Science and Engineering

Grant Abstracts 2017

Cornell University

Darrell G. Schlom, J.C. Séamus Davis, Craig J. Fennie, Eun-Ah Kim, Kyle M. Shen
Ithaca, NY
June 2017


Researchers at Cornell University will develop an odd-parity topological superconductor (OPTSC) material that will lay the practical foundation for a stable and scalable quantum computing (QC) technology.  Quantum computers promise exponentially enhanced efficiency in performing calculations that are of great real-world importance, but are at present impossible.  In virtually all QC implementations to date, one of the states is an excited state that must, of necessity, decay spontaneously into its ground state.  This “decoherence” quickly destroys the quantum calculation and no mitigation exists for this fundamental effect.  An alternative form of QC has therefore been proposed: braiding pairs of ground-state non-abelian anyons in two dimensions.  Importantly, an anyon is not an excited state and so does not suffer decoherence, preserving quantum information ad infinitum. In principle, one route to create and use pairs of such anyons occurs in OPTSCs.  Despite intensive searches worldwide during the last decade for an OPTSC material, none have been identified definitively.  Recent theoretical work by the Cornell team demonstrates a new way to create an elusive superconducting state important for QC – splitting the quantum interactions and charge carriers that comprise superconductivity into separate material layers.  They predict that a bilayer heterostructure with a thin metal film in intimate contact with a quantum paramagnet will yield an OPTSC.  This project will leverage unique materials growth and characterization facilities at Cornell, including a new facility which combines Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE), Angle Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy (ARPES), and Spectroscopic Imaging Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (SI-STM).

Temple University

C. Jeff Martoff, Eric Hudson, Andrew Renshaw, Peter F. Smith, Hanguo Wang, Paul Hamilton
Philadelphia, PA
June 2017


A team of researchers from Temple University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Houston plan a laboratory-scale experimental search for a new “sterile” type of neutrino.  Neutrinos play a crucial role in our universe via their role in a number of phenomena, including particle interactions, radioactivity, and fusion reactions at the center of stars.  While three flavors of neutrino are known – one each as the uncharged partners of the electron, muon and tau – it is widely believed that there should also be neutrinos of larger mass and much weaker interactions, hence the name “sterile.”  Theoretical studies suggest that such neutrinos, with a keV-range mass, could account for the unidentified ‘dark matter’ known to dominate the mass of our galaxy.  The investigators propose to detect these sterile neutrinos as rare events (possibly less than 1 in a million) in radioisotope decays by precise measurement of the recoiling nucleus and all other emitted particles.  Specifically, by suspending in high vacuum a large number (100 million or more) of ultra-cold radioactive 131Cs atoms using a magneto-optical laser trap and measuring the momenta of all emitted particles by time-of-flight the emitted neutrino mass can be calculated for each event.  This project is to demonstrate the principle of reconstruction of the neutrino mass, and the ability to identify rare sterile neutrino events.  Discovery of such particles would constitute a major breakthrough in humanity’s understanding of our universe.

University of Arizona

Peter Reiners, Joaquin Ruiz, George Davis, Steven Lingrey, Amanda Hughes, Isabel Fay Barton, Mark Barton, Jennifer McIntosh, Mark Person, Bob Krantz
Tuscon, AZ
June 2017


This interdisciplinary team from the University of Arizona and the New Mexico Institute of Technology will characterize the complex 300-million-year evolution of subsurface paleofluids, their dynamic sources and forcings, and the record of fluid-rock reactions in the Paradox Basin, a ~105 km region hosting diverse fluids and paleofluid flow manifestations.  Subsurface fluids move vast quantities of mass and heat in the Earth’s crust, facilitate exchange between the lithosphere and surface reservoirs, chemically and physically alter rocks over large scales, and provide humankind with critical energy and mineral resources.  Most crustal fluid studies have focused on individual types of fluids and flow events, typically from narrow, resource-oriented perspectives.  For the first time, our methodology will integrate geologic, geochemical, geochronologic, and hydrogeologic observations, analyses, and modeling to elucidate the emergent properties of long-lived paleofluid flow and establish a new benchmark to characterize and understand subsurface fluid-rock systems.  Such a broad, multi-perspective framework will enable interpretation of the lithologic record of paleofluids by relating sources, driving forces, compositions, reactive transport processes, and timing of different fluids, flow episodes, and fluid-rock reactions.  Such insight is essential to describe, understand, and predict the complex, dynamic, and coupled processes that characterize subsurface fluid-rock systems.

University of California, Berkeley

Holger Müller, Dmitri Budker, Karl van Bibber, Justin Khoury, Paul Steinhardt
Berkeley, CA
June 2017


Dark matter and dark energy together make up 95% of the universe, though virtually all details about this “dark sector” remain a mystery.  While heavy particles that might make up the dark sector are being searched with great effort, a family of new, well-motivated theories is urging us to search for light particles.  A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University will construct an atom interferometer in which the control over systematic effects and noise sources has been taken to the extreme, in part by using a large, high-power laser beam, to search the light dark sector in three ways: (i) looking for fifth forces between atoms and macroscopic test masses which are hidden by coupling only to surfaces of objects, which would be a manifestation of dark energy, (ii) measuring fundamental constants such as the fine structure constant, which can unveil evidence for “dark photons,” and (iii) looking for oscillating accelerations on rubidium atoms, which are signals for several candidates of dark matter.  These experiments are designed to exceed the sensitivities of existing approaches by several orders of magnitude, including some undertaken at large accelerator laboratories.  They will conclusively test the theories in question, either discovering a dark-sector particle or ruling out the theories.  A successful project will open up new paths in dark-sector research based on laboratory atom interferometers.

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