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ECE researchers win $1.7 million award to bend the rules of wave physics

Monday, October 9, 2017

L-R: Debdeep Jena, Grace Xing, Francesco Monticone, Farhan Rana of Cornell University; Inset: Jacob Khurgin of Johns Hopkins University

A team of researchers from Cornell Engineering and Johns Hopkins University has received an NSF award for $1.7 million to create devices that efficiently allow light and electron waves to move forward in one direction, but stops them from moving in reverse. The award, “EFRI NewLAW: Non-Reciprocal Wave Propagation Devices by Fermionic Emulation and Exceptional Point Physics,” brings together Debdeep Jena (Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)/Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)), Huili (Grace) Xing (ECE/MSE), Farhan Rana (ECE), and Francesco Monticone (ECE) of Cornell with Johns Hopkins University’s Jacob Khurgin (ECE).

Funded through NSF's Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program, the team will pursue transformative research in the area of new wave propagation and nonreciprocal devices, known as NewLAW, over the next four years.

“Having joined Cornell ECE less than a year ago, I have been impressed by the uniquely collaborative environment of this department, an environment that is perfectly suited for a multidisciplinary ambitious project of this kind,” said Assistant Professor Francesco Monticone. “We are all excited to start this project, which will allow us to explore drastically new research directions in photonics and electronics, at the very frontier of wave physics research.”

The overarching goals of the project are to advance the understanding of fundamental principles of non-reciprocity in novel electronic and photonic media, and to exploit these principles to realize non-reciprocal devices with superior performance.

According to the award’s abstract, devices that serve as one-way lanes for the propagation of photon and electron waves can revolutionize communication system design by adding new functionalities in a compact and more energy efficient way. Electronics can be made more energy-efficient by suppressing back scattering.

New discoveries in the past decade in the physics of wave propagation in materials have given tantalizing hints as to how one may achieve one-way devices for light and electron waves. Taking these hints toward practical engineering devices however requires theoretical design and experimental advances in materials and device fabrication.

By bringing together a diverse and multidisciplinary team with the necessary skills, this project aims to develop the fundamental science behind such advances and experimentally demonstrate one-way devices for future information systems. The team expects to uncover new physics and engineering possibilities, disrupting the way in which photonic and electronic devices and systems are designed.

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