First Awardee Projects - 2011

Christopher G. Elles

Controlling Non-Adiabatic Reaction Dynamics in Solution: One- and Two-Photon Excitation of Photochromic Molecular Switches

Christopher Elles, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Kansas - Ultrafast laser spectroscopy provides a window on the molecular world by revealing the fundamental details that govern chemical reactions. Elles’ research uses ultrafast spectroscopy to study the excited-state reaction dynamics of photochromic molecular switches – compounds that reversibly change color upon electronic excitation with light. The dynamics of molecular switches are particularly interesting because the conversion of these molecules from one form to another involves multiple electronic energy levels, where transitions among the levels determine the outcome of the reaction. Similar dynamics play an important role in many diverse chemical systems, so obtaining a better understanding of the underlying details of these reactions will provide important new information for improving the properties of molecular systems that are used in optical data storage, solar energy conversion, and many other technologies.

Hrant Hakobyan

Quasiconformal Geometry of Fractal Spaces

Hrant Hakobyan, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Kansas State University - Hakobyan’s research is in classical and contemporary complex analysis and its applications to dynamics, geometry, geometric group theory, probability and mathematical physics.
More precisely, he is interested in the quasiconformal and quasisymmetric (QC/QS) geometry of many naturally occurring fractal spaces which includes:

  • estimating or calculating the conformal dimension of a metric space (which in a sense means finding the best metric for the fractal space)
  • QS/QC rigidity and flexibility
  • QS/QC uniformization
  • QC removability, Jacobian problem, etc.

Many problems in this field can be attacked by exhibiting thick or thin families of curves or subsets in the given space. These techniques (known as modulus or extremal length estimates) go back to the beginning of the 20th century but are constantly finding new applications.

For instance Hakobyan first used the notion of a modulus of families of measures (due to Fuglede) to obtain many new examples of spaces minimal for conformal dimension and this was later used by Binder and Hakobyan to obtain new bounds for conformal dimension of Bedford McMullen self-affine sets.

Matthias F. Kling

Attosecond Observation and Control of Electron Dynamics in Nanoparticles

Matthias F. Kling, Assistant Professor of Physics, Kansas State University - Compared to conventional electronics, nanophotonic and -plasmonic materials can operate at lightwave (petahertz) frequencies and have enormous potential to push the frontiers in electronics in both size and speed. Kling will explore the possibilities to use extremely short and well-controlled laser light to steer electrons in nanostructured materials and to take snapshots of the electron motion by applying attosecond metrologies. The knowledge gained in this work may serve as a basis for the development of light-driven (nano-) electronics.

Kyoungchul Kong

Search for New Physics at Hadron Colliders

K.C. Kong, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas - Kong's research explores new physics beyond the Standard Model of elementary particle physics. It tests modern theoretical ideas against latest experimental data, thus aiding our quest to understand how nature works at its most fundamental level. The current effort focuses on developing various kinematic methods to help discovery and measurement of properties of new particles at the Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider.

Gurpreet Singh

Exploring the Structure, Optical, and Electromechanical Properties of Polymer-derived Si(B) CN-Multiwall Carbon Nanotube Composite Nanowires

Gurpreet Singh, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, Kansas State University - Singh’s research is highly experimental and his team is currently involved in: (a) In-situ mechanical testing of 1-D nanostructures under direct view of electron microscope, (b) Synthesis of hybrid nanowires for applications in harsh environments (radiation sensing and ultra-high temperatures), (c) Design of advanced optical coatings for high-power military laser thermal calorimeters, (d) Polymer-derived ceramic and other carbon based nanomaterials (graphene, graphene oxide and carbon nanotubes) for high performance Li-ion battery anode material. The First Award will allow large scale synthesis of hybrid nanowires of shell/core geometry (involving Si-B-C-N ceramic shell and MWCNT core) under varying processing conditions. Individual nanowires will then be separated using techniques developed by the PI and tested for their structure, mechanical integrity, electrical and optical response. The long term goal is to use hybrid nanowires for applications in energy based devices such as thermal detectors, solar cells and rechargeable batteries.

Robert Szoszkiewicz

Nanomechanical Studies of the Secondary Structure Folding in Polypeptides Using Single Molecule AFM and Interferometry

Robert Szoszkiewicz, Assistant Professor of Physics, Kansas State University - Szoszkiewicz’s research is at the interface of biology, chemistry and physics. Within the scope of the First Award, his team plans to gain understanding on step-by-step formation of secondary and sub-secondary structural elements of polypeptides, and later potentially simple mono-domain proteins at the single molecule level. His team expects to achieve these goals by (i) combining the state of the art atomic force microscope (AFM) with the state of the art interferometry and (ii) by using molecular biology in a careful design of the studied molecules and their mutants.

Pingfeng Wang

Reducing Use Phase Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy System through Sustainable Operation and Maintenance

Pingfeng Wang, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Wichita State University - Maintaining wind turbines in top operational condition ensures not only continuous revenue generation but a reduction in electric power drawn from non-renewable and more polluting sources. The objective of this research is to develop novel operation and maintenance prognostics tools that will jointly reduce the economic losses and environmental impacts due to wind turbine failures. The proposed multidisciplinary research work is an early effort to address the fundamental research gap between cost-oriented operation and maintenance activities and the environmental impacts for green energy sources at the use phase of life cycle. Multidimensional technical innovations addressing the challenges on wind turbine system reliability assessment with multiple failure modes and interactions, wind turbine performance degradation modeling and failure forecasting, and operation and maintenance prognostics will be anticipated and drive the success of the proposed research.

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