been proved to be powerful for accurately regenerating experimental results, uncovering underlying myths of experimental phenomena, and accelerating the design of innovative materials. This work has been motivated by the demand to design next-generation thermionic emitting cathodes and techniques to allow for synthesis of photo-responsive polymers on complex surfaces with controlled thickness and patterns. For Os-coated tungsten thermionic dispenser cathodes, we used first-principles methods to explore the bulk and surface properties of W-Os alloys in order to explain the previously observed experimental phenomena that thermionic emission varies significantly with W-Os alloy composition. Meanwhile, we have developed a new quantum mechanical approach to quantitatively predict the thermionic emission current density from materials perspective without any semi-empirical approximations or complicated analytical models, which leads to better understanding of thermionic emission mechanism. The methods from this work could be used to accelerate the design of next-generation thermionic cathodes. For photo- responsive materials, we designed a novel type of azobenzene-containing monomer for light-mediated ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) toward the fabrication of patterned, photo-responsive polymers by controlling ring strain energy (RSE) of the monomer that drives ROMP. This allows for unprecedented remote, noninvasive, instantaneous spatial and temporal control of photo-responsive polymer deposition on complex surfaces.This work on the above two different materials systems showed the power of quantum mechanical calculations on predicting, understanding and discovering the structures and properties of both known and unknown materials in a fast, efficient and reliable way.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)