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Press Release for Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UNF Physics Professor Awarded NSF Grant for Nanotechnology Research

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

Researchers in the Department of Physics at the University of North Florida and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were recently awarded a three-year collaborative research grant totaling nearly $500,000 by the National Science Foundation to advance research in the fields of nanotechnology and nanoscience.

With this funding, UNF and MIT will work together to better understand and improve a type of ultra-sensitive, ultra-fast light detector. This detector is based on a superconducting wire with a nanometer-scale cross section—one nanometer is about 10 times the size of a single atom. It’s capable of detecting the smallest possible amount of light, a single photon, at very high count rates, in excess of one hundred million photons every second.

The research will be carried out at both UNF and MIT. The UNF group will be headed up by Dr. Daniel Santavicca, assistant professor of physics, while the MIT group will be led by Dr. Karl Berggren, associate professor of electrical engineering.

“The MIT group is a world leader in this detector technology and being able to partner with them on this project is a tremendous opportunity,” said Santavicca, a Mandarin resident. “I think this grant serves as an example of the growing strength in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology at UNF.”

The detectors have important applications in fields such as space communication, molecular sensing and quantum cryptography. At present, such applications are limited by the timing uncertainty, or photo-detection jitter, of the detector. This jitter is seen as the variability in the time between the photon absorption and the detector response. The UNF-MIT collaboration will seek to understand the physical mechanisms that determine jitter in superconducting nanowires and to use this understanding to engineer detectors with improved timing resolution.

Students will also be exchanged between the groups at the two universities. Beginning in 2016, one UNF undergraduate student will be selected to spend the summer working in the MIT group, while MIT researchers will also visit the UNF campus.

The mission of the Department of Physics is to provide excellent educational experiences in physics, astronomy and geological science, as well as to advance knowledge in physics through research and service to the University, public and our profession.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.