Light-matter interaction plays a critical role in modern technologies, including solar cells, photodetection, and light-emitting devices. This interaction takes a new form in the atomically thin semiconductors, in which new particles combining positive and negative charges are created by light. Understanding and manipulating these particles could improve devices and even realize new functions that are not currently possible, such as power-efficient memory devices and quantum computing. Stacking different layered semiconductors together and tuning the layer-layer interaction could further engineer these particles and lead to new properties not feasible in conventional materials. The main objectives of this CAREER project are to explore and investigate the unique light-matter interaction and emerging properties in individual and stacked atomically thin semiconductors. The gained understanding can shed light on how to exploit this new light-matter interaction in confined space for future optoelectronics with better efficiency, faster speed, or even novel functions. The integrated education component trains the next generation workforce for science and engineering at the nanometer scale through research opportunities, curriculum development, and outreach activities, with a focus on encouraging the participation of women and underrepresented groups. Both existing programs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and newly developed outreach programs will be utilized to encourage K-12 students to study in the field of advanced optical science and nanoscale technology.

The emergence of two-dimensional semiconductors, especially monolayer transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs), ushers in unprecedented opportunities in exploiting the excitonic physics for quantum optoelectronics, while the understanding of intrinsic properties of the exciton is often hindered by the sample quality. By fabricating high-quality monolayer TMDC devices, this CAREER project aims to employ advanced optical spectroscopy techniques to study the unique light-matter interaction in monolayer TMDCs, with a focus on many-body physics that is critical for the exciton properties. The device and measurement configurations enable the control of doping, electrical field, and magnetic field, which provide additional tuning knobs for the spectroscopy study. Van der Waals heterostructure TMDCs devices with clean interfaces will also be constructed to investigate fascinating interlayer excitons, with the electron and hole residing in different layers. In addition, the twist angle of the hetero-bilayer TMDCs will be controlled to create a Moiré potential to further engineer interlayer excitons for emerging quantum states. The closely integrated research and education components provide training opportunities for graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students on advanced optical spectroscopy, nanoscale device fabrication, and quantum materials.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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James H. Edgar
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
United States
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