News


Double, Double, Superconductivity, and Trouble

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 15 July 2020

However, there is no "fire burn and cauldron bubble" here because PQI members don't need a magic potion to be double featured in the Nature Physics July Focus editorial highlighting emergent superconductivity. Out of the four articles in this discussion, Sergey Frolov and Jeremy Levy each contributed a perspective on the current status and trajectory of research in superconductivity.   

The perspective from Sergey and collaborators, Topological superconductivity in hybrid devices, details special features found in topological superconductors and emergent properties, such as theorized Majorana quasiparticles and phases. Unambiguously inducing and controlling Majorana phases in superconductors remains a yet to be solved challenge for researchers, but progress has been made.


PQI 2020/21 GSR Award Winners

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 30 June 2020

Congratulations to the 2020/2021 PQI Graduate Student Research Award Winners!!

Xiaowei Bogetti (Saxena Group, Chemistry), Supriya Ghosh (Waldeck Group, Chemistry), Xun Li (Lee Group, MechE), Zehan Li (Liu Group, Physics), Aditi Nethwewala (Levy Group, Physics), and Timothy Yang (Saidi Group, MechE) each won one term of graduate funding for the year 2020/2021.


How Do You Take a Picture of Light?

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 19 June 2020

Light travels at a velocity of 300 nm/fs, and nothing travels faster than that, so you will never be able to take a snapshot, as you might like, of it interacting with matter. But if you overlap two light identical pulses, their in-phase fields will add, and out-of-phase fields will subtract, causing the light intensity to be modulated on the wavelength scale and thereby allowing light fields to be imaged by a nonlinear process.

Hrvoje Petek and his group have developed a method to image light on the nanofemto scale by interferometric time-resolved photoemission electron microscopy and recently published a review article on this work in Chemical Reviews.


James McKone Selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 19 June 2020

James McKone, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected as one of the ten 2020 Beckman Young Investigator awardees. The awardees exemplify the Foundation’s mission of supporting the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments, and materials that will open new avenues of research in science. 

His research focuses on designing a new generation of enzyme-like catalysts that use renewable electricity to recycle carbon dioxide emissions back into useful fuels and chemicals.

“Over the last several decades, the cost of renewable electricity has dramatically decreased to the point where building a new solar or wind farm is, in many cases, more economical than continuing to run a coal-fired power plant,” said McKone.


Predicting Unpredictable Reactions

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 12 June 2020

Computational catalysis, a field that simulates and accelerates the discovery of catalysts for chemical production, has largely been limited to simulations of idealized catalyst structures that do not necessarily represent structures under realistic reaction conditions. 

New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions. The work, Modeling Morphology and Catalytic Activity of Nanoparticle Ensembles Under Reaction Conditions, was published in ACS Catalysis and authored by Raffaele Cheula, PhD student in the Maestri group; Matteo Maestri, full professor of chemical engineering at Politecnico di Milano; and Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis, Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical engineering at Pitt.


Youngblood and Xiong Win NSF Grant to Explore Phase Change Materials

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 8 June 2020

In the information age, where we ditch paper files and cabinets for digital files and hard drives, there is an imminent need for affordable and efficient ways to store our information.

At the beginning of 2020, the digital universe was estimated to consist of 44 zettabytes of data -- that’s 44 trillion gigabytes (GB) of information. Every time someone “googles” a question, uploads a photo to social media, or performs a variety of daily activities, that number increases.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Nathan Youngblood and Feng Xiong secured a $501,953 award from the National Science Foundation to better understand how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials. 

Optical storage, commonly used in rewritable CDs and DVDs, uses a laser to store and retrieve data in what is called a “phase-change material.” Heating these materials causes them to switch between two stable states, where the atoms are either randomly positioned like in glass or ordered like in a crystal. However, the amount of energy required to heat these materials is fundamentally limited by their volume.


Machine learning used to up-cycle waste carbon

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 22 May 2020

Researchers at University of Toronto Engineering and Carnegie Mellon University are using artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress in transforming waste carbon into a commercially valuable product with record efficiency.

They leveraged AI to speed up the search for the key material in a new catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) into ethylene -- a chemical precursor to a wide range of products, from plastics to dish detergent.

The resulting electrocatalyst is the most efficient in its class. If run using wind or solar power, the system also provides an efficient way to store electricity from these renewable but intermittent sources.

"Using clean electricity to convert CO2 into ethylene, which has a $60 billion global market, can improve the economics of both carbon capture and clean energy storage," says Professor Ted Sargent, one of the senior authors on a new paper published today in Nature.


Chandralekha Singh Becomes President of AAPT

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 15 May 2020

​​​​​​​During the 2020 Winter Meeting in Orlando, Florida, the presidential gavel was presented to Dr. Chandralekha Singh. She will serve as President of the American Association of Physics Teachers for the coming year. Singh, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Founding Director of the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, has previously served on the AAPT Board of Directors as President-elect and Vice President.

Regarding her service to AAPT, Singh said, "This position comes with the opportunity to lead an organization that I revere and work with dedicated and enthusiastic colleagues who share my passion for enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching."


Batteries for Flying Cars

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 8 May 2020

Venkat Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CMU, describes their latest paper in Nature Materials and the 5-year effort to understand electrodeposition instabilities at solid-solid interfaces, leading to high-performing lithium metal based batteries:

In the fall of 2015, we began exploring the role of mechanical properties in stabilizing lithium electrodeposition at solid-solid interfaces in solid state batteries. Previous results from an elegant linear stability analysis performed by Monroe and Newman suggested that solids with sufficiently large moduli could block dendrite growth due to the stabilizing role of the hydrostatic part of the stress.


How to Dress a Metal

  • By Jenny Stein
  • 6 May 2020

Research describing how an optical field can modify the electronic properties of a solid was recently published in Nature Communications titled "Coherent multidimensional photoelectron spectroscopy of ultrafast quasiparticle dressing by light", coauthored by Dr. Marcel Reutzel, Hrvoje Petek, and Petek's students Andi Li and Zehua Wang.

Applying intense ultrafast light pulses, which provide a time-periodic electronic potential acting together with the lattice ions, defines the forces experienced by electrons in solids, such as metals and semiconductors, Petek and his coworkers demonstrated that an optical field can transiently, on the 10-14 second time scale, modify (dress) the electronic bands in a metal, potentially changing them from an electron to a hole condition. 

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