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Posted: February 25, 2008
Novel materials research nets physicist NSF CAREER award
(Nanowerk News) A University of Arkansas physics professor will create and explore novel interface-controlled materials at the nanoscale to explore their physical properties, many of which are not attainable in bulk materials. His research in this area earned him a $410,735 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation to continue the research, which was cited by Science magazine as one of the top 10 breakthroughs of 2007.
Jak Chakhalian, assistant professor of physics in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, and colleagues found a novel way to "look" at atomic orbitals and found that they change substantially at the interface between a ferromagnet and a high-temperature superconductor. They reported their findings in the journal Science.
This finding opens up a new way of designing nanoscale superconducting materials and fundamentally changes scientific convention, which suggests that only electron spin and atomic charge - not atomic orbitals - influence the properties of superconducting nanostructures. It also has implications for interfaces between other complex oxide materials.
"When you merge these two materials, the atomic orbitals at the interface become important. They start contributing to the electronic properties of the material," Chakhalian said. "This opens up a remarkable new way of designing materials. In the future, we should be able to design quantum materials with engineered physical properties. This result may open a path to the second revolution in electronics based on oxide nanostructures."
In addition to providing funding for the basic research, this award also will allow Chakhalian to develop a new graduate-level course in experimental methods for nanoscience and a new summer outreach program - a "nano-camp" that will be specifically developed for underrepresented students and minorities across Arkansas.
The National Science Foundation awards CAREER grants to select researchers early in their professional lives to enhance their research and teaching missions.