Understanding how nanomaterials function is critical to enabling transformational advances in quantum computing, nanomedicine, energy, and optoelectronics. But studying nanoscale processes is particularly challenging because they are typically very fast with very small spatial dimensions. This project enables researchers to study functional nanomaterials in both ultrafast time and nanoscale space regimes through the awarded multimodal near-field optical microscope. The microscope measures the reflected light from a femtosecond (one quadrillionth, or one-millionth of one billionth, of a second) laser focused onto a metal tip ten-thousandth of a human hair in diameter while the tip scans the surface of a nanomaterial. Beyond advancing discovery and understanding, the microscope also promotes teaching and training at Louisiana State University (LSU). The instrument is housed at the Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD), which has served as the training ground for hundreds of science and engineering undergraduate and graduate students in its nearly 30 years of operation. Installing the microscope at LSU-CAMD introduces synchrotron scientists to near-field optical microscopy and vice-versa, improving the overall depth of research training for both parties. Acquisition of the microscope also augments four upper-undergraduate and graduate-level courses in science and engineering as well as NSF sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduate sites at LSU.

Nanoscale chemical processes in solid-state materials occur on time scales of attoseconds to nanoseconds with spatial dimensions below 100 nm. To better understand functional nanoscale materials, scientists must be able to measure and observe their materials properties and dynamic phenomena on their respective space and time scales. The awarded multimodal near-field optical microscope meets these needs by correlating scan probe microscopy with a suite of synergistic optical spectroscopy techniques, beating the diffraction limit, and allowing researchers to uncover the steady-state and dynamic properties of complex nanoscale materials with 10 nm spatial resolution and femtosecond time resolution. The multimodal microscope provides scientists correlated near-field spectroscopy with the following suite of experimental techniques: 1) atomic force microscopy, 2) Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and mapping with 10 nm spatial resolution, 3) Raman and tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, 4) amplitude and phase-resolved near-field imaging, 5) near-field pump-probe spectroscopy and 6) fluorescence lifetime imaging. The interconnectivity of the research team and users makes this multimodal near-field microscope a central unifying instrument at LSU, allowing for the development of new materials, and observation and engineering of novel phenomena, to explore applications in the fields of quantum computing, energy, optoelectronics, and nanomedicine.

This award is jointly funded by the Division of Materials Research (DMR) and Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET).

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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Z. Ying
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Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge
United States
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