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Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM)

Welcome to the NCCU website of the Partnership for Research and Education in Nanomaterials (PREM) between North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Pennsylvania State University (PSU). For detailed information regarding the research and educational activities offered through this partnership, please visit NCCU PREM site.

This project is part of the National Science Foundation's Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) program. For more information about the PREM program, please visit the PREM website at prem-dmr.org.

Project Goals

This partnership in nanomaterials between PSU and NCCU is designed to leverage the assets of both partners to enable significant increases in minority participation in materials science, and to produce lasting improvements in both materials research impact and materials educational outcomes at NCCU.

Student Opportunities

This PREM is designed to engage NCCU students with materials science throughout their tenure at NCCU. A brief summary highlighting points of contact for a typical undergraduate student is provided below:

Pre – NCCU (High school or community college students): PREM will offer outreach events featuring hands-on educational kits developed by the Penn State Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) to introduce materials science to the general public, and lectures by NCCU faculty introducing the PREM program and ongoing research.

Freshman year: PREM will organize seminars by visiting Penn State faculty designed to increase student interest in materials science compatible with the hands-on kits described above. PREM will also raise the level of materials science offered in introductory physics and chemistry courses taken by freshman and sophomore students.

Sophomore year: PREM students will be introduced to research by shadowing senior students in an NCCU research laboratory, gain experience with fundamental techniques of research including literature surveys, maintaining and archiving research data, and design of experiments. Students are expected to participate in research group meetings and continue to attend PREM seminars.

Junior year: PREM students are expected to continue research on a collaborative NCCU – Penn State research project. Research during the sophomore and junior years at NCCU will prepare students for a productive 9-week summer research experience at Penn State following their junior year. While at Penn State, students will be partnered with Penn State Millenium Scholars through the Penn Pal program designed to increase interaction and foster mentoring relationships.

Senior year: Students will continue research at NCCU during their senior year, and assist with integrating sophomore and junior students into research groups. Senior students will also be responsible for guiding hands-on activities targeted at high school and community college students described above. The program will also support a wide range of activities to help students through the graduate school application process, including study programs for the general and subject GRE exams, mock interviews, and review of application materials.

Students interested in participating in this program should contact Branislav Vlahovic (bvlahovic@nccu.edu)

Research Projects

There are currently five principal and two seed research projects, each of which strong collaboration between NCCU and PSU faculty. Please contact the NCCU faculty listed for each project for additional details.

Carrier Dynamics in Coupled Nanoscale System (M. Wu, NCCU Physics; C. Keating and R. Schaak, PSU Chemistry)

This project is focused on using spatially resolved ultrafast optical spectroscopy to elucidate mechanisms that affect the dynamics of charge carriers in individual and coupled inorganic semiconductor nanowires (NWs) and to uncover emergent phenomena in the dynamics of the metal to insulator transition in coupled metal oxides. This proposed research integrates novel assembly methods to accurately position nanoscale materials on electrical contacts and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy facilities at PSU with ultrafast optical microscopy, scanning probe microscopy and nanowire growth capabilities at NCCU to address areas of common interest.

Modeling of the Electron States and Tunneling in Nanoscale Structure?s (B. Vlahovic, I. Filikhin, and K. Dvoyan, NCCU Physics; I. Dabo, PSU Materials Science; V. Crespi, PSU Physics)

This project uses theoretical modeling to design materials with optimized optoelectronic properties that can be fabricated by high-pressure infiltration of crystalline semiconductors into periodic arrays of size-controlled nanoparticles, a technique pioneered by researchers at PSU. These studies will lead to a stronger understanding of the structure-property relationships that govern the characteristics of the embedded nano-objects and will thus provide critical insights for the design of metamaterials. Conversely, the computational capabilities developed within at PSU will be shared with the NCCU to understand, predict, and improve the performance of metamaterials.

Shape-controlled synthesis of anisotropic gold nanoparticle with tunable plasmonic properties (F. Yan, NCCU Chemistry; D. Werner PSU Electrical Engineering)

This project will develop several different approaches to synthesize anisotropic gold nanoparticles with tunable surface plasmon resonance (SPR) properties, and further assemble them into two- or three-dimensional structures to develop surface-enhanced Raman assays. This study will lead to the fabrication of efficient Raman substrates in a highly predictive manner for the development of chemical and biological sensors. A direct correlation between the measured Raman enhancement factors and theoretical calculations of the SPR properties of the different sizes, shapes, and dimensionalities of the anisotropic gold nanoparticles will be sought through the collaboration with Penn State.

Surface plasmonic multispectral imaging device (Y. Tang NCCU Physics, L. Yang NCCU Pharmaceutical Sciences; D. Werner PSU Electrical Engineering)

This research project is focused on investigating surface plasmon phenomena in metallic nanostructures and includes theoretical studies, computer simulations, and fabrication of test structures. Simulations are carried out with the finite-difference-time-domain (FDTD) method with parallel computing, and the fabrication methods vary from electron beam lithography (EBL) to focused ion beam (FIB) based on the desired nanostructure. The potential applications of the metallic structures are in optical imaging, solar cells, and biosensors. We will work together with our partner MRSEC at PSU on the simulations, comparing and combining the FDTD and finite element methods (FEM). We will also collaborate on the fabrication methods, and developing metallic nanostructures.

Covalent Functionalization of Graphene: A pathway to reproducible band-gaps and spintronics (K. Vinodgopal, S. Sendlinger and D. Taylor, NCCU Chemistry; M. Wu, NCCU Physics; T. Mallouk, PSU Chemistry; M. Terrones, PSU Materials Science)

This project proposes the covalent functionalization of graphene via synthetic organometallic chemistry using transition metal carbonyls and their arene derivatives in zero-valent oxidation states. Preliminary characterization of the would be carried out at NCCU using the SEM and the Raman-AFM, while more detailed experimental work including STM and XPS will be done at our partner MRSEC at Penn State. The partnership with Penn State also enables us to perform magnetic characterization of the graphene/metal complex composites through their SQUID magnetometer.

Seed project: Ferroic material design (G. Rasic, NCCU Physics; V. Gopalan, PSU Materials Science)

Thin films of NiZnFe2O4 will be manufactured using sol-gel and PLD techniques both at NCCU and Penn State. Pattern masters will be manufactured at Penn State using various lithographic techniques. SEM and AFM at NCCU will be used to image the surface topography while TEM at Penn State would allow cross-sectional imaging. X-ray diffraction will be performed at Penn State to determine the crystallographic properties of the films. Finally, SQUID at Penn State would be used to measure and compare the magnetic properties of single thin films as well as composite materials.

Seed project: Perovskite based multiferroic nanoceramics and polymer-ceramic composites (B. Vlahovic, NCCU Physics; V. Gopalan, PSU Materials Science)

Research will focus on the influence of mechanical activation and mechanically induced recrystallization on the structural changes of ultrafine electro-active and  ferroelectric polycrystalline ceramics (with addition of electroactive materials)  (([Ba1-xSrx]TiO3), 0≤x≤<1), (Pb[ZrxTi1−x]O3 0<x<1), ZnO, TiO2, SiO2 etc.) which will be used for smart ceramics and nanocomposites synthesis.

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