Bediako and Zuerch awarded grant to research control of 2D magnetic solids with ultrafast light waves

February 15, 2021

Kwabena Bediako and Michael Zuerch

Kwabena Bediako and Michael Zuerch in the lab.

The College of Chemistry is pleased to announce that Assistant Professors of Chemistry Kwabena Bediako and Michael Zuerch have been awarded a $1M Science and Engineering research grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation. The researchers plan to explore a totally uncharted class of 2D magnetic solids that can be manipulated with ultrafast light waves. The research approach will exploit recently discovered highly tunable patterns in twisted (or moiré) bilayers of atomically thin materials. The project also includes a collaboration with Dr. Sinéad Griffin, a theoretical physicist and staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry. Dr. Griffin will use a combination of analytical and computational methods to help determine the fundamental properties of the new materials from a theoretical perspective.

A major current challenge for making extremely fast, yet ultra-energy efficient electronic systems of the future, is learning how to control magnetism with extremely rapid light pulses that last about one quadrillionth of a second. The project will focus on creating a family of materials that can tune, with atomic precision, how spins are localized, oriented, coupled, and optically manipulated over macroscopic length scales and ultrafast time scales. It is hoped that the new materials that will be produced, and the fundamental scientific principles discovered, will broaden the understanding of how electrons “talk to each other” in solids and how the interactions can be tailored.

Prof. Bediako stated, "The long term goal is to work toward creation of the next generation of information and communication technology that operates with orders of magnitude lower energy use addressing the rising energy cost of society’s accelerating reliance on electronic devices."

The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is primarily focused on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth. Previous awardees of this grant have included professors Norman Yao and Stephen Leone.