Science and Engineering

Grant Abstracts 2016

Clarkson University

Zijie Yan, Norbert F. Scherer, Stephen K. Gray
Potsdam, NY
$1,000,000
December 2016

Light-Driven Self-Organization of Reconfigurable Artificial Nanomaterials

The ability to reconfigure nanoscale building blocks into different architectures has enormous potential for materials science.  Current bottom-up assembly approaches do not offer this flexibility.  This project addresses this challenge by exploiting light-driven self-organization to create materials with customized, reconfigurable structures and properties.  Self-organization arises from optical binding interactions among strongly scattering plasmonic nanoparticles, and can be tailored using an integrated computational and experimental approach.  Computationally, coupled electrodynamics-Langevin dynamics allows the researchers to design optical fields and optimize the optical binding potentials over a multi-particle system.  Experimentally, shaped optical fields will be created from counter-propagating laser beams whose intensity, phase, and polarization can be modulated in space and time.  Real-time beam shaping using computer-controlled wavefront modulators are used to change optical fields and direct self-organization instantaneously.  This will enable completely new types of material: reconfigurable optical matter with unusual nanoparticle superlattices.  The team will explore the effects of driving nonequilibrium conditions on structure and other phenomena.  New science and applications are expected to arise from coupled photonic-plasmonic interactions in these materials.

University of Arizona

Pierre Deymier, Pierre Lucas, Keith Runge
Tucson, AZ
$900,000
December 2016

RA New Era of Computing: Phase-bits, a New Paradigm for Quantum Information Processing

Current quantum bit (qubit) platforms are based on quantum particles and easily lose their superposition of states in a noisy environment, or in large arrays by decoherence.  To overcome this critical drawback, a team at the University of Arizona will focus on developing, fabricating, and experimentally demonstrating arrays of ambient temperature elastic wave qubits analogues, called phase bits (f-bits), to achieve a paradigm shift in quantum information processing.  The elastic pseudospin superposition of states formed by f-bits can be stable and decoherence free, measurable without wave function collapse, and entangled.  With these properties, the experimental realization of f-bits offers a transformative new solution to reach the goal of quantum computing using materials-based quantum analogues.  Experimentally, the approach is based on a piezo-actuated and photoinduced graded chalcogenide elastic fiber as the fundamental platform for a f-bit.  By building from a single f-bit, to a serial two f-bits with controllable coupling, and ultimately a parallel array of N f-bits, the team will physically create for the first time each crucial fundamental component in all future phonon-based quantum analogue computing platforms and demonstrate quantum computer algorithms on these components.

University of California, Los Angeles

Andrea Ghez, Jessica Lu, Tuan Do, Aurelian Hees, Greg Martinez, Smadar Naoz
Los Angeles, CA
$1,000,000
December 2016

A New Tool for Studying the Physics and Astrophysics of Supermassive Black Holes

Supermassive black holes (SMBH) are among the least understood objects in our Universe.  The UCLA Galactic Center Group pioneered the use of stellar orbits at the center of our galaxy to prove the existence of SMBHs.  It is now possible, in principle, to take the next quantum leap in discovery with stellar orbits thanks to the rapid growth of their Galactic Center (GC) dataset, owing to a longer time baseline and recent dramatic increases in the measurement sensitivities obtained with the W. M. Keck Observatory.  However, the Galactic Center Group’s current orbit modeling methodology is limited to small datasets, simple physical models, and simplistic measurement-uncertainty assumptions.  This project will develop a new framework for modeling the orbital motion of stars at the GC.  The framework will employ modern computational and statistical methods as well as a modular plug-and-play design to incorporate (1) significantly larger and more varied data sets, (2) highly correlated measurement uncertainties, (3) prior information, and (4) more advanced physical models for the properties of the SMBH and its environs.  This project will provide the foundation for new science such as tests of General Relativity near a SMBH, a direct probe of the dark-mass distribution, and new insight into the co-evolution of central SMBHs and their host galaxy, which is a key component in cosmological models of how the Universe works.

Iowa State University

Jigang Wang, Zhe Fei, Paul Canfield, Costas Soukoulis
Ames, IA
$1,300,000
June 2016

Advancing the fields of information processing, recording, storage and communication relies on pushing the switching speed limit and integration density of today’s logic and memory devices into the terahertz (THz, 1012 Hertz) and sub-20 nanometer (10–9 m) regime.  A team of researchers at Iowa State University aim to develop a novel approach to address this challenge.  Their new instrument, an Extreme Quantum Terahertz nanoscope, will combine scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) and ultrashort THz pulses that operate at temperatures down to 1.4 Kelvin and magnetic fields up to 7 Tesla.  The instrument will perturb and interrogate materials at the nanoscale to look for the emergence of quantum phases and phenomena at femtosecond (10–15 s) time scales.  The simultaneous measurement of space, energy, and time under extreme conditions breaks new ground for coherent control of quantum matter that is inaccessible in existing nanoscopy systems, and establishes the shortest time and smallest length scales for deterministic phase switching, all with minimal heating of the sample.  The combined power of the nanoscope will be initially used to understand and manipulate emergent electronic and magnetic properties in iron-based high temperature superconductors.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Camelia Prodan, Emil Prodan
Newark, NJ
$1,000,000
June 2016

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Yeshiva University plan to demonstrate the existence of “topological phonons” in a naturally occurring biological material:  microtubules (MTs).  Topological phonons are quanta of sound or vibrational energy that are confined to the surface or edge of a material.  Theoretical evidence by the NJIT team suggests that topological phonons are integral to the function of MTs – a cytoskeletal component in all eukaryotic cells that is essential for many fundamental cellular processes, including cell division and movement.  The team will develop new microfluidic devices to stabilize MTs and drive acoustic modes in them.  This work may help explain the molecular mechanics by which MTs function in cells.  This award will also lay the theoretical and experimental foundation for a new class of engineered materials that exhibit the unique vibrational and thermal properties of topological phonon edge-modes.  Such materials may find application in sound deadening and amplification and to manage heat flow.

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