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NSF Awards $20 Million for Quantum Materials Center, Affiliated College Network

Harvard University will lead a new multi-institutional center for the study of quantum materials for computing. The center will also support an affiliated college network whose aim is to attract students from traditionally underrepresented groups into STEM careers.

The Center for Integrated Quantum Materials is being funded through a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation grant. Participants include Boston Museum of Science, Howard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The affiliate network includes faculty from Gallaudet University, Mount Holyoke College, Olin College, Prince George's Community College, and Wellesley College.

The work of the center, based out of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will investigate new materials based on graphene that can act as a replacement for silicon, materials that act as topological insulators, and atomic-level data storage and will focus on "materials synthesis, nanofabrication, characterization, and device physics," according to Harvard. "The Center aims to integrate [nitrogen-vacancy] center diamond storage sites with the atomic-layer devices and topological insulator data channels to create transformative new devices and systems for storing, manipulating, and transmitting information."

"As we move into a post-silicon age, quantum materials are an emerging technology with enormous promise for science and engineering and for our country's overall economy in the form of new products and business opportunities," said Center Leader Robert M. Westervelt, Mallinckrodt Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Harvard, in a prepared statement. "The scientists collaborating on this project have a vision of future quantum materials and quantum devices — new devices and systems that were not conceived to be possible 10 years ago. This line of research promises an impressive trajectory over the coming decades."

Meanwhile, the affiliate college network will serve to recruit students from backgrounds that are not traditionally well represented in STEM disciplines. According to the NSF: "Two prestigious women's colleges, Mount Holyoke and Wellesley, as well as Gallaudet University, which focuses on undergraduate liberal arts education, career development and graduate programs for the deaf, will engage young people who are traditionally less represented in science and engineering. Massachusetts' Bunker Hill Community College, with its special recruitment program for military veterans, and Olin College of Engineering, with its technical focus, will each bring different perspectives to the collaboration, as will Prince's George's Community College in Maryland."

Funding for the center is being provided through the NSF Science and Technology Center program.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

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