Daniel Fredrickson: Then and Now / 2010 Early Career Award Winner

What did the Early Career Award allow you to do?

Historically, the course of civilization has been intimately tied to progress in the production and use of metals, as highlighted in the passage from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and then to the Iron Age. 

Scientific advances in the modern era have accelerated these developments. They have revealed that underlying the silver sheen typical of metals is a diverse realm of atomic arrangements. Some are simple, others are so complex that they push the limits of scientific instrumentation. 

Since the properties of these compounds are determined by the ways that atoms are placed within them, the emergence of such wide-ranging atomic geometries would offer new opportunities for man-made functional materials - if scientists could understand and control them. 

This Early Career Award made possible a joint theoretical and experimental investigation into an emergent theme in these materials:  a link between complexity and competition within a single compound - between incompatible atomic arrangements that seem driven to separate like oil and water. 

We developed conceptual schemes and software for analyzing chemical bonding within a single compound using quantum mechanical calculations. These analyses allowed us to draw connections between atomic arrangements in metals with chemistry variables such as acidity and ideal electron counts. 

The improved understanding of metallics then led to ways to both explain the structures created in the project and guide the discovery of new compounds. 


Daniel C. Fredrickson is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The Early Career Research Program provides financial support that is foundational to early career investigators, enabling them to define and direct independent research in areas important to DOE missions. The development of outstanding scientists and research leaders is of paramount importance to the Department of Energy Office of Science. By investing in the next generation of researchers, the Office of Science champions lifelong careers in discovery science.

For more information, please go to the Early Career Research Program.


Chemical Frustration: A Design for the Discovery of New Complex Alloy and Intermetallic Phases

The goal of this project is to test and develop the use of chemical frustration as a means of structural control in intermetallics. This research will determine whether the concept of chemical frustration, an incompatibility between different modes of packing or bonding of chemical components, can be used to create new intermetallic structures. Intermetallics are made up of two or more metals but whose properties are often intermediate between metals and ceramics, yielding unique properties for magnets, high temperature alloys, superconductors, and other applications.

The program will develop and use theory and computational analysis to understand how chemical frustration impacts the electronic structures of synthesized materials. By coupling the synthesis of new materials with strong structural determination and theory, this work could produce the fundamental knowledge and guidelines needed to design intermetallics with optimum properties.


A.B. Hadler, N.A. Harris, and D.C. Fredrickson, “New roles for icosahedral clusters in intermetallic phases:  Micelle-like segregation of Ca-Cd and Cd-Cu interactions in Ca10Cd27Cu2J. Am. Chem. Soc., 135, 17369 (2013). [DOI: 10.1021/ja407291t]

T.E. Stacey and D.C. Fredrickson, “Structural acid-base chemistry in the metallic state:  How µ3-neutralization drives interfaces and helices in Ti21Mn25.” Inorg. Chem., 52, 8349 (2013).  [DOI:  10.1021/ic302619h]

R.T. Fredrickson, Y. Guo, and D.C. Fredrickson, “Epitaxial stabilization between intermetallic and carbide domains in the structures of Mn16SiC4 and Mn17Si2C4.” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 138, 248 (2016). [DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b10355]



Additional profiles of the 2010 Early Career Award winners can be found at /science/listings/early-career-program

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.energy.gov/science.

Sandra Allen McLean is a Communications Specialist in the Office of Science, sandra.mclean@science.doe.gov.