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Seed Projects – Exploratory Research

seed2014The IRG research projects are augmented by seed projects in materials research. At present there are four seed projects in the CCMR funded through a combination of NSF and Cornell University resources.

Atomically Coherent 2D Quantum Dot Solids
Tobias Hanrath (ChemE), Fernando Escobedo (ChemE), Lena F. Kourkoutis (ApplPhys), and Frank W. Wise (ApplPhys)
This Seed is studying the formation of the two-dimensional quantum dot assemblies and exploring their emerging electronic properties. The unique electronic properties of two-dimensional materials present intriguing scientific challenges and inspire future nanotechnology applications. Analogous to graphene, the prototypical two-dimensional system, our team has recently demonstrated the formation of two-dimensional assemblies in which colloidal quantum dots take the place of carbon atoms. Access to superstructures with rigorous control over both the properties of individual quantum dot building blocks and the structure of their assembly opens exciting horizons to create materials with properties by design.

Understanding and controlling the formation of hybrid organic/inorganic materials
Lena F. Kourkoutis (ApplPhys), Lara A. Estroff (MatSci), and Ulrich B. Wiesner (MatSci)
Hybrid organic/inorganic materials, nano-composites with organic and inorganic components intimately mixed, have attracted great interest due to their potential in a range of applications including catalysis, energy storage and conversion, sensing and nanomedicine. Understanding and controlling the formation pathways of these hybrid materials is the central goal of this Seed, which will ultimately allow us to engineer new hybrids with tailored properties. Combining the expertise of hybrid organic/inorganic materials’ synthesis with that of cryo-electron microscopy, this Seed will capture the initial stages of formation of hybrid nanostructures. Revealing the materials’ formation pathways is a critical step in controlling their synthesis and in creating new structures for a wide range of applications from energy storage to theranostics.

Charge Transport in Confined Environments of Self-Assembled Stable Radical Polymers
Christopher Ober (MatSci) and Gregory Fuchs (ApplPhys)
This Seed is studying the electrical and magnetic properties of polymers designed to incorporate stable unpaired electrons. These repeated electron-containing chemical groups incorporated on the polymers make them a promising energy storage material, for example, as high energy density batteries with a transparent and flexible form factor.  The key challenge of this Seed is to examine the fundamental electrical transport mechanisms by applying a combination of experimental methods that range from direct measurements of electrical conductivity to electron spin resonance, all performed as the chemical structure and assembly of the polymers are systematically controlled through chemical synthesis.

Photonic Platform for Interrogating the Dynamics and Mechanism of TiO2 Reactivity
Jin Suntivich (MatSci) and Michal Lipson (ElecE)
This Seed is exploring nanophotonics devices for the dynamic detection of surface chemical reactions. The ability to monitor and identify chemical species in operando on a catalytic surfaces would enable new understanding in many technologically important areas; however, existing techniques are hampered by low sensitivity and/or environmental restrictions. Nanophotonics can mitigate these limitations by focusing incoming light to a surface-confined evanescent field. This approach can both boost the surface layer’s cross section while minimizing the environmental contributions. The Seed will demonstrate the utility of this concept using TiO2 waveguides to capture small molecule transformations at the device’s surface. This model platform will allow scientists and engineers to directly monitor molecular transformations on oxides, enabling them to understand and design new catalysts with higher activity and selectivity.

The Neuron Cell Phone
Alyosha Christopher Molnar (Elec Eng), Chris Xu (Appl Phys), Jesse H. Goldberg (Neurobio), Paul L. McEuen (Phys)
It is increasingly clear that perception, behavior, and disease pathogenesis emerge from the coordinated activity of at least thousands, and likely hundreds of thousands, of neurons distributed across the brain. A critical unmet challenge is to provide experimentalists with tools to densely record and stimulate population neural activity at this scale. The goal of this seed is to create a new materials platform that combines remote electronic sensing with optical input/output (I/O). Optical techniques have already revolutionized neuroscience, with probes that can be read out in massively parallel fashion. The approach investigated here marries the sensitivity and speed of electrical recording with the parallelization of optics. It consists of the three integrated materials systems. Our long-term vision is to leverage recent advances in electronic sensor design to enable intimate contact to neurons using novel conformable 2D electronic materials, but most of the work in this seed is focused on the CMOS and optical I/O system components.

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