Tolbert, Sarah H.

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California NanoSystems Institute

Contact Information

Young Hall 3045A
(310) 206-4767
Young Hall 4107
(310) 794-6618


Sarah Tolbert is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. Research in her group focuses on self-organized nanoscale materials and includes both organic templated inorganic phases and colloidal materials. Current work in her group is aimed at understanding and controlling structure and periodicity in complex nanostructured composite materials, and in exploiting that periodicity for a range of structural, optical, and electronic materials applications. Projects in Prof. Tolbert's group range from examination of nanoscale phase transitions in surfactant templated inorganic solids to the designed assembly of electro-active composite materials. Professor Tolbert's honors include a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Development Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

Research Interest

Research in my group focuses around two intertwined goals. These are first, to create complex materials with nanoscale periodicity using self-organization, and second, to produce new physical properties because of that nanoscale architecture. The specific properties vary dramatically from project to project and include control of optical, magnetic, electrical, and even structural behavior. In all cases, however, the goal is to intrinsically tie the physical properties to the nanoscale structure, and in so doing, to understand the new dimension of control that size and spatial confinement can bring.

In my group, we use two main methods to produce nanoperiodic structures. Colloidal assembly is a simple method of producing periodic structures with virtually any length scale. Monodisperse colloids of almost any size can spontaneously order into close-packed arrays. Because of this size flexibility, colloidal assembly is the method of choice for producing larger-scale photonic materials with periodicity on the order of the wavelength of light. A structurally more versatile method for producing smaller-scale periodicity is inorganic/organic co-assembly. In this approach, amphiphilic organic surfactants or block co-polymers are co-assembled with inorganic oligomers to produce periodic inorganic/organic composites or nanoporous inorganics with periodicities similar to those found in lyotropic liquid crystalline phases. Various research projects in this area involve the synthesis of both oxide (titania, silica) and non-oxide (Ge, SnTePt, etc.) based materials.

Mesoporous Supercapacitor Films



Honors & Awards

  • American Chemical Society
  • Materials Research Society


X. Chen, B.L. Kirsch, R. Senter, S.H. Tolbert, and V. Gupta   Tensile Testing of Thin Films Supported on Compliant Substrates Mechanics of Materials, 2010; 41(7): 839-848 .
Torsten Brezesinski, John Wang, Sarah H. Tolbert & Bruce Dunn   Ordered Mesoporous ?-MoO3 with Iso-Oriented Nanocrystalline Grains for Next Generation Thin Film Pseudocapacitors Nature Materials, 2010; 9: 146 - 151.
J.B. Levine, S.H. Tolbert, R.B. Kaner   Advances in the Search for Superhard Ultra-Incompressible Metal Borides Advanced Functional Materials, 2009; 19(22): 3519 - 3533.
S.D. Korlann, A.E. Riley, B.S. Mun, and S.H. Tolbert   Chemical Tuning of the Electronic Properties of Nanostructured Semiconductor Films formed through Surfactant Templating of Zintl Cluster J. Phys. Chem. C., 2009; 113(18): 7697?7705.
M.B. Weinberger, J.B. Levine, H.-Y. Chung, R.W. Cumberland, H.I. Rasool, J.-M. Yang, R.B. Kaner, and S.H. Tolbert   Incompressibility and Hardness of Solid Solution Transition Metal Diborides: Ru1-xOsxB2 Chem. Mater., 2009; 21(9): 1915?1921.
H.-Y. Chung, J.-M. Yang, S.H. Tolbert and R.B. Kaner   Anisotropic Mechanical Properties Of Ultra-Incompressible, Hard Osmium Diboride J. Mater., 2008; 23(6): 1797-1801.
S. Virji, B.H. Weiller, J. Huang, H. Shepherd, T. Faltens, P.C. Haussmann, R. Blair, R.B. Kaner, and S.H. Tolbert   Construction of a Polyaniline Nanofiber Gas Sensor J. Chem. Ed., 2008; 85(8): 1102-1104.
H.Y.Chung, M.B. Weinberger, J.M. Yang, S.H. Tolbert, and R. B. Kaner   Correlation Between Hardness And Elastic Moduli Of The Ultraincompressible Transition Metal Diborides RuB2, OsB2, and ReB2 Appl. Phys. Lett., 2008; 92(26): 261904 - 261904-3 .
X. Chen, E.K. Richman, B.L. Kirsch, R. Senter, S.H. Tolbert, and V. Gupta   Measurement of anisotropic fracture energies in periodic templated silica/polymer composite coatings J. Appl. Phys., 2008; 104: 083515.
M. Yu, B.C. Ng, L.H. Rome, S.H. Tolbert, H.G. Monbouquette   Reversible pH Lability of Crosslinked Vault Nanocapsules Nano Lett., 2008; 8(10): 3510-3515.
A.L. Ayzner, D.D. Wanger, C.J. Tassone, S.H. Tolbert and B.J. Schwartz   Room to Improve Conjugated Polymer-Based Solar Cells: Understanding how Thermal Annealing Affects the Fullerene Component of a Bulk Heterojunction Photovoltaic Device J. Phys. Chem. C., 2008; 112(48): 18711-18716.
E.K. Richman, T. Brezesinski, and S.H. Tolbert   Vertically Oriented Hexagonal Mesoporous Films Formed through Nanometer Scale Epitaxy Nature Mater., 2008; 7: 712-717.
L. Huang, E.K. Richman, B.L. Kirsch, and S.H. Tolbert   Controlling Thickness in Hexagonal Polymer Templated Mesoporous Silica Films Microporous Mesoporous Mater., 2006; 96(1-3): 341-349.
D. Sun, A.E. Riley, A.J. Cadby, E.K. Richman, S.D. Korlann, and S.H. Tolbert   Hexagonal Nanoporous Germanium through Surfactant-Driven Self-Assembly of Zintl Clusters Nature, 2006; 441: 1126-1130.
A.E. Riley, S.D. Korlann, E.K. Richman, and S.H. Tolbert   Synthesis of Semiconducting Thin Films with Nanometer Scale Periodicity by Solution Phase Co-Assembly of Zintl Clusters with Surfactants Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2006; 45(2): 235-241 .
O. Trofymluk, A.A. Levchenko, S.H. Tolbert, A. Navrotsky   Energetics of Mesoporous Silica: Investigation into Pore Size and Symmetry Chem. Mater. , 2005; 17(14): 3772-3783 .
Cumberland, RW Weinberger, MB Gilman, JJ Clark, SM Tolbert, SH Kaner, RB   Osmium diboride, an ultra-incompressible, hard material Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2005; 127(20): 7264-5.
B.L. Kirsch, X. Chen, E.K. Richman, V. Gupta, and S.H. Tolbert   Probing the Effects of Nanoscale Architecture on the Mechanical Properties of Hexagonal Silica/Polymer Composite Thin Films Adv. Func. Mater. , 2005; 15(8): 1319-1327.
B.F. Kirsch, E.K. Richman, A.E. Riley, and S.H. Tolbert   In-Situ X-Ray Diffraction Study of The Crystallization Kinetics Of Mesoporous Titania Films J. Phys. Chem. B., 2004; 108: 12698-12706.
D. Sun, C.W. Kwon, G. Baure, E.K. Richman, J. MacLean, B. Dunn, and S.H. Tolbert.   The Relationship between Nanoscale Structure and Electrochemical Properties of Vanadium Oxide Nanorolls Adv. Func. Mater., 2004; 14(12): 1197-1204.
A.F. Gross, M.R. Diehl, K.C. Beverly, E. Richman, and S.H. Tolbert   Controlling Magnetic Coupling between Cobalt Nanoparticles through Nanoscale Confinement in Hexagonal Mesoporous Silica J. Phys. Chem. B, 2003; 107(23): 5475-5482.
A. Rugge, W.T. Ford, and S.H. Tolbert   From a Colloidal Crystal to an Interconnected Colloidal Array: a Mechanism for a Spontaneous Rearrangement Langmuir, 2003; 19(19): 7852-7861.
A.F. Gross, S.Yang, A. Navrotsky, and S.H. Tolbert   In-Situ Calorimetric Study of the Hexagonal-to-Lamellar Phase Transformation in a Silica/Surfactant Composite J. Phys. Chem. B, 2003; 107(12): 2709-2718.
A.E. Riley, G.W. Mitchell, P.A. Koutentis, M. Bendikov, P. Kaszynki, F. Wudl, and S.H. Tolbert   Liquid Crystalline Phase Behavior in a Zwitterionic Tetraazapentacene Adv. Func. Mater. , 2003; 13(7): 531-540.
A. Rugge, J.S. Becker, R.G. Gordon, and S.H. Tolbert   Tungsten Nitride Inverse Opals by Atomic Layer Deposition Nano Lett., 2003; 3(9): 1293-1297.
A.F. Gross, V.H. Le, B.L. Kirsch, and S.H. Tolbert   Chemical Control of Phase Transformation Kinetics in Periodic Silica/Surfactant Composites J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2002; 124(14): 3713-3724.
J. Wu, L. Zhao, E.L. Chronister, and S.H. Tolbert   Elasticity through Nanoscale Distortions in Periodic Surfactant Templated Porous Silica under High Pressure J. Phys. Chem. B., 2002; 106(22): 5613-5621.
A. Rugge and S.H. Tolbert   The Effect Of Electrostatic Interactions On Crystallization In Binary Colloidal Films Langmuir, 2002; 18(18): 7057-7065.
A.M. Lapena, J.J. Wu, A.F. Gross, and S.H. Tolbert   Using High Pressure Phase Stability to Determine the Internal Pressure of Silica/Surfactant Composites J. Phys. Chem. B, 2002; 106(45): 11720-11724.
T.-Q. Nguyen, J. Wu, S. H. Tolbert, B. J. Schwartz   Control of Energy Transport in Conjugated Polymers using an Ordered Mesoporous Silica Matrix, Adv. Mater., 2001; 13: 609-611, 542.
A.F. Gross, V.H. Le, B.L. Kirsch, A.E. Riley, and S.H. Tolbert   Correlations Between Silica Chemistry and Structural Changes in Hydrothermally Treated Hexagonal Silica/Surfactant Composites Examined by In-Situ X-ray Diffraction, Chem. Mater., 2001; 13: 3571-3579.
S.H. Tolbert, J. Wu, A.F. Gross, T.-Q. Nguyen, and B.J. Schwartz   Directional Energy Migration in an Oriented Nanometer-Scale Host/Guest Composite: Semiconducting Polymers Threaded into Mesoporous Silica, Microporous Mesoporous Mater., 2001; 44-45: 445-451.
J. Wu, M. Abu-Omar, S.H. Tolbert   Fluorescent Probes of the Molecular Environment within Mesostructured Silica/Surfactant Composites under High Pressure, Nano Lett., 2001; 1: 27-31.
B.J. Schwartz, T.-Q. Nguyen, J. Wu, and S.H. Tolbert   Interchain and Intrachain Exciton Transport in Conjugated Polymers: Ultrafast Studies of Energy Migration in Aligned MEH-PPV/Mesoporous Silica Composites, Synthetic Metals, 2001; 116: 35-40.
C.C. Landry, S.H. Tolbert, K.W. Gallis, A. Monnier, G.D. Stucky, P. Norby, and J.C. Hanson   Phase Transitions in Mesostructured Silica/Surfactant Composites. Mechanisms for Change and Applications to Materials Synthesis, Chem. Mater., 2001; 13: 1600-1608.
A.F. Gross, E.J. Ruiz, V. Le, and S.H. Tolbert   The Role of Silica Chemistry in Controlling Phase Transitions in Silica/Surfactant Composite Materials, Microporous Mesoporous Mater., 2001; 44-45: 785-791.
A.F. Gross, V.H. Le, B.L. Kirsch, S.H. Tolbert   Understanding Phase Stability in Silica/Surfactant Composites through the Study of a Curvature Driven Rectangular Intermediate, Langmuir, 2001; 17: 3496-3504.
T.-Q. Nguyen, J. Wu, V. Doan, B.J. Schwartz, and S.H. Tolbert   Control of Energy Transfer in Oriented Conjugated Polymer-Mesoporous Silica Composites, Science, 2000; 288: 652-656.
A.F. Gross, E.J. Ruiz, and S.H. Tolbert   Effect of Framework Polymerization on the Phase Stability of Periodic Silica/Surfactant Nanostructured Composites, J. Phys. Chem. B., 2000; 104: 5448-5461.
J. Wu, X. Liu, and S.H. Tolbert   High Pressure Stability in Ordered Mesoporous Silicas ? Rigidity and Elasticity through Nanometer Scale Arches, J. Phys. Chem. B., 2000; 104: 11837-11841.
J. Wu, A.F. Gross, and S.H. Tolbert   Host Guest Chemistry Using an Oriented Mesoporous Host: Alignment and Isolation of a Semiconducting Polymer in the Nano-Pores of an Ordered Silica Matrix, J. Phys. Chem. B., 1999; 103: 2374-2484.
A.B. Herhold, C.C. Chen, C.S. Johnson, S.H. Tolbert, and A.P. Alivisatos   Structural Transformations and Metastability in Semiconductor Nanocrystals, Phase Transition, 1999; 68: 1-25.
S.H. Tolbert, T.E. Schäffer, J. Feng, P.K. Hansma, and G.D. Stucky   A New Phase of Oriented Mesoporous Silicate Thin Films, Chem. Mater., 1997; 9: 1962-1967.
S.H. Tolbert, P. Sieger, G.D. Stucky, S.M.J. Aubin, C.-C. Wu, and D.N. Hendrickson   Control of Inorganic Layer Thickness in Self-Assembled Iron Oxide/Surfactant Composites, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1997; 119: 8652-8661.
S.H. Tolbert, A. Firouzi, G.D. Stucky, and B.F. Chmelka   Magnetic Field Alignment of Ordered Silicate-Surfactant Composites and Mesoporous Silica, Science, 1997; 278: 264-268.
Firouzi, D.J. Schaefer, S.H. Tolbert, G.D. Stucky, and B.F. Chmelka   Magnetic-Field-Induced Orientational Ordering of Alkaline Lyotropic Silicate-Surfactant Liquid Crystals, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1997; 119: 9466-9477.
A.V. Kadavanich, A. Mews, S.H. Tolbert, X. Peng, M.C. Schlamp, J.C. Lee, and A.P. Alivisatos; R.W. Collins, P.M. Fauchet, I. Shimizu, and J.-C. Vial, eds.   Structural Investigations Of Colloidal Semiconductor Nanocrystal Heterostructures: Faceting And Epitaxy, Advances in Microcrystalline and Nanocrystalline Semiconductors, Mater. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc, 1997; 452: 353-358.
P.F. Feng, X. Bu, S.H. Tolbert, and G.D. Stucky   Synthesis and Characterizations of Chiral Tetrahedral Cobalt Phosphates with Zeolite ABW and Related Frameworks, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1997; 119: 2497-2504.
A.B. Herhold, S.H. Tolbert, A.A. Guzelian, and A.P. Alivisatos, E. Pilizzetti, Ed.   A Comparison of Pressure-Induced Structural Transformations in CdSe, InP, and Si Nanocrystals, Fine Particles Science and Technology From Micro to Nanoparticles, 1996; 331-342.
S.H. Tolbert, A.B. Herhold, L.E. Brus, and A.P. Alivisatos   Pressure Induced Structural Transformations in Silicon Nanocrystals: Surface and Shape Effects, Phys. Rev. Lett., 1996; 76: 4384-4387.
A.M. Belcher, C. Zaremba, Q. Huo, C.C. Landry, S.H. Tolbert, A. Firouzi, M. Janicke, P.K. Hansma, D. E. Morse, B.F. Chmelka, S. Schacht, I.G. Voigt-Martin, F. Schüth, and G.D. Stucky   The Organic/Inorganic Interface and Materials Synthesis in the Nano- to Macroscale Continuum, Chemistry on the Nanometer Scale, the Robert A. Welch Foundation 40th Conference on Chemical Research, 1996; 101-112.
S.H. Tolbert and A.P. Alivisatos   High Pressure Phase Transitions in Semiconductor Nanocrystals, Ann. Rev. Phys. Chem., 1995; 46(595-625): .
S.H. Tolbert, A.P. Alivisatos   The Wurtzite to Rock Salt Structural Transformation in CdSe Nanocrystals under High Pressure, J. Chem. Phys., 1995; 102: 4642-4656.
S.H. Tolbert, A.B. Herhold, C.S. Johnson, and A.P Alivisatos   A Comparison of Quantum Confinement Effects on the Electronic Absorption Spectra of Direct and Indirect Gap Semiconductor Nanocrystals, Phys. Rev. Lett., 1994; 73: 3266-3269.
S.H. Tolbert and A.P Alivisatos   Size Dependence of a First Order Solid-Solid Phase Transition: The Wurtzite to Rock Salt Transformation in CdSe Nanocrystals, Science, 1994; 265: 373-376.
S.H. Tolbert and A.P Alivisatos; G.C. Hadipanayis and R.W. Siegel, eds.   Se EXAFS Study of the Elevated Wurtzite to Rock Salt Structural Phase Transition in CdSe Nanocrystals, Nanophase Materials: Synthesis Properties-Applications, 1993; 26: 471-482.
S.H. Tolbert and A.P Alivisatos   Size Dependence of the Solid-Solid Phase Transition in CdSe Nanocrystals, Zeit. Phys. D- Atoms, Molecules, and Clusters, 1993; 26: 56-58.
S.H. Tolbert, A.P. Alivisatos, H.E. Lorenzana, M.B. Kruger, R. Jeanloz   Raman Studies on C60 at High Pressures and Low Temperatures, Chem. Phys. Lett., 1992; 188: 163-167.
J.R Heath, J.M. Hawkins, A.P. Alivisatos, R.J. Saykally, T.A. Lewis, S.D. Loren, A. Meyer, Y. Shibato, S.H. Tolbert, and J.J. Shiang   C60 Research at the University of California at Berkeley, Proc. of the 1990 Materials Research Conference, Boston, MA Nov. 25-29, 1990; 24-29.