The HBCU-RISE proposal by Alabama A&M University aims to develop research infrastructure in the areas of advanced materials and nanophotonics. AAMU has a doctoral program in physics with emphasis in areas of optics and materials sciences. The proposed HBCU-RISEproject intends to strengthen the materials science and optics infrastructure in the department. Some of the research projects which will be supported include: nanostructured binary materials and their application to chemical sensing, growth of novel triboluminescent crystals and their application to structural health monitoring, preparation of rare-earth ion doped oxyfluoride nanostructured glasses and their application to luminescent devices, development of high-yield organic solar cells sensitized with metal nanoparticles, two-photon biophotonic nanomaterials for cancer diagnostics/ treatment and nanopatterned polymer substrates for plasmonic chemical sensors. Recent developments in nanoscience/nanotechnology are a common underlying thread that connects many of these projects. This project will provide new opportunities for graduate studies and will create a pool for new graduate students who would be interested in for PhD degree in materials science. In addition, participation of undergraduates in research internships, workshops and seminars will add to the pool of applicants for graduate studies.
This RISE grant helped todevelop research infrastructure in the areas of advanced materials and nanophotonics. Alabama A&M University (AAMU) has a doctoral program in physics with emphasis in areas of optics and materials sciences. Some of the research projects which were supported by this grant include: nanostructured binary materials and their application to chemical sensing, growth of novel triboluminescent crystals and their application to structural health monitoring, preparation of rare-earth ion doped oxyfluoride nanostructured glasses and their application to luminescent devices, development of high-yield organic solar cells sensitized with metal nanoparticles, two-photon biophotonic nanomaterials for cancer diagnostics/treatment and nanopatterned polymer substrates for plasmonic chemical sensors. In the area of plasmonic sensors we have developed novel and inexpensive substrates for chemical sensing. In collaboration with the Army, these have been used to detect explosive and other chemicals. In a separate research effort we have discovered a new way of attaching biomolecules on polymers using visible light. This has the promise of providing an effective biosensing technique. This research has provided the opportunity to investigate advanced materials that could be used to collect solar energy in a cost effective way. The essential feature of these materials involves dye-sensitized nanostructures in an organic photovoltaic (solar) cell. The developed organic solar cells are 1) low-cost, 2) durable, 3) flexible, and 4) can be an adaptable substitute for the rigid silicon solar cells that are currently in use. For the investigators at AAMU this research has become the basis for additional studies in pyroelectricity of organic composites with the inclusion of silver nanoparticles or multiwall carbon nanotubes. One result indicated that incorporation of carbon nanotubes and silver nano particles in some composite materials enhanced their capability as infrared detectors. Nanostructures have also been investigated in oxyfluoride glasses when they are doped with certain rare-earth ions. These doped-glasses are efficient in up-converting visible light to ultraviolet wavelengths. Another area where we made significant progress involves triboluminescent materials. These materials emit light when subjected to a shock or deformation, similar to a popular candy when it is crushed in the mouth, and have applications to monitor health of mechanical structures. By synthesizing a Europium Tetrakis material with certain additions we have increased the amount of emitted light by 200%, making it easily visible even in daylight. The grant has provided research assistantships and training to several graduate students in the cutting edge field of nanophotonics and in applications of advanced materials. A total of 10 Ph.D. and 4 M.S. level graduate students have benefitted out of which 3 Ph.D. and 3 M.S. students have completed their research and graduated with degrees in Applied Physics. About half of these students belong to the underrepresented minority groups. While this grant provided direct assistance only to graduate students, as a part of educational outreach several undergraduates who were supported by other grants like REU, also teamed with the graduate students and were exposed to the excitement of RISE-supported research. To attract these undergraduates to research, we also held summer workshops in nanophotonics and advanced materials for two consecutive years. Additionally, several high-school students as well as teachers from local schools teamed with graduate students for several weeks of summer research internships. The grant helped in accomplishing the goal of RISE program of building an infrastructure for research in nanophotonics and advanced materials by acquiring several pieces of equipment that will continue to be used in years to come. Other important goals that were accomplished include development of a strong educational and outreach component for training students for their doctoral degree in physics and creating new partnerships with universities including HBCUs, national laboratories and industry working in areas of advanced materials and nanophotonics. By creating a strong research and training structure for graduate students, the RISE grant has helped in improving the national goal of graduating more Ph.D.s. in Sciences, particularly underrepresented minorities.