$17.9 million NSF grant renewal funds Center for Emergent Materials' broad-impact research
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has renewed funding for The Ohio State University’s Center for Emergent Materials (CEM): an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).
The six-year, $17.9 million grant funds Ohio State’s long-term studies of forward-looking new materials.
“This is not about short-term funding that has clearly defined achievable goals. Rather, the focus is on adventurous, foundational research that enables far-reaching technologies. Great science is the heart of this funding,” said P. Christopher Hammel, Ohio Eminent Scholar, physics professor and director of the Center for Emergent Materials.
CEM's associate director is Jessica Winter, associate professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering.
After a rigorous and highly competitive review process, only 12 MRSECs were funded. These NSF flagship institutions form a national network of top materials research programs at such research institutions as Princeton, Harvard, MIT and Ohio State that are capable of performing complex and ambitious multidisciplinary sciences.
The driving idea behind the MRSEC program is to identify and fund collaborative materials research by teams of researchers from multiple disciplines that have the ability to address difficult, fundamental problems in science and engineering.
These teams, called Interdisciplinary Research Groups, or IRGs, consist of eminent faculty and their students and postdoctoral researchers. Together, they tackle scientific problems that are too large and/or complex for one person or one group to solve.
“This approach allows us to bring together groups of researchers with diverse skill sets and expertise that can handle the challenges of multifaceted scientific issues, integrating materials synthesis and growth, characterization, novel probe development and theory and modeling,” Hammel explained.
The main challenge is to enhance technology and improve energy efficiency through discovery of new materials, novel phases of matter and innovative spin science.
Established by NSF funding in 2008, CEM has a recognized track record in diverse fields, which served it well in the renewal process.
The renewal grant funds three IRGs:
- Nonlinear Interactions between Spin Flux and Engineered Magnetic Textures, co-led by Joseph Heremans, mechanical and aerospace engineering and physics, and physicist Fengyuan Yang, with collaborators from Ohio State, Iowa and UCLA. Group members are leaders in the theory of spin dynamics and dynamic spin transport. This research could enable transformative technologies that move beyond current spintronics concepts and technologies.
- Spin-Orbit Coupling in Correlated Materials: Novel Phases and Phenomena, co-led by physicist Nandini Trivedi and chemist Patrick Woodward, with collaborators from Ohio State, Iowa State and the University of Tennessee. The aim is to design a new class of tailored quantum materials with tunable magnetic and electric properties that would impact technology and society.
- Control of 2D and 1D Electronic Structure by Surface Functionalization of Group-IV Graphane Analogues, co-led by chemist Joshua Goldberger and physicist Roland Kawakami, with collaborators from Ohio State, UC Berkeley and Case Western Reserve University. Group members are leading experts in creating and manipulating single-atom sheets. The flexibility of these new materials will find broader applications in science and technology, including new opportunities in materials by design, platforms for chemical sensing and information processing.
Eleven Ohio companies have benefited directly from the availability of cutting-edge materials research tools that the CEM-supported NanoSystems Laboratory provides to university and industrial researchers.
Two of the three projects funded by the NSF grant were developed through the integrated OSU Materials Research Seed Grant Program. Seed grants complement IRG research by supporting emerging developments in materials research and identifying and nurturing future leaders.
The CEM’s education and outreach activities engage groups extending from elementary school students through faculty ranks and include using cognitive research to enhance classroom education and providing undergraduates with immersive, authentic research experiences. Diversity enhancement efforts are tightly interwoven with every activity.
“One of our goals is to increase the quantity and quality of scientists and engineers prepared to contribute to and lead research, development and commercialization in materials-related fields,” Hammel said. “We are absolutely committed to increasing diversity in science and engineering by eliminating barriers to the success of underrepresented groups.”
by Sandi Rutkowski