Future Leader Fellowship success for PSI staff

The Photon Science Institute (PSI) is pleased to announce that two academics, Dr Patrick Parkinson (Department of Physics and Astronomy) and Dr Jessica Boland (Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering), have both been appointed a Future Leader Fellowship (FLF) cohort. The FLF is a £900 million fund which is aimed at helping to establish world-leading researchers and innovators in both business and academia, is run by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Dr Patrick Parkinson

Big-data for nano-electronics

The modern world runs on nanotechnology; we are connected by a fibre-network using nanostructured lasers, and use computers and phones made of nanometre scale transistors. The next generation of nanotechnology promises to incorporate multiple functionalities into single nanomaterial elements; this is “functional nanotechnology”. Here, the size of the material itself provides functionality – for instance for sensing, computing, or interacting with light. The most powerful and scalable approaches to making these structures use bottom-up or “self-assembled” methods; however, as this production technique emerges from the laboratory and into industry, issues such as yield, heterogeneity, and functional parameter spread have arisen.

Functional performance in these nanomaterials is determined by geometry. As such, variations in size or composition affect performance in complex ways. In this project, I will combine high-speed and high-throughput techniques to measure the shape, composition and performance of hundreds of thousands of functional nanoparticles from each production run. By combining this big data with statistical analytics, I will create a new methodology to understand and then optimize cutting-edge functional nanomaterials, working with academic partners in Cambridge, University College London, Strathclyde, Lund (Sweden) and the Australian National University, and industrial partners including AIXTRON and Nanoco.

The ultimate goal of this project is to enable demonstration and scale-up of transformative devices based on novel nanotechnology, for sensing, computing, telecommunication and quantum technology.

Dr Jessica Boland

Terahertz, Topology, Technology: Realising the potential of nanoscale Dirac materials using near-field terahertz spectroscopy

Technology is constantly evolving. Even within our lifetime, devices have become noticeably faster and smaller with increased functionality; yet these 'smart' devices still suffer from high power consumption and poor energy storage. Integrative photonic, electronic and quantum technologies are key to creating the next-generation of devices that are more energy-efficient with unprecedented performance. Advanced functional materials will form the basis of these new technologies. Dirac materials, in particular, have attracted significant attention as candidates for novel devices, owing to their extraordinary optoelectronic properties. For these materials, the surface hosts Dirac electrons that are immune to backscattering from non-magnetic impurities and defects. Their direction of travel is fixed by their inherent angular momentum or 'spin', so they behave as if on a railway line - travelling with less resistance and heat production. In particular, these materials have emerged as promising candidates for novel terahertz (THz) device, which are poised to impact several sectors, including security, food processing, healthcare and wireless communication. However, to realise their full potential, an in-depth understanding of key device parameters (e.g. conductivity) in these materials is vital.

This research project aims to provide non-destructive material characterisation at 3 extremes: nanometre (<30nm) length scales, ultrafast (<1ps) timescales and low temperatures ( <10K). By employing scattering-type near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) with ultrafast optical-pump terahertz-probe (OPTP) spectroscopy (OPTP-SNOM), their surface photoconductivity response will be mapped for the first time with <30nm spatial and <1ps temporal resolution. Working with University of Leeds, Oxford and NPL, nano-tomography will be performed to form a 3D map of local carrier concentration, carrier lifetime and electron mobility, providing deeper insight into their optoelectronic properties. Utilising this newfound knowledge, the exclusive P-NAME facility at Manchester will be used to spatially dope optimised materials with <40nm spatial accuracy to control electronic properties on nanometre length scales. This will allow design of bespoke nanosystems for device applications, such as THz emitters and detectors. In collaboration with Teraview, these systems will allow development of prototype THz devices for healthcare imaging systems and ultrafast wireless communication.

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