Robinson receives National Science Foundation CAREER award

Materials scientist Joshua Robinson has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his proposal “Atomic Scale Design of van der Waals Heterostructure Nanoribbons.”

The CAREER award is the NSF's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. The award provides five years of financial support.

Robinson, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and Corning Faculty Fellow in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Department of Materials Science and Engineering, will use the award to research a new class of materials that are only one-atom thick.

By combining two-dimensional (2-D) layered materials such as graphene, which has one atomic layer of carbon, and transition metal dichalcogenides, heterostructures can be formed.

“The predicted properties of the heterostructures indicate that these materials have strong potential to impact next-generation optoelectronics. Heterogeneous stacking of the atomic layers while controlling their vertical and lateral dimensions at the nanoscale will significantly enhance the control of the electronic, photonic and magnetic properties of these novel material systems,” says Robinson.

In addition to vertical stacking of atomic layers, novel 2-D materials can also be realized by producing quasi-one-dimensional strips, known as nanoribbons.  Robinson’s research will focus on understanding the fundamental science behind synthesizing these heterostructure nanoribbons,  known as van der Waals heterostructure nanoribbons (vdW ribbons), which are controllable width down to the nanometer scale.

“These vdW ribbons may exhibit energy band gaps, ferromagnetism and half-metallic properties that vary with width and termination of the ribbon edges.  Our goal is to develop the foundational theory, synthesis techniques, and device architectures to establish vdW ribbons as a new paradigm in materials science,” says Robinson.

Robinson is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed journal publications in the areas of graphene, silicon carbide, complex oxides, carbon nanotubes and gallium antimonide and has two patents pending on chemical and neutron detection.

Before joining the Penn State faculty in 2007, Robinson worked at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. as a postdoctoral fellow, where he developed carbon nanotube devices for detection of explosives and nerve agents.

Robinson received his bachelor's degree in physics with minors in chemistry and mathematics from Towson University and his doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from Penn State.

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Last Updated April 21, 2015