Science and Engineering

Grant Abstracts 2017

Howard University

Tito Huber, Pratibha Dev, Thomas Searles
Washington, DC
$1,000,000
December 2017

 

Researchers at Howard University seek to develop an understanding of science at the interfaces of quantum materials such as two-dimensional (2D) quantum layers and nanostructured semimetals.  These structures stretch the boundaries of nanotechnology to the atomic domain and have dramatic new properties at room temperature that promise to transform optoelectronics.  Quantum size-effects such as transitions from a semi-metallic state to topologically non-trivial states have been observed in semimetals such as bismuth.  The role played by these emergent quantum phenomena on the properties of the interfaces of such structures remains unknown and are ripe for exploration.  As a proof-of-principle, the researchers will study semimetal thin films/nanowire arrays that are capped by a 2D layered material such as graphene.  The capping layer will provide: (i) the means to effect charge-separation at the interfaces, and (ii) a path for charge transport.  The interfacial properties are expected to be modified by the quantum confinement effects, surface effects, and defects within the semimetal and the capping layer.  Employing a wide range of experimental techniques, the team will study these effects on photogeneration and charge-separation at the interfaces of these structures.  This project will leverage unique materials growth and characterization facilities at Howard University, including: high-pressure, high-temperature growth of semimetal nanowire arrays; scanning electron microscopy; and, Raman microscopy.  State-of-the-art computational methods based on density functional theory will be used to explain and guide the experimental efforts.  The proposed research will answer fundamental questions about novel low-dimensional materials and will impact future optoelectronics and quantum technologies.

Princeton University

Gregory Scholes
Princeton, NJ
$1,000,000
December 2017

 

Chemical synthetic routes are designed based on the paradigm that bond breaking and making proceeds step-wise and that the probabilities for each reaction are additive.  A senior investigator at Princeton University speculates that it is possible to harness the wave basis of quantum mechanics to drive chemical reactions.  He proposes to produce and detect a quantum mechanical superposition (quantum entanglement) of two chemical reactions that each involves the shift of a hydrogen atom bond from one adjacent atom to another.  This result will demonstrate the potential for quantum mechanical control of reaction pathways in chemistry and suggest possibilities for understanding biochemical reactions, where hydrogen transfer processes are common.  The researcher will search suitable molecules experimentally for quantum entanglement; develop ultra-fast spectroscopy techniques to follow the evolution of this state; and, ultimately try to control chemistry using these entangled states.

Stanford University

David Reis, Philip Bucksbaum, Shanhui Fan, Jelena Vuckovic, Olav Solgaard
Palo Alto, CA
$1,000,000
December 2017

 

Advanced technology increasingly relies on the precise control of atomic-scale heterogeneity to manipulate electrons, photons and phonons on ever smaller distances and faster times.  A team of five researchers at Stanford University will push the scientific frontier of atomic-scale dynamical imaging by scaling the newly discovered phenomena of solid-state high-harmonic generation to nanoscale dimensions and high-repetition rates.  Single emitters of coherent extreme ultraviolet radiation will be incorporated into near-field probes to provide sub-nanometer and sub-femtosecond resolution.  This novel instrument will be used to visualize how an atomically sharp 1-D junction between two 2-D materials alters the energy—and therefore the transport—of electrons nearby.  The spatial extent of the strong, yet widely-tunable many-body interactions in these materials determines the device’s smallest size and fastest speed.  Until now there has been no way to image the materials response on short enough length and time scales to view the formation length and evolution of electronic states across a single junction.  The instrument could also be used to record other dynamical processes that require extreme spatial and temporal resolution, including nanoscale energy conversion, heterogeneous catalysis and quantum information storage and processing using single defects.

University of California, San Diego

James Friend
La Jolla, CA
$900,000
December 2017

 

A single investigator at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) aims to challenge long held views on the physics of atomization crucial to many applications from insect sprays, fuel injection, and ink-jet printing to pulmonary drug delivery.  Despite 180 years of accumulated wisdom, current atomization theories consistently fail to predict droplet size, flow rate, and power requirements.  Recent advances in digital holographic microscopy now provide the needed speed to image waves formed at the fluid/air interface, called capillary waves, which ultimately pinch off into atomized droplets.  The PI expects to generate a new physical understanding of atomization by combining this technique with simultaneous measurements of turbulence in the fluid and the speed, size, and number of droplets generated.  The ubiquity of atomization, advances in understanding, and hence control of this important process make this a high impact project.

Washington State University

James Brozik, Kerry Hipps
Pullman, WA
$1,000,000
December 2017

 

Two researchers at Washington State University propose to develop techniques which will lay the foundation for the creation of advanced materials and molecular machines with chemical, mechanical, structural, and electronic properties designed and constructed at the atomic scale.  The team plans to write a chemical code onto a solid surface of metal complexes that can be transferred to a proto-replicator which will in turn create many exact copies of a self-replicating molecular machine with atomic-scale precision.  The resultant self-replicator will be designed to exponentially reproduce exact copies of itself from chemical feed stock resulting in very large quantities.  All proto- and self-replicating molecular machines will be designed a priori with the aid of single molecule stochastic kinetic and thermodynamic studies and the development of semi-empirical models used to predict optimal environmental conditions and reaction times.  The notion of creating unlimited quantities of a polymer with exactly the same length and exactly the same atomic sequence is nothing less than revolutionary.  The foundational knowledge gained here will allow future scientists and engineers to create new molecular scale tools and devices that will have enormous impact on our daily lives.

Cornell University

Darrell G. Schlom, J.C. Séamus Davis, Craig J. Fennie, Eun-Ah Kim, Kyle M. Shen
Ithaca, NY
$1,000,000
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
$1,200,000
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
$1,000,000
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, Dmitry Budker, Karl van Bibber, Justin Khoury, Paul Steinhardt
Berkeley, CA
$1,000,000
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.

University of Hawai`i at Manoa

Glenn Carter, Jeff Drazen, Chris Measures, Bruce Howe
Honolulu, HI
$1,200,000
June 2017

 

It is sometimes said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the deep ocean.  This is certainly true when it comes to the waters deeper than 6000 m (3.72 miles) — the hadal zone.  These deep ocean trenches, where pressures approach 16,000 psi (1100 times atmospheric pressure) at the deepest known point (Challenger Deep, at 11 km or 36,000 ft), are among the most inaccessible, and poorly studied regions on the planet.  Practically nothing is known about the circulation, mixing, chemical properties, and biological communities that are within the deepest 45% of the ocean’s depth range.  This dearth of knowledge stems from a lack of suitable instrumentation with which to make observations.  The team from the University of Hawai`i, along with industry partners that are world leaders in their fields, plans to build a Hadal Water Column Profiler (HWCP).  This unique profiling instrument will, for the first time, enable high quality physical, chemical, and biological sampling of the hadal water column.  It will be designed to withstand hundreds of cycles to hadal pressures which, together with an 8-hour period between profiles, will allow observations to be made that resolve physically and biologically relevant time scales (including tides).  Research that will be enabled by HWCP will create new understanding of the deep ocean’s impact on the climate and biological communities.

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