Manipulating Nanoscale Interactions
The goal of this theme is to build on our understanding of nanoscale phenomena to actively control and manipulate quantum states as well as atomic and nanoscale interactions, including a focus on dissipation engineering.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials seek to investigate the forces and the interactions between nanoscale constituents at length scales that vary from the atomic to ~10 nm. These efforts include studying the ability to manipulate nanomechanical elements and couple them with light; the fundamentals of friction at the nanoscale; and the computational simulation of materials and defects that arise from interatomic interactions. Understanding the fundamentals of these nanoscale interactions provides insight into emergent behavior necessary for building nanoscale architectures, as well as the ability to control properties to building quantum devices.
There are three main areas of core research undertaken within this theme.
Probing interactions at the atomic level: computational materials discovery
Materials discovery, and predicting microstructure evolution in materials from purely first-principles physics using atomic quantum mechanical interactions, is still computationally intractable. There is an opportunity to apply approaches developed in machine learning and data science, in concert with first-principles physics to develop accurate-yet-efficient computational approaches to materials discovery and to predict microstructural dynamics and behavior. Applications include studies of 2D materials, nano/meso-scale phenomena (e.g., grain formation, phase transformations) in bulk materials, and low-energy defect formation in materials for neuromorphic processing.
Dissipative interactions at the nanoscale: friction and superlubricity
Fundamental understanding of the atomistic-scale dynamical processes at surface interfaces are crucial for the design of functional lubricants. We explore the materials phase space to identify 2D materials (in combination with nanoparticles) that can lead to superlubricity, with the aim to develop an overall materials genome that may enhance lubricant design.
Collective interactions at large (~10 nm) length scales: metasurfaces and NEMS
All bodies are surrounded by fluctuating electromagnetic fields due to thermal and quantum fluctuations of the charge and current density at the surface of the bodies. Immediately outside the bodies, this electromagnetic field exists partly in the form of propagating electromagnetic waves and partly in the form of evanescent waves that decay exponentially with distance away from the body’s surface. We implement reliable methods to probe, control and manipulate nanostructures by controlling these near-field forces. As the dimensions of mechanical devices are reduced to the micro- and nanoscale, their dynamical behavior becomes strongly nonlinear. This research allows us to identify novel mechanisms to manipulate and control the state of nanomechanical systems, and to capitalize on the intrinsic nonlinear phenomena of micro- and nanoscale resonators.