NSF-funded ultrafast microscopy laboratory to support research of 2D materials

October 15, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.4 million to a team of Penn State scientists led by John Asbury, associate professor of chemistry, to develop a new laboratory at the University with ultra-fast microscopes that will provide a high-resolution look at incredibly thin materials. The new ultrafast microscopy laboratory will allow the team, which also includes Joshua Robinson, professor of materials science and engineering, to focus on understanding and controlling the electronic properties of two-dimensional materials — crystalline materials with only a single layer of atoms that are used in electronic devices and solar cells.

“The new ultrafast microscopy laboratory will significantly expand our ability to study two-dimensional materials at Penn State,” said Asbury. “Users will now be able to employ multiple characterization methods to investigate these important materials. The resulting insights could have applications for next-generation electronics, sensors, and light-emitting technologies.”

The new laboratory will complement the Two-Dimensional Crystal Consortium (2DCC), an NSF Materials Innovation Platform national user facility at Penn State focused on crystal growth in 2D materials. The new instrument combines an ultrafast photoluminescence microscope and transient absorption microscope that together will allow the characterization of electronic properties of 2D materials, which determine how the material conducts electricity. It will also include an ultrahigh vacuum system that allows researchers to alter the chemistry of materials through doping — intentionally introducing impurities into the material to affect its electrical and structural properties.

“The ability to control the growth and doping of semiconductors such as silicon enabled the development of electronic materials used in our computers and smart phones, revolutionizing modern society in the digital age,” said Asbury. “A new class of electronic two-dimensional materials that we are working on — transition metal dichalcogenides — have the potential to open new technological advances on a similar scale. Major advances in how we create two-dimensional materials have occurred in recent years. However, there remains a fundamental need to develop doping and processing chemistries that will allow us to control of the electronic properties of these materials.”

The new ultrafast microscopy laboratory will serve researchers at Penn State and in the national 2D materials community. It will also allow professional developmental opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, who will facilitate workshops and train new users of the facilities. These training opportunities are offered through the Materials Research Institute at Penn State and the Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings, which is an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center.

Last Updated October 16, 2018