Michael Zuerch receives prestigious DOE Early Career Research Program Award

August 4, 2023

Michael W. Zuerch

Photo: Professor Michael W. Zuerch, Department of Chemistry, UC Berkeley

The College of Chemistry is pleased to announce that Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Zuerch has received a prestigious DOE Early Career Research Program Award for his research entitled "Ultrafast mechanisms of chirality control in electronic materials".

Prof. Zuerch was among the 93 early career scientists selected from across the country to receive $135 million in funding for research covering a wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence to fusion energy. This year's awardees represent 48 universities and 12 National Labs in 27 states. These awards are a part of the DOE's long-standing efforts to develop the next generation of STEM leaders who will solidify America's role as the driver of science and innovation around the world.

For more details about the DOE Early Career Research Program Awards see the DOE press release.

About the Research

This research project will explore mechanisms to control chiral properties of materials through light-matter interactions which represents a critical frontier in materials research. Chiral phases, characterized by distinct left or right-handed states, hold tremendous potential for transformative applications in fields such as optoelectronics and quantum technologies. Chirality can be understood as a property that distinguishes an object from its mirror image, much like our hands. For example, a chiral molecule or material cannot be superimposed onto its mirror image. This research aims to understand and manipulate chiral order that emerges in several quantum materials with diverse structures and length scales. By employing advanced techniques such as extreme-ultraviolet ultrafast spectroscopy and ultrafast electron diffraction, Zuerch will investigate the emergence, stabilization, and dynamics of chiral order during and following light-matter interaction. This research harbors tremendous potential for scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements, including optically rewritable non-volatile memories and energy-efficient computation units based on switching chiral order operating at high speeds, surpassing conventional electronics. Moreover, the investigations into chiral dynamics and the emergence of order in materials with varying length scales will drive the exploration of tailored chiral material systems to meet specific technological demands.

Illustration of Chirality by Ella Maru Studio.

Illustration of Chirality by Ella Maru Studio.