Science and Engineering

Grant Abstracts 2012

Purdue University

Michael Manfra
West Lafayette, IN
$1,000,000
December 2012

In very low disorder condensed matter systems, new correlated behavior often emerges that cannot be understood through consideration of the properties of the individual constituent particles. Among such systems, the two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) confined in a GaAs quantum well holds a special position. Historically every time the quality of the 2DEG, as measured by electron mobility, has increased by a factor of two, new correlated electron phases have been observed that reshape our understanding of how electrons behave collectively. However, mobility in GaAs 2DEGs peaked a decade ago, limited by the background impurity concentration in the GaAs epilayer. Further improvement is hindered by the purity of the commercially available gallium metal (~100 parts per billion impurities) used in molecular beam epitaxy growth. This project strives to produce a 2DEG in a GaAs quantum well with an order of magnitude improvement in low temperature electron mobility over the current best. Through novel use of metal purification technology, innovative methods in molecular beam epitaxy and advanced electrical characterization, this project will produce 2DEGs in which impurity atoms in GaAs are controlled to 1 part in 1012, creating a new frontier for the study of strongly interacting electronic phases of matter.

University of California, Irvine

Derek Dunn-Rankin
Irvine, CA
$1,000,000
December 2012

The team at UC Irvine proposes to advance the science of carbon-free power from fossil fuel by exploiting the natural conditions of the deep oceans. A significant methane storehouse is in the form of methane clathrates in sediment on the continental shelves and in permafrost. There is currently no clear technology for mining and using these deposits safely, but there are opportunities for doing so that take advantage of the high pressures and low temperatures of the deep oceans. For example, deep ocean conditions stabilize unusual phases of potential fuels (e.g., methane clathrates) and permit possible carbon sequestration strategies (e.g., CO2 clathrates). In addition, combustion at high pressures is thermodynamically efficient and produces high-density power. To investigate the novel deep-ocean processes that could contribute to a carbon-free power future, such as in situ high-pressure combustion and the kinetics of formation and dissolution of hydrates, the team proposes to construct a facility that simulates the deep ocean temperature and pressure environment and to observe directly these processes in a controlled laboratory environment. This will be the only facility in the world capable of investigating both high-pressure combustion and clathrate-based sequestration strategies.

University of California, Los Angeles

Paul Weiss
Los Angeles, CA
$1,000,000
December 2012

The goal of this project is to leverage mathematical advances in order to transform the way imaging and related data are acquired, analyzed and understood. The result will be richer, more meaningful data through significant changes in how experiments are conducted and will lead to widespread advances in the science of imaging. The UCLA team proposes to carry out critical tests of the advantages of sparsification using two diverse sets of experiments in which leading mathematicians work closely with top imaging scientists. If these test cases are successful, the advances will apply broadly across many fields involving imaging. The team is uniquely placed to develop the theory, to carry out the tests, to generalize the results, and to disseminate the resulting tools.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Scott Denmark
Champaign, IL
$1,000,000
December 2012

The catalyst discovery process in the field of asymmetric catalysis is Edisonian (trial-and-error-based) and inefficient. The significance of this program is to create a new paradigm for the development of enantioselective, catalytic processes that combines the creative power of diversity oriented synthesis (DOS) with the analytical power of chemoinformatics. The primary objective of this proposal is to demonstrate that the amalgamation of DOS with chemoinformatic analysis is a viable construct for the discovery, development, and understanding of asymmetric catalysis. Although much progress has been made in the field of asymmetric catalysis by empirical experimentation, in only a few cases has a fundamental, physical organic foundation been established that explains the structure-activity and structure-selectivity relationships underlying the processes. This project aims to provide a framework for the design and development of new catalytic reactions and catalyst structures using the accelerated discovery power of DOS coupled with the analytical power of Quantitative Structure Activity Relationship (QSAR) modeling. The importance and potential of these reactions for industrial and pharmaceutical uses provide compelling motivation for these studies.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Narayanan Menon
Amberst, MA
$1,000,000
December 2012

This project will develop strategies for the controlled delivery of ultra-thin elastic films to the boundary between two fluids to impart well-defined mechanical, optical or chemical properties to that interface. These studies will give rise to a new class of solid surfactants where the elasticity of thin sheets will be exploited to tailor the properties of an interface in ways not available with traditional molecular or particulate surface agents such as detergents and emulsifiers. The major enabling insight is that a sheet, initially crumpled while suspended in one fluid, spontaneously and explosively unfurls at the surface of the fluid, acting as a surfactant between two immiscible fluids. To advance this approach, several scientific challenges must be tackled, including the dynamics of uncrumpling, the interactions between crumpled objects dispersed in a fluid, the elasticity of heterogeneous and anisotropic films, and the mechanics of an interface laden with a mosaic of elastic sheets. Solid surfactants could then be used to bandage leaks or cracks, to impart chemical function or isolation to an interface, to give mechanical rigidity to a fluid surface, or to shrink­ wrap drops. The team will employ high-speed microscopy, quantitative image analysis, advanced materials synthesis, computer simulation, and theoretical analysis to harness this range of applications.

California Association for Research in Astronomy

Peter Wizinowich
Kamuela, HI
$1,500,000
June 2012

In 2004, the Keck II Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGS AO) system was the first LGS system on a large telescope. The primary goal of this project is to improve the scientific performance of the AO system by procuring and implementing a next generation laser. Secondary goals include: (1) operational improvements (such as laser reliability and efficiency) associated with replacing an aging experimental laser with a commercial product; and (2) continued development of WMKO’s next generation AO system. The existing AO system uses a 13 W pulsed dye laser to excite the sodium atoms in the mesosphere. The level of AO correction is limited by the laser power and especially by the low coupling efficiency of a pulsed laser to the sodium atoms. Continuous wave lasers have been demonstrated to have about 10 times the coupling efficiency of the dye laser. The WMKO team has been collaborating with the European Southern Observatory and a consortium of U.S. observatories to develop a 20 W commercial continuous wave laser. The resultant laser has been demonstrated in the lab by a consortium of two laser vendors, TOPTICA and MPBC, and has completed its final design. This next generation laser, meeting all specifications, is now available and will sustain the Observatory’s leadership in LGS AO science for years to come.

Northwestern University

Neil Kelleher
Evanston, IL
$1,000,000
June 2012

Protein complexes are cellular machines that manage and perform most functions in our cells and in all living organisms. Scientists continue to struggle to understand their composition, their structure and how they can malfunction. Because the most revealing and accurate approach—examining native complexes as entire units—has seemed virtually impossible, most analyses have used mass spectrometry of protein fragments, which may lead to partial or misleading results. A team from Northwestern University, in collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific, plans to overcome this major barrier in disease research by developing a new kind of mass spectrometer that combines the advantages of Time-of-Flight (TOF) and Fourier Transform (FT) analyzers. This instrument will be used to separate an intact protein complex from a mixture and then detect it directly or activate to release its subunits. The instrument will then detect the intact masses of subunits and the fragmentation products that result from their stepwise disassembly. To this platform, they will couple new separation strategies and software, followed by application of the combined system to mitochondrial complexes isolated from models of aging and kidney cancer. This integrated workflow will constitute a major advance in protein mass spectrometry, accelerate the understanding of disease at a molecular level and address a key challenge of this century: to define the human proteome.

University of California, Berkeley

Geoff Marcy
Berkeley, CA
$1,000,000
June 2012

The Kepler Mission has demonstrated the existence of large numbers of Earth-size planets and smaller, but most of them reside over 300 parsecs away, making follow-up study of those planetary systems difficult at best. A team at Berkeley proposes to discover Earth-size planets around nearby stars (within 25 parsecs) to permit imaging and spectroscopy of those nearest planetary systems, and to allow measurements of their outer planets, zodiacal dust, and host star properties. They will build a novel "Habitable Worlds Spectrometer" designed specifically to detect the tiny Doppler shifts of nearby stars that can reveal the Earth-size planets orbiting them. The spectrometer will be deployed at the new 2.4-meter APF Telescope at Lick Observatory, for which the team has access 45% of nights. This spectrometer will achieve a Doppler precision of 0.3 m/s, which is 5x better than the spectrometer designed 10 years ago that is currently being commissioned on the APF. The proposed spectrometer enables the detection of Earth-mass planets. This will be accomplished with a design innovation that shrinks and stabilizes the spectrometer by employing an octagonal fiber that is split into four smaller fiber-optics, thereby slicing the stellar image to half-size. This design permits the detection of Earth-size planets orbiting inward of the habitable zones of nearby stars.

University of Houston

Steven Baldelli, Kevin Kelly (Rice University)
Houston, TX
$1,000,000
June 2012

Investigators at the University of Houston and Rice University plan to develop a new chemical imaging system and will use it to study fundamental problems in surface chemistry that are otherwise inaccessible. Systems to be investigated include the spatial distribution of surface molecules involved in pattern formation on surfaces such as catalytic reaction on metals or lipids, and Langmuir/Langmuir-Blodgett monolayers, which are important models of biological and cell surfaces. The new technique will combine surface vibrational spectroscopy (sum frequency generation, SFG) and compressive sensing (CS). The planned CS-SFG microscope will allow for the chemical identification and spatial location of molecules on a variety of surfaces and will be applicable to real world samples to provide a chemical map of the interface. The technique will be useful for anyone wanting to characterize or study the surface chemistry of solid or fluid interfaces. The team plans to fully document and publish details of the finished instrument so that others could, affordably, add this imaging modality onto their own systems.

University of Utah

John Belz
Salt Lake City, UT
$1,000,000
June 2012

Earth is being bombarded by extremely energetic cosmic radiation from within our galaxy and beyond. It is clear that understanding the origins of these cosmic rays will require accurate models of the most violent processes in the universe. Currently, cosmic rays are studied using detectors covering thousands of square kilometers of the Earth’s surface and costing tens of millions of dollars. The sheer scale of these observatories is thus becoming a limitation to our understanding. To overcome this limitation, the team will develop a remote sensing technique known as “bistatic radar.” Evidence for the principle behind this technique was first collected by the MARIACHI project, which used high school based cosmic ray detectors and parasitic radar receivers in a very noisy environment to detect the radar echoes of cosmic-ray induced atmospheric plasmas. The investigators on the present proposal aim to repeat the MARIACHI measurements in conjunction with a well-established cosmic ray experiment (Utah’s Telescope Array) in a radio-quiet location. They will develop the detection of these atmospheric anomalies into a tool for studying particle astrophysics, thus enabling high-energy cosmic ray research to proceed into the next generation of sensitivity.

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