Brookhaven Lab and Northrop Grumman to Further Lab-Industry Collaborations

Through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Technologist in Residence program, Brookhaven Lab and Northrop Grumman scientists will partner on quantum materials research.

UPTON, NY—The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has awarded the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at Brookhaven National Laboratory funding to collaborate with the American global aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman (NG) through the Technologist in Residence (TIR) program. Supported by EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, the TIR program pairs senior technical staff from national labs and industry to conduct research and development (R&D). These scientists work together to understand industry’s challenges and leverage the capabilities across all of the national labs to solve them. The goal of these collaborative partnerships is to strengthen national lab–industry relationships while advancing innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promoting economic growth and energy security.

“The Department of Energy’s national laboratories are a world-class American science and technology innovation network, and collaboration with industry to catalyze innovation is critical to strengthening American manufacturing, boosting our competitiveness, and growing jobs,” said TIR Program Manager Eli Levine. “The TIR program facilitates lab and industry researchers to work together to more deeply understand the true nature of industry’s most important problems and national lab capabilities that can be best brought to bear to solve them.”

This TIR project, funded through the end of 2022, is the second awarded to Brookhaven Lab. The first TIR was Stan Petrash, a scientific principal investigator at Henkel Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of adhesives. Petrash collaborated with scientists at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) on advanced materials for energy storage, functional nanocoatings, and materials for additive manufacturing. This initial two-year collaboration, which began in 2016, led to several accomplishments, including Petrash and NSLS-II’s Ron Pindak participating in two DOE Energy Frontier Research Center proposals; Henkel co-funding a joint postdoc at NSLS-II; and another Henkel researcher submitting a user proposal to the CFN. As DOE Office of Science User Facilities, CFN and NSLS-II are available for use by researchers from around the world.

The TIR for this new award is Donald DiMarzio, a senior research scientist at NG within the company’s advanced research, development, design, and demonstration group, NG Next. Previously, DiMarzio has accessed Brookhaven Lab facilities through various modes—including the General User Program and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)—which led to NG co-funding a joint postdoc at the CFN.

For the TIR project with Northrup Grumman, DiMarzio will partner with principal investigator Oleg Gang, leader of the CFN Soft and Bio Nanomaterials Group. The other Brookhaven team members are Mircea Cotlet, a staff scientist in Gang’s group; Jerzy (Jurek) Sadowski, a staff scientist in the CFN Interface Science and Catalysis Group; and Priscilla Antunez, CFN Assistant Director for Strategic Partnerships.

“It is very exciting to help industry researchers access DOE User Facilities and explore how to collaborate with the national labs,” said Antunez. “We have seen many times how the impact of research results increases when experts from industry and national labs work together. Don’s experience will be invaluable to help other NG researchers leverage facilities at Brookhaven and other DOE national labs.”

Gang and DiMarzio first started collaborating four years ago in the area of DNA-directed nanoparticle self-assembly—using DNA nanotechnology for the assembly of nanoparticles into architectures with tailored optical responses. Now, to begin their TIR project, their interests have evolved to include photonics and quantum materials. In particular, they will model, fabricate, and characterize various 2-D materials, which are made of only a single layer or a few layers of atoms.

Ultrasensitive quantum sensing and high-volume, secure, and long-distance communications are on the horizon. Advanced photonics and optoelectronics will be key to unlocking the potential found in quantum sensing, communications, and computation. And while quantum computers are far from commercial applications, they are expected to have a dramatic impact over classical computers, including in various fields of manufacturing. The potential ability of quantum computers to run large-scale modeling of new materials functioning in extreme conditions will revolutionize aerospace, defense, automotive, electronics, and catalysis.

“The TIR program provides an opportunity for Northrop Grumman researchers to leverage the vast resources of the DOE laboratory community to enhance its manufacturing capability for our government and commercial customers,” said DiMarzio. 

To develop quantum technologies ready for commercial deployment, U.S. academic institutions and national labs are researching and developing next-generation materials for QIS through the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act. The CFN-NG team will develop quantum technologies and materials that will not only help with current industry needs in sensing, communications, and computing but also with NQI efforts.

The team plans to explore several photonic and related quantum systems, including qubits (the quantum counterparts of information-storing bits used in today’s computers) that can operate at room temperature as opposed to the ultracold temperatures currently required; “valleytronics,” an emerging field in electronics that aims to manipulate electrons to occupy particular energy levels (“valleys”); and heterostructures, or structures formed by stacking alternating layers of qubits and 2-D magnetic materials.

“This collaboration will enable us to advance photonic and quantum materials, fields that have interesting science and important technological implications,” said Gang. “The CFN has expertise in creating and characterizing nanomaterials, while NG has a long history of coupling scientific ideas with demanding applications to promote applied research and the development of new technologies. We formed an excellent relationship with the NG team—DiMarzio and his colleagues—on a previous project and are excited about this new opportunity to work together.”

The Brookhaven-NG team will perform their research mostly at the CFN and NSLS-II. They will fabricate the 2-D materials in the CFN Nanofabrication Facility, with access to the near-complete QPress, a robotic instrument that stacks atomically thin 2-D materials. To characterize the structural, chemical, electronic, and optical properties of the quantum materials, they will leverage the CFN Electron Microscopy, Advanced Optical Spectroscopy and Microscopy, and Advanced UV and X-ray Probes Facilities. They will also take advantage of complementary facilities and expertise within Brookhaven’s NSLS-II, Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science, and Computational Science Initiative, as well as at other DOE labs.

“By spotlighting some of our research capabilities through this project, we aim to multiply national lab collaborations with additional Northrop Grumman scientists for broader impact,” said Antunez. “Partnerships between national labs and industry play a critical role in catalyzing research and development to solve relevant national challenges.”

If you are interested in forming partnerships with the CFN, please contact Priscilla Antunez at 631-344-6186 or [email protected].

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

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