Quantum Engineering

Quantum Materials and Devices

From memory devices for your smart phone to optical fibers for your internet connection, and from chemical sensors for industrial safety to solar panels for clean energy production, we are surrounded by technologies that heavily rely on quantum mechanical properties.
Material scientists, engineers, chemists, and physicists work on various aspects of quantum technologies, with the common goal of understanding the properties of materials such as wide bandgap semiconductors, two-dimensional materials, perovskites, or even polymers for the design of more efficient devices, the optimized fabrication of these devices, and the improvement of their performance.
Magnetism, thermal transport, absorption and emission of charge are the quantum effects that are at play in many technologies. Materials and devices can be carefully tailored to exhibit these desirable properties towards the fabrication of memory devices, energy-efficient transistors, next generation batteries, or solar cells. Often, first principles calculations are used in combination with experimental optical characterization techniques, such as Atomic Force Microscopy, in order to predict, explain, and characterize the properties of novel materials.

At the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute

Memory devices
To repeatedly write, store, and retrieve data on memory devices, those must be non-volatile, i.e., they must retain the information even when the power source is turned off. Those devices should also have fast writing speeds and read-access times as well as an ideally infinite number of read-write cycles. In addition, they would be portable, durable, and resistant to a variety of mishaps. PQI researchers are involved in the synthesis of novel electronic materials such as binary and complex oxides, amorphous chalcogenide alloys, and 2D materials. They use state-of-the art techniques such as Molecular Beam Epitaxy, nano-lithography, sputtering, or Pulsed Laser Deposition to fabricate devices for data storage applications.

Sensors
With the miniaturization of all electronic devices and the advances in nano-technology, sensors are becoming increasingly smaller and efficient. On the nanoscale, sensors can be designed to make use of the emerging electrical, mechanical, chemical, catalytic, and optical properties that arise from their quantum mechanical behavior. PQI researchers design new specialty optical fibers and develop new distributed fiber sensing schemes based on novel piezoelectric materials, whose shape is modified in response to an electric field, for applications as sensors for energy, safety, and structural health monitoring.

Solar cells
Solar cells are devices that convert the energy from sunlight to electrical current; they are therefore also called photovoltaic cells. They hold great promise as a source of renewable and clean energy and would help address the growing energy demands worldwide. PQI researchers design and fabricate solar cells consisting of various materials that exhibit exceptional transport properties that arise from ingenious novel structures. Computational methodologies are also developed towards the rational design of novel organic solar cell materials.

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