The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a team of nine scholars from six universities 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 that could impact future electronics.
Leading the effort is electrical and computer engineering professor Richard Kiehl of the University of Minnesota, who has wide experience in investigating the potential of novel fabrication techniques, physical structures and architectures for electronics. Kiehl has brought together a multidisciplinary team to develop biological strategies combining DNA, proteins and peptides with chemical synthesis techniques to construct arrays of nanoparticles and to systematically characterize the resulting quantum electronic systems.
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. And, I'm excited about the chance to impact how electronic circuits could be engineered in the future."
The team members are UCLA professors Yu Huang (materials science), Kang Wang (electrical engineering) and Todd Yeates (biochemistry); New York University professors Andrew Kent (physics) and Nadrian Seeman (chemistry); 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).
Kiehl and Seeman have previously collaborated in the first demonstrations of metallic nanoparticle self-assembly by DNA scaffolding, which will be central to this project. Seeman will exploit DNA nanotechnology to construct 2-D and 3-D 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 interparticle 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).