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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M015513/2
Title: Functional Nitride Nanocrystals for Quantum-Enhanced Technologies
Principal Investigator: Curry, Professor RJ
Other Investigators:
Clowes, Dr SK
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
BASF Hitachi National Physical Laboratory
Sharp Laboratories of Europe Ltd
Department: Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2017 Ends: 28 February 2018 Value (£): 199,203
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/M015653/1
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project will transform the current research field of advanced nanoscale materials through developing a new generation of doped nitride nanomaterials in which their quantum properties can be controlled. These materials will allow access to quantum properties at room-temperature enabling and supporting the development of quantum technologies (QTs) in the long term. They also have a number of immediate applications (generating quantum-enhanced technologies) including in ICT devices and as biomarkers.

In the 20th century the development of silicon-based electronics revolutionised the world, becoming the most pervasive technology behind modern-day life. In the 21st century the next revolutionary advance is predicted to come from the development of QTs. The most well-known quantum property is the dual particle-wavelike nature of electrons. This property is actually problematic in current technologies (e.g. transistors) which rely on electrons behaving as particles thus allowing them to be controlled using barriers. As these technologies are reduced in size these barriers start to fail as the wavelike properties of electrons come into play.

In QTs the wavelike nature of particles will form the essential basis on which functionality is built, rather than being a problem to be overcome. Additional quantum effects such as 'spin' and the use of quantum mechanisms that allow the interaction between particles (exchange fields) provide further key properties and phenomena which these technologies will exploit. To realise this, materials must be developed which allow these properties to be enhanced and controlled. This can be achieved by reducing the size of a material down to a length scale comparable to the wavelength of the electron within it. In practice this requires the use of nanomaterials. The most successful materials developed to date are semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs) whose properties may be controlled through simple changes to size and shape.

Furthermore early work has shown that by introducing magnetic dopants into these NCs, rich quantum behaviour can be observed including the ability to manipulate spin and magnetic properties using light. These are the only material systems to have shown such behaviour at room temperature, a significant requirement of any future QTs.

The project will directly address the EPSRC Physical Science Grand Challenges of Nanoscale Design of Functional Materials and Quantum Physics for New QTs through advanced development of these and new NC materials. Using doping we will control the NC optical, electronic and magnetic properties and determine strategies for enhancing them based on the detailed characterisation and modelling we will undertake. Furthermore, we will address the issue of uptake of NCs by industry and those working in biological applications through exclusive study of nitride based materials. These systems, which have yet to be studied in any detail, offer an alternative to more the commonly studied systems which contain heavy metals such as Cd and Pb.

Current understanding of the quantum behaviour exhibited in existing doped NC systems is incomplete, and the ability to predict and control properties remains limited. In our work we will therefore undertake a program of advanced characterisation ranging from fundamental studies of magnetic interactions in NC systems, using highly sensitive nanoSQUID devices, through to the incorporation and study of NCs within devices. Research into NCs within devices will provide the proof-of-principle required to guide and justify further developmental work that will form the basis of the future quantum-enhanced technologies.

Bringing together this leading team of interdisciplinary researchers and industrial partners to address the key challenges that face physical scientists today, this coherent and focused programme offers a unique opportunity to not only advance the field but place the UK in the lead with regard to QTs.
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk