MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry Established With $20 Million Grant

MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry Established With $20 Million Grant
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With a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the U of A and Montana State University will establish the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry to accelerate the development of quantum materials and devices. 

The foundry will support the study of 2-D materials — consisting of a single layer of bonded atoms — by aiding researchers and facilitating the exchange of ideas across academia and industry. Roughly $10.6 million of the grant will support research at the U of A.

“The Quantum Foundry will seek to leverage regional research strengths to collectively advance quantum science and technology in the United States, which will extend the societal impacts of quantum research, workforce development, education and economic development to a diverse set of communities and institutions spanning the nation’s heartland,” said Hugh Churchill, associate professor of physics and associate foundry director for the U of A.

Education and outreach are key components of the Quantum Foundry. Training and resources will be available for students, and professional development will be offered for technical workers to help prepare a diverse, next-generation STEM workforce trained in quantum technologies.

“The MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry will position the University of Arkansas as a leader in quantum science — a field with the potential to drive the next technological revolution,” said John English, vice chancellor for research and innovation. “Our partnership with Montana State will help spur discovery and collaboration with industry across the U.S., and develop and train highly skilled students, researchers and workers right here in Arkansas.”

Unlike classical physics where objects and forces behave in accordance with everyday human experience, quantum mechanics defines unusual behaviors observed in atoms and subatomic particles. For instance, atoms and subatomic particles can act as particles or waves depending on the context. Quantum technologies seek to harness these unusual properties for societal benefit.

Two pipelines for the development of 2-D quantum materials — one at Montana State and one at the U of A — will integrate robotic automation to improve the speed and efficiency of the cumbersome and time-consuming processes of stacking 2-D quantum materials. Cutting-edge quantum characterization instrumentation will also be developed and integrated with the pipeline with a goal to accelerate fabrication and characterization processes to the point where a large community of researchers can request devices from the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry or characterize their own samples using Foundry tools.

Salvador Barraza-Lopez, associate professor of physics, co-principal investigator on the award and lead of theory efforts within the foundry, said that “as a result of the Quantum Foundry activities, which center on developing two 2-D quantum materials pipelines, our hope is that a new era of characterization instrumentation capabilities, 2-D quantum devices and theoretical research in quantum science will be developed in our campuses and region.”

Yves Idzerda, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Montana State University, will serve as the foundry director, and Nicholas Borys, assistant professor of physics at MSU, will serve as the other associate director. Churchill, Barraza-Lopez and David Dickensheets, professor of electrical engineering at Montana State University, round out the leadership team of the Foundry. 

“We’re incredibly honored and proud of Hugh, Salvador and all of our phenomenal University of Arkansas researchers, who will be catalysts for creating this unprecedented Quantum Foundry,” said Todd Shields, dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “Their enhanced ability to rapidly develop quantum materials and devices quite literally has the potential to forever change and better our world. The breakthroughs in science development created as a result of their work will be astounding.”

In addition to serving as the associate director of the Foundry, Churchill will serve as a member of the Technology Transition Group, where he will help transition advances in quantum instrumentation infrastructure development, pipeline design and structure, quantum material advances and incipient device structures. His emphasis in pipeline design will be 2-D material stacking, lithography and device packaging. As a research participant, he will also lead the fabrication of 2-D material quantum devices and their characterization using low-temperature electronic transport and optoelectronic techniques.

In addition to serving as lead of theory efforts within the foundry, Barraza-Lopez’s research has a goal of closely interacting with experimentalists to better understand the (opto)electronic and spin properties of 2-D semiconductors, ferroelectrics and topological semimetals. 

Team members of the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry at the U of A also include: 

  • Laurent Bellaiche of the Department of Physics. Bellaiche will apply density functional theory techniques, ab-initio effective Hamiltonians and quantum spin Hamiltonians to understand and guide research in 2-D quantum magnets. 
  • Julio Gea-Banacloche of the Department of Physics. Gea-Banacloche will translate theoretical techniques established for bulk quantum and nonlinear optics to 2-D quantum photonic devices and assist with the development and analysis of quantum gate operations and algorithms run on gatemon qubits.
  • Jin Hu of the Department of Physics. Hu will serve as the co-director of the Workforce Development Group and will supervise the management and training of visiting collaborative researchers and students, actively recruit new foundry collaborators, supervise foundry educational and outreach activities, and identify methods to better diversify the quantum-skilled workforce. As a research participant, he will direct the bulk synthesis and characterization of layered crystals impacting all aspects of the Foundry's scientific activities.
  • Khoa Luu of the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Luu will co-lead development of machine learning approaches to accelerate quantum material synthesis, device fabrication and characterization and guide database design to permit machine learning interaction. 
  • Hiro Nakamura of the Department of Physics. Nakamura will co-lead the atomic epitaxy of 2-D materials and pursue quantum optics realized in reduced dimensions and artificially engineered geometries.
  • Gregory Salamo of the Department of Physics. Salamo will co-lead efforts in MBE growth of 2-D semiconductors, ferroelectrics, magnets, oxides and their heterostructures.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


Andy Albertson, senior director of communications
Research and Economic Development

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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