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NSF award funds novel magnetic resonance research

Ohio State engineering and physics researchers are teaming up to advance the study of magnetic resonance technology at the nanoscale level, potentially making the university a hub for this type of research across the Midwest.

The interdisciplinary team received a three-year $1.071 million award from the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation program (NSF-MRI) to develop new equipment capable of discovering novel magnetic resonance phenomena at a very high frequency range up to 330 Ghz. Currently, the vast majority of existing magnetic resonance spectrometers are limited to a frequency range of 1–40 GHz. The instrument Ohio State is developing will ultimately help bridge the gap between traditionally important GHz applications (cell phones and radar) with the new frontier of terahertz (1 THz = 1000 Ghz) technologies.

Specifically, the funding will go toward developing a broadband, highly sensitive magnetic resonance spectrometer system, providing an indispensable in-house tool for understanding the nature of magnetic excitations, dynamic spin transport and microwave device applications. Once constructed, the new instrument will be located inside the university's NanoSystems Laboratory, a facility open to all academic and industrial users.

“This will be the first magnetic resonance spectrometer within this frequency range at a shared user facility in the Midwest,” said Principal Investigator Fengyuan Yang, professor in the Department of Physics and associate director of Ohio State’s Institute for Materials Research. “It will significantly strengthen and expand the investigation of novel fundamental phenomena and the development of paradigm-changing technologies for researchers at Ohio State and from across the region.”

Yang said the research team leverages Ohio State’s world-leading expertise and infrastructure in magnetic resonance research. Team members include P. Chris Hammel, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics; John Volakis, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Joseph Heremans, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Physics; Rolando Valdes Aguilar, assistant professor of Physics; Zeke Johnston-Halperin, associate professor of Physics; and Denis Pelekhov, director of the NanoSystems Laboratory.

Magnetic resonance is one of the most important phenomena in materials and medical research. Its broad range of applications has revolutionized modern technologies, from wireless communication to radar, while saving millions of lives in the medical realms through the early imaging detection of disease.

Yang said the new instrument will enable transformative research toward building the next-generation of devices, in particular those based on spintronics, by controlling the dynamic behavior of electron spins at very high frequencies. It will also help educate future specialists in cutting-edge magentic resonance technology.

“The development of this instrument will offer a rare opportunity to train a large number of postdoctoral researchers, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, to become experts in high frequency magnetic resonance technologies and microwave instrumentation, filling a vital national need,” he said. “This instrument will play an important role in a number of outreach programs at Ohio State to attract and nurture women and underrepresented minority students in scientific research.”

This material is based upon work support by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1625349.

contributions from Ryan Horns, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering