Atomically-Thin Heterostructures

Background

The discovery of graphene and subsequent Nobel prize has given rise to the rapidly growing field of materials that only one atom thick. These materials go beyond the metallic graphene to include semiconductors, insulators, magnets, superconductors and other diverse forms of matter. The proposed projects builds atomically thin heterostructures or "sandwiches" between disparate atomically-thin materials to create new designer materials and designer properties. Examples include graphene/insulator, graphene/superconductor, topological insulator/magnetic insulator, topological insulator/superconductor and many others. Undergraduates get hands-on experience to do cutting-edge science. There are two particular projects for which I am looking to recruit undergrads:

  1. Since atomically-thin materials are also very stretchy, we will strain them and study modified properties.
  2. Certain atomically-thin materials are very sensitive to the environment. So we will come up with way to build heterostructures using them in controlled environments.

Student Role

Students working on the project will work with their hands to first isolate microscopic flakes of atomically-thin materials and detect them using various top-of-the-line equipment such as atomic force microscope and very high resolution optical microscopes. They will then work with (and in certain cases modify set-ups) to micro-manipulate these tiny materials. My group has developed various techniques to move such structures around. Students will be trained on these techniques and then will apply them to build said heterostructures. Further goals include fabrication of nano-devices using materials, electrical testing of devices and eventual measurement at ultra-low temperatures (my lab works at temperatures fractions of a Kelvin above absolute zero and is the coldest place in the state of Utah!). Students will get exposed to such cutting edge technology and science.

Outcomes

This research provides students exposure to the latest developments in new materials, novel measurements and exotic quantum physics at ultra-low temperatures. It helps them pick up and/or further develop experimental skills using their hands, building setups, working with electronics, building circuitry, learning data acquisition, analysis and communicating science. As a result, students are involved in every step of the scientific process. This lets them decide if this is a path they want to take i.e. graduate school. Alternately they develop skills useful and valued by industry.

Vikram Deshpande
Assistant Professor

Physics & Astronomy
College of Science

I will meet with the student on more than a weekly basis as he works on his project. The student will give regular talks at my research group meetings, which will help develop public speaking and scientific presentation skills. I will encourage the student to present his/her work at local conferences such as APS Four Corners.