UC Santa Barbara condensed matter physicist Andrea Young conducts his work at the boundary of theory and actuality, as he builds instrumentation to probe for signature quantum properties in advanced materials. Using his expertise in the realm of graphene systems, he and his research group also work to coax as-yet hypothetical behaviors from the two-dimensional material's atoms that, if found, could lead to advances in realms such as quantum sensing and topological quantum computing.
Young's experience and expertise have caught the attention of The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. And, as a result, he has been selected as one of 20 Experimental Investigators in the Moore Foundation's Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems (EPiQS) Initiative, which aims to support U.S. experimental scientists' pursuit of "innovative, risky research with a potential for significant advances in the concepts and methods used to investigate quantum materials."
"The Moore Foundation is doing something really special -- giving large grants with true flexibility and freedom," Young said. "I am flattered to have been chosen and excited to make the most of this with some risky projects I've been thinking about for a long time!"
Selected through a national competition with an extensive peer review process, each Experimental Investigator will receive $1.6 million in unrestricted support over the next five years.
"The Experimental Investigator awards are the largest grant portfolio within the EPiQS initiative," said Amalia Fernandez-Pañella, program officer of the EPiQS Initiative. "We expect that such substantial, stable and flexible support will propel quantum materials research forward and unleash the creativity of the investigators."
Young's drive to discover has already led to important advances in his field. He has been credited as one of the pioneers of van der Waals heterostructures -- layers of atom-thick materials held together by a weak distance-dependent attraction between the atoms in each layer -- which has since influenced how scientists approach 2D systems in general. More recently, he and his research group have reported the discovery of a variety of new quantum phases of electrons, spanning new forms of magnetism, to states harboring non-Abelian anyons -- collective excitations that could pave the way toward a logic system for topological quantum computers. Support from the Experimental Investigator award will enable him to range farther into the 2D universe, building tools to probe these phases of matter on nanometer length scales and resolve their dynamics on picosecond timescales.
"The Moore Foundation has recognized the fantastic opportunities at UCSB, where we have seen spectacular growth of multidisciplinary efforts in quantum materials in the last few years," said Claudio Campagnari, chair of the UC Santa Barbara Department of Physics. "And, of course, we're pleased the foundation will be supporting the development of Andrea's unique instrumentation, which promises to provide radically new windows into the inner workings of correlated electron physics. We look forward to the impacts of the Foundation's support on the whole quantum materials ecosystem at UCSB in the coming years."
The EPiQS cohort's research will cover a broad spectrum of research questions, types of materials systems, and complementary experimental approaches. The investigators will advance experimental probes of quantum states in materials; elucidate emergent phenomena observed in systems with strong electron interactions; investigate light-induced states of matter; explore the vast space of two-dimensional layered structures; and illuminate the role of quantum entanglement in exotic systems such as quantum spin liquids. In addition, the investigators will participate in EPiQS community-building activities, which include investigator symposia, topical workshops and the QuantEmX scientist exchange program.
Since 2013, EPiQS has supported an integrated research program that includes materials synthesis, experiment and theory, and that crosses the boundaries between physics, chemistry and materials science. The second phase of the initiative was kicked off earlier this year with the launch of two major grant portfolios: Materials Synthesis Investigators and Theory Centers, including one at UCSB's Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. The twenty newly inaugurated Experimental Investigators will join these grantees to form a vibrant, collaborative community that strives to push the entire field towards a new frontier.
"The first cohort of EPiQS Experimental Investigators made advances that changed the landscape of quantum materials, and I expect no less from this second cohort." said Dušan Pejakovi?, Ph.D., director of the EPiQS Initiative. "Emergent phenomena appear when a large number of constituents interact strongly, whether these constituents are electrons in materials, or the brilliant scientists trying to crack the mysteries of materials."
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. For more information visit Moore.org or follow @MooreFound.
Nanotech Energy Inc. the world's top supplier of graphene, announces the official close of its Series C Preferred Round of funding. This round of participation/funding was expected to close at $25 million, yet included a “shoe” to allow for an additional $2.5 million for a total of $27.5 million invested. The funding was expanded to accommodate the oversubscription, following board of directors’ approval. The post-money valuation of this round was $227.5 million.
“This round of funding – with such high-level and committed investors – validates the need the international market has for our proprietary battery technology,” said Dr. Jack Kavanaugh, chairman and CEO of Nanotech Energy Inc. “We are confident that we have a one-of-a-kind, industry-changing product that will impact the technologies and bottom lines of multiple end-user markets. This round of funding allows us to dramatically expand our production of graphene batteries, as well as our production of conductive epoxies, conductive inks and electromagnetic interference shielding spray paints and films. This will also facilitate our efforts to further increase our large-scale manufacturing of high-quality graphene that we provide for use in downstream applications.”
“Lithium-ion batteries have transformed the way society uses energy, yet there are a number of documented safety issues,” said Dr. Maher El-Kady, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nanotech Energy. “We perfected the battery by utilizing the extraordinary electronic and mechanical properties of graphene to increase the battery capacity. To further increase the safety of a lithium-ion battery, we took a step further by designing a non-flammable electrolyte that can withstand operation at high temperatures without catching fire.”
The funding news dovetails with the Company’s creation and production of non-flammable, lithium batteries with the highest performance levels of other batteries. The Nanotech Energy Graphene Super Battery safely delivers efficient, fast charging and long-lasting battery power.
“Graphene is one of the strongest known materials, is completely flexible, and an excellent conductor of electricity - thus preventing the battery from overheating,” stated Dr. Richard Kaner, UCLA Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and of Materials Science and Engineering. “More importantly, graphene can withstand the volume changes of the battery electrodes during charge and discharge, reducing the chances of an internal short circuit; leading to a safer and more powerful battery.”
“Most industries and end users are confined to the technology of lithium-ion batteries, from smartphone and laptop manufacturers to automotive manufacturers to the consumer at large. They are limited to a battery technology that is well-known and documented to be dangerous – highly combustible and flammable,” continued Kavanaugh. “You have advanced and successful industries relying on a dangerous yet vital technology for decades. Nanotech Energy now offers all of these industries a path toward a safe and more powerful battery technology – a game changer for them.”
The Daimler Mercedes Challenge
In preparation for its graphene battery launch, Nanotech Energy has been working on the development of a high-performance, non-flammable battery for Daimler Mercedes hybrid and electric automobiles.
“Three years ago, we challenged Nanotech Energy to provide us with the safest non-flammable battery chemistry,” stated Andreas Hintennach, Ph.D., global head of battery research for Daimler AG. “Nanotech Energy exceeded our challenge. Usually you sacrifice performance once you develop extremely safe chemistry. Now, for the first time, we have access to extremely safe chemistry that provides high performance and we are very pleased.”
The Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries
Currently, most batteries that industries commonly use are produced with lithium-ion, which is universally recognized as a dangerous and hazardous material. In devices and products with built-in lithium batteries, such as cellular phones, laptops and electric automobiles, pressure from parts surrounding the lithium batteries can cause damage to the wires around the batteries and lead to short circuiting. When lithium-ion batteries get shorted, the energy from the battery gets released suddenly, causing the temperature to rise hundreds of degrees within milliseconds – resulting in the battery catching fire.
The concern regarding the dangers of lithium batteries is so great that the FAA has banned them as cargo on passenger planes. Carriers from the U.S. Postal Service to Federal Express do not want to put their employees in danger with the transport of such batteries. Other technologies being explored, such as zinc batteries, produce less reliable and less efficient batteries.
Electric cars pose a similar threat, with some manufacturers facing class-action lawsuits due to explosions from their batteries. There are thousands of lithium batteries making up the electric vehicle’s battery pack. If all of these batteries ignite at the same time – something that has happened – the explosion is massive.
The Nanotech Energy Graphene Super Battery is manufactured in the United States with a shelf cost roughly the same as the leading lithium-ion versions; yet Nanotech batteries are ultimately less expensive, as they last much longer. Within the next year, the Company is planning to release an environmentally friendly battery that can charge 18 times faster than anything that is currently available on the market.
David Graves, an internationally-known chemical engineer, has been named to lead a new research enterprise that will explore plasma applications in nanotechnology for everything from semiconductor manufacturing to the next generation of super-fast quantum computers.
Graves, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1986, is an expert in plasma applications in semiconductor manufacturing. He will become the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s (PPPL) first associate laboratory director for Low-Temperature Plasma Surface Interactions, effective June 1. He will likely begin his new position from his home in Lafayette, California, in the East Bay region of San Francisco.
He will lead a collaborative research effort to not only understand and measure how plasma is used in the manufacture of computer chips, but also to explore how plasma could be used to help fabricate powerful quantum computing devices over the next decade.
“This is the apex of our thrust into becoming a multipurpose lab,” said Steve Cowley, PPPL director, who recruited Graves. “Working with Princeton University, and with industry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), we are going to make a big push to do research that will help us understand how you can manufacture at the scale of a nanometer.” A nanometer, one-billionth of a meter, is about ten thousand times less than the width of a human hair.
The new initiative will draw on PPPL’s expertise in low temperature plasmas, diagnostics, and modeling. At the same time, it will work closely with plasma semiconductor equipment industries and will collaborate with Princeton University experts in various departments, including chemical and biological engineering, electrical engineering, materials science, and physics. In particular, collaborations with PRISM (the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials) are planned, Cowley said. “I want to see us more tightly bound to the University in some areas because that way we get cross-fertilization,” he said.
Graves will also have an appointment as professor in the Princeton University Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, starting July 1. He is retiring from his position at Berkeley at the end of this semester. He is currently writing a book (“Plasma Biology”) on plasma applications in biology and medicine. He said he changed his retirement plans to take the position at PPPL and Princeton University. “This seemed like a great opportunity,” Graves said. “There’s a lot we can do at a national laboratory where there’s bigger scale, world-class colleagues, powerful computers and other world-class facilities.”
“Exciting new direction for the Lab”
Graves is already working with Jon Menard, PPPL deputy director for research, on the strategic plan for the new research initiative over the next five years. “It’s a really exciting new direction for the Lab that will build upon our unique expertise in diagnosing and simulating low-temperature plasmas,” Menard said. “It also brings us much closer to the university and industry, which is great for everyone.”
The staff will grow over the next five years and PPPL is recruiting for an expert in nano-fabrication and quantum devices. The first planned research would use converted PPPL laboratory space fitted with equipment provided by industry. Subsequent work would use laboratory space at PRISM on Princeton University’s campus. In the longer term, researchers in the growing group would have brand new laboratory and office space as a central part the Princeton Plasma Innovation Center (PPIC), a new building planned at PPPL.
Physicists Yevgeny Raitses, principal investigator for the Princeton Collaborative Low Temperature Plasma Research Facility (PCRF) and head of the Laboratory for Plasma Nanosynthesis, and Igor Kavanovich, co-principal investigator of PCRF, are both internationally-known experts in low temperature plasmas who have forged recent partnerships between PPPL and various industry partners. The new initiative builds on their work, Cowley said.
A priority research area
Research aimed at developing quantum information science (QIS) is a priority for the DOE. Quantum computers could be very powerful in solving complex scientific problems, including simulating quantum behavior in material or chemical systems. QIS could also have applications in quantum communication, especially in encryption, and quantum sensing. It could potentially have an impact in areas such as national security. “A key question is whether plasma-based fabrication tools commonly used today will play a role in fabricating quantum devices in the future,” Menard said. “There are huge implications in that area,” Menard said. “We want to be part of that.”
Graves is an expert on applying molecular dynamics simulations to low temperature plasma-surface interactions. These simulations are used to understand how plasma-generated ions, atoms and molecules interact with various surfaces. He has extensive research experience in academia and industry in plasma-related semiconductor manufacturing. That expertise will be useful for understanding how to make “very fine structures and circuits” at the nanometer, sub-nanometer and even atom-by-atom level, Menard said. “David’s going to bring a lot of modeling and fundamental understanding to that process. That, paired with our expertise and measurement capabilities, should make us unique in the U.S. in terms of what we can do in this area.”
The CAS Key Laboratory of Quantum Information makes a significant progress in nanomechanical resonators. A group led by Prof. GUO Guo-Ping, SONG Xiang-Xiang, DENG Guang-Wei (now at UESTC) in collaboration with Prof. TIAN Lin from University of California, Merced, and Origin Quantum Company Limited realized coherent phonon manipulations within spatially separated mechanical resonators. The research results were published online on March, 2nd, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
With the rapid development of nanotechnology, devices like surface acoustic wave resonators and nanomechanical resonators are found to be suitable for generation, storage, and manipulation of few or even single phonon, which can be further applied in both classical and quantum information process. The realization of the various applications requires coherent manipulation between different phonon modes. Coherent manipulations within neighbouring phonon modes have been reported previously, while controllable coherent information transfer between spatially separated phonon modes, remains technically challenging. Focusing on this goal, the researchers designed a novel device based on their previous achievements (Nano Lett.16, 5456 (2016)?Nano Lett.17, 915 (2017); Nat. Commun. 9, 383 (2018)). Taking advantages of the extraordinary electronic and mechanical properties of graphene, they realized tunable strong coupling between non-neighbouring phonon modes, mediated by the center phonon mode. By improving sample structure design and measurement technique, the coupling strengths and quality factors are enhanced by one and two orders of magnitude, respectively, comparing to their previous work. The cooperativity reaches 107, which is several orders of magnitude higher than other works. With combined properties of high tunablitiy, large coupling strength, and excellent coherence, the researchers demonstrated electrically tunable Rabi oscillations and Ramsey interferences between non-neighbouring phonon modes in this system.
This work is the first experimental realization of tunable coherent phonon dynamics between non-neighbouring phonon modes. It shows new possibilities towards information storage and processing using phonon modes in nanomechanical resonators, and hybrid devices based on nano-phononics. Reviewers highly evaluated this work: "These results clearly go beyond what has been achieved thus far on the coherent manipulation of resonators in the classical regime." Taking advantages of the cooling technologies, this work also shed lights on coherent manipulations of phonons in the quantum regime and development of phonon-based novel quantum devices.
More and more electronics manufacturers are favoring organic LED displays for smartphones, TVs and computers because they are brighter and offer a greater color range.
The organic semiconductors that drive these devices are highly flexible and easily controlled. They also have the potential to be mass produced more readily than inorganic semiconductors such as silicon, which require higher temperatures for processing.
But there is a dark side to purely organic LEDs: They can be incredibly wasteful, losing up to 75% of their energy because organic semiconductors have a tendency to enter “dark states” in which they don’t emit light. These states sometimes even lead to the devices breaking down. Researchers have been looking for ways to either harness these dark states or jettison them altogether.
A collaboration led by Andrew Musser, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Jenny Clark of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, has found a way to keep these organic semiconductors from going dark. Musserused tiny sandwich structures of mirrors, called microcavities, to trap light and force it to interact with a layer of molecules, forming a new hybrid state, known as a polariton, that mixes light and matter.This approach could lead to brighter, more efficient LEDs, sensors and solar cells.
The team’s paper, “Manipulating Molecules with Strong Coupling: Harvesting Triplet Excitons in Organic Exciton Microcavities,” published in Chemical Science.
“In the LED world, people are putting huge efforts into designing these vast libraries of molecules and testing them in different device configurations to see if, by tweaking the bonds or changing energy levels, they can harvest these dark states more efficiently,” Musser said. “It’s a cumbersome, difficult battle because it’s really hard to design molecules. And you don’t necessarily know how to make them do what you want.
“So what we’ve done here is address that problem with a standard molecule, purely by putting it between these mirrors and tuning the way it interacts with light,” he said. “This suggests that, for some phenomena, we can bypass a lot of this cumbersome synthetic exploration and tune the molecules at a distance.”
Musser’s interest in polaritons began while he was studying the ways organic semiconductors can improve light-harvesting efficiency in solar cells. In that case, molecules undergo a process called singlet fission, in which they absorb one photon and split that energy into two “packets” – essentially two excited electrons – thereby doubling the photon current efficiency in the solar cell.
Musser began investigating how the reverse process can also occur, with two packets of energy combining into a single, high-energy state that can emit a high-energy photon. That led him to microcavities and the ways these simple optical structures can have a profound effect on organic material through light.
In addition to manipulating a molecule’s electronic properties for enhanced brightness, recent research has demonstrated that these structures also can be used to target specific bonds and change their chemical reactivity.
Musser said different molecules interact with light in the microcavities in different ways, and further research is needed to explore the rules that underpin their behavior.
“Right now, it serves to show that when you have these complex materials and you do something even more complicated with them – putting them between these mirrors – weird and wonderful things can happen,” Musser said.
“This work literally sheds light on dark states,” said Clark. “We’ve shown that we can use polaritons to force dark states to emit light. Apart from immediate applications for LEDs, this offers a new method for studying organic semiconductors more broadly, using previously unavailable techniques.”