NYU’s Kent and Seeman to Participate with Scholars at Six Universities In $6 Million Project to Advance Quantum Physics and Electronics

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a team of nine scholars from six universities-including Andrew Kent from NYU’s Physics Department and Nadrian Seeman from NYU’s Chemistry Department-a grant of $6 million over five years to exploit precise biological assembly techniques for the study of quantum physics in nanoparticle arrays. This research will produce a fundamental understanding of quantum electronic systems, which could have an impact on the development and understanding of future electronics.

Seeman has previously collaborated with Richard Kiehl of the University of Minnesota-the lead investigator on the project-in the first demonstration of metallic nanoparticle assembly by DNA scaffolding, which will be central to this project. Seeman will exploit DNA nanotechnology to construct 2D and 3D scaffolding for the nanoparticle arrays. Click here for image. Seeman, who founded DNA nanotechnology in the early 1980s, noted that, “Using biological molecules to organize computational systems is a goal first articulated 20 years ago. It’s great that we are finally going to have a chance to try it.”

Kent has conducted ground-breaking studies of quantum effects in 3D arrays of nanometer scale magnets, including, molecular nanomagnets. He has also studied the fundamental limits to the miniaturization of magnetic information storage and electron spin based devices. “I am excited about the new opportunities this multidisciplinary project provides to gain insight into the quantum effects in nanomagnets,” said Kent. Click here for image. Interactions between precisely arranged nanoparticles could lead to exotic quantum physics, as well as to new mechanisms for computing, signal processing, and sensing. But even basic studies of such nanoparticle arrays have been hampered by the need to fabricate test structures with extreme control and precision.

“By exploiting biology to precisely control size, spacing, and composition in the arrays, we will be able to examine electronic, magnetic, and optical interactions at much smaller scales than before,” said Kiehl. “Our project blends some really fascinating science at the edges of biology, chemistry, materials science, and physics. I’m excited about the chance to impact how electronic circuits could be engineered in the future.”

In addition to Seeman, Kent, and Kiehl, the other team members include: UCLA Professors Yu Huang (materials science), Kang Wang (electrical engineering), and Todd Yeates (biochemistry); University of Texas at Austin Professor Allan MacDonald (physics); University of Pennsylvania Professor Christopher Murray (chemistry & materials science); and Columbia University Professor Colin Nuckolls (chemistry).

Seeman will exploit DNA nanotechnology to construct 2D and 3D scaffolding, while Huang and Yeates will use peptides and proteins to make nanoparticle clusters for assembly onto the scaffolding. Murray and Nuckolls will synthesize metallic and magnetic nanoparticles with organic shells that will self-assemble onto the scaffolding and control the inter-particle coupling. Kent, Kiehl, and Wang will carry out experiments to characterize the electronic, magnetic, and optical properties of the arrays. MacDonald will provide theoretical guidance for the studies and analysis of the experimental results.

The award was made by the Army Research Office (Marc Ulrich, research topic chief) and is one of 36 recently made under the highly competitive DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI). The DoD news release can be viewed at: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=10585

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