By Cameron Chai
The University of Utah is establishing a new Centre of Excellence in Materials Research and Innovation and it has selected other universities, which include Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern and Michigan for the new round of grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The centre will conduct basic research to develop innovative materials for various applications that ranges from faster computers to advanced solar cells and microscopes. This initiative receives a $12 million grant from NSF, $6.5 million from the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative for acquiring equipment and $3 million from the University of Utah. The funds are awarded for six years and the total amounts to $21.5 million.
The University of Utah’s centre will include over 24 scientists from seven departments in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, College of Engineering and College of Science. The centre will focus on advancements in spintronics and plasmonics, which are two important fields of the university.
The spintronics research work includes development of organic semiconductors. These semiconductors can be utilized to transmit and store data either electronically or spintronically. They are expected to develop faster and more efficient displays, computers and other communication devices. Anil Virkar, Director of the Centre of Excellence in Materials Research and Innovation, noted that if researches can understand the spintronic, magnetic and electronic characteristics of organic semiconductors, then they can be designed cost-effectively with several other constructive features such as resistance to extreme temperature or harsh chemicals and lightweight and flexible displays.
Plasmonic metamaterials is another research area that is focused by the new centre. In plasmonics, light gets spread in the interface where a metal and nonmetal are connected. A metamaterial is engineered by using milling, drilling, etching or other techniques. It enables engineers to determine the propagation of different wavelengths of light on the surfaces of materials. The plasmonics research leads to the development of better microscopic techniques for biologists. The team will also analyze the ability of rarely used wavelengths such as terahertz radiation to fabricate faster devices for next-generation communication and computing products.