Yael Tsarfati researched the crystallization mechanisms of organic molecules, at both the doctoral and the postdoctoral level, in the Chemistry department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. She was able to image detailed “nonclassical” pathways of these molecules, revealing continuous evolution of order, starting from diverse disordered precursors. Her work, the first of its kind to establish a framework for the rational design of organic crystals, could significantly impact the field, and could potentially be incorporated in commercial applications such as pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Tsarfati’s current postdoc is a collaboration between an electron microscopy group at UC Berkeley and a materials science group at Stanford, examining the microstructure of organic soft materials from the nanoscale to the mesoscale, specifically thin films of organic molecular or polymeric semiconductors. These materials have shown promise as active elements in thin film electronic devices such as field effect transistors, solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), but the fundamental structural origin of such enhanced performance is unknown.
Until recently, conventional electron microscopy has been widely used to elucidate structure-property relationship for inorganic materials, while being unsuitable for soft materials. Now however, new cryo-techniques and high sensitivity fast detectors, along with new developments in machine learning for big data analysis, allow Dr. Tsarfati to visualize and analyze even soft materials at a similar level of detail. She hopes her research builds intellectual bridges between traditional materials science (e.g. metallurgy) and polymer research, fields that have largely lacked interaction until now.