Morgan State University has announced that researchers from its School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (SCMNS) were awarded a five-year, $7.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to open the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials. Designed to explore the technological efficacy and use of emergent two-dimensional (2D) materials, the new Center will be run jointly by Morgan and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in partnership with the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), with additional contributions from scientists at the Adelphi Laboratory Center (ALC) and Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) research centers of the U.S. Army.
The advanced research center, focused exclusively on electro-photonics, is believed to be the first of its kind at any Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Fundamental to the Center’s research operations will be its mission to train underrepresented diverse students by expanding talent pipelines within the technology workforce and defense sector. Ramesh C. Budhani, Ph.D., professor of Physics at Morgan, will serve as the principal investigator and director of the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics.
“Morgan is firmly committed to cementing our place as a leading research institution with results-driven outcomes that impact our greater communities, foster innovation addressing today’s foremost social challenges, and bring to market emerging technologies with considerable effect,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “It is through this level of investment that institutions—like Morgan—can significantly stride toward an equitable pursuit of advanced research that is most associated with our nation’s top-tier research universities.”
The Center and its research are expected to have far-reaching implications that will not only impact industry but also make significant contributions to STEM education and the participation of underrepresented minority students in advanced scientific research. The exposure of students to specific technologies, and their accumulated experience attained at the newly created center, will increase proficiencies and marketability within private and public sector industries. The cornerstone of the applied experience made available through the Center’s research will be summer internships for both Morgan and JHU students, co-advising of Ph.D. dissertations, and joint annual workshops. Additional funding from the grant will underwrite internships for 10 to 15 undergraduate students and five students from area high schools and community colleges.
“This is the first DoD grant of this type ever awarded to Morgan providing the opportunity to establish the center for advanced materials research here at Morgan,” said Hongtao Yu, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs and former dean of SCMNS at Morgan. “As Maryland’s ‘preeminent public urban research university, we take considerable stock in creating viable pathways for world-class scientific research and diversifying the workforce in STEM. We are excited to be leading this impressive group of researchers from both Morgan State and Johns Hopkins.”
In recent years, materials research has entered a new paradigm of sophistication with the availability of nanofabrication tools, precision metrology, and advanced computational methods paving the way for increased higher education research and development in this arena
The DoD funding will provide vital resources in the realm of scientific research rooted in thin films and nanostructures of refractory metal dichalcogenides and layered materials of a semiconductor and thermoelectric material called bismuth telluride, which is often used as a topological insulator. These layered materials will be synthesized at Morgan. Subsequent highly critical stability calculations and growth kinetics modeling of the 2D materials, along with experimental device development, will be performed by JHU and APL researchers.
“The Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials will provide an outstanding platform to train STEM students for cutting-edge research on an emergent class of quantum materials and technologies for clean energy, electromagnetic sensing, and information processing,” said Dr. Budhani. “This Center will also pave the way for launching a dedicated doctoral program in advanced materials research at Morgan.”
“Johns Hopkins is pleased to be a partner with Morgan State on this initiative. By furthering the relationship between our institutions via the Center for Advanced Electro-Photonics with 2D Materials, we are creating pathways of success for students while increasing our research capacity in the area of next-generation materials for a variety of applications,” said Susanna Thon, co-PI on the grant and associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at JHU. “We are especially excited about the potential to attract top-notch talent to Baltimore by combining the strengths of our two schools.”
The joint research effort will target three specific areas of 2D material technology: wearable photovoltaics (PV) and thermally managed photosensors augmented by plasmonic nanostructures; hybrid PV—thermoelectric technologies for the use of individual warfighters; and interrogation of quantum defects with light and quantized photogalvanic effects. These three research facets will be pursued in close coordination with Army scientists at APL-ALC and APL-APG. Beyond their defense sector applications, the 2D (layered) materials have universal functionality that can be used in many products and technologies in today’s marketplace, including high-efficiency solar cells, photon sensors, detectors of other electromagnetic fields, and thermoelectric devices for waste-heat harvesting and refrigeration. In addition, the Center’s research is expected to provide clean energy solutions to protect the environment, sensors, and detectors of defense forces, and other modern technologies.