April 25, 2016

Professor Nick Vamivakas Wins NSF CAREER Award

Professor Nick Vamivakas in his labSomething interesting happens when you overlap two layers of tungsten diselenide that are each only a few atoms thick, Nick Vamivakas and his lab have discovered.

The interface between the layers creates regions, quantum dots, where stray electrons like to gather. Vamivakas, an Assistant Professor of Quantum Optics & Quantum Physics, likens this to hills and valleys, with the layers of tungsten diselenide being hills. “Each time an electron falls into one of the valleys, it becomes trapped into a small region of space. Once trapped it can be coaxed to emit a photon (particle of light). If we can cause this to continually happen you have a stream of single photons coming out.”

Photons are governed by quantum physics, not classical physics, which means novel, transformative applications are possible in fields as diverse as metrology and information processing. For example, imagine if one of these photon-emitting tungsten diselenide nanostructures could be substituted in place of lasers in integrated photonic chips, Vamivakas said. “You could do things like computing and information processing that would be much faster. You could solve problems that you couldn't solve with an ordinary electronic chip.”