Public Release: 

NYU scientists receive $2 million Moore Foundation grant for atom-by-atom engineering

New York University

New York University researchers have received a three-year, $2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to explore new ways to create advanced materials atom-by-atom--with the aim of laying the groundwork for the next generation electronic devices.

The work is centered in the realm of quantum physics, which examines the behavior of matter and energy at the molecular and atomic levels, and is part of the foundation's Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems (EPiQS) Initiative to stimulate breakthroughs in understanding the organizing principles of complex quantum matter.

"Future technologies will stem from breakthroughs in the development and study of new quantum states," explains Andrew Kent, a professor in NYU's Department of Physics and one of the project's principal investigators. "Under this grant, we will be investigating new ways to deploy electrons, with the goal of reconfiguring basic physical properties, setting the stage for the creation of improved semiconductors, magnets, insulators, and other materials that could result in faster more energy efficient computing devices."

Kent's work focuses on magnetic materials and devices that use the electron's magnetic moment (also known as its spin) to create new types of electronics.

He has invented devices that store information in the direction that magnetic moments orient and that reorient these moments rapidly. He and his colleagues have also developed a method to control movements occurring within magnetic materials--known as spin waves. Physically, these spin waves are much like water waves--like those that propagate on the surface of an ocean. However, like electromagnetic waves (i.e., light and radio waves), spin waves can efficiently transfer energy and information from place to place.

Now, he and other NYU researchers will be re-engineering the building blocks of magnetic and other materials using a range of scientific methods.

"What we're setting up will give us both hands and eyes on the atomic scale," notes Andrew Wray, co-principal investigator and an assistant professor of physics at NYU. "We'll have several state-of-the-art techniques for growing materials, and right there in the growth chamber will be some of the most powerful current tools for measuring the quantum states of electrons. This is a powerful synergy, which will let us watch what happens to the electrons in real time as we combine atoms in ways that have never before been tried."

The project's other researchers include Davood Shahrjerdi, an assistant professor at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, and Paul Chaikin, a professor in NYU's Department of Physics.



The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters pathbreaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.

Founded in 1831, NYU is one of the world's foremost research universities and is a member of the selective Association of American Universities. NYU has degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, and has eleven other global academic sites around the world. More NYU students study internationally than any other university, according to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, and NYU ranks first in the United States for the number of foreign students enrolled. Through its numerous schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and performing arts, music and studio arts, public administration, engineering, social work, cities, global public health, big data, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

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