Federico Capasso
2016 Balzan Prize for Applied Photonics
Balzan Research Project Summary
The project will have two parts: 1. Optoelectronics and nano-photonics in two-dimensional nanomaterial heterostructures; 2. Quantum Effects in Complex Systems (‘Q-EX’)

Project 1: Optoelectronics and nano-photonics in two-dimensional nanomaterial heterostructures

Institution: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge MA
Supervisor: Prof. Federico Capasso
Proposed beneficiary: Dr. Miriam Serena Vitiello (CNR- Nanoscience Institute, National Enterpise for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa)

The project is based largely on Dr. Miriam Serena Vitiello’s ideas, and aims to explore novel electronic, optoelectronic, and plasmonic phenomena in the 2D vdW heterostructures, seeking device applications based on these nanoscale quantum structures.
Specific objectives are: i) electrically controlled optical phase modulation of a far-infrared light beam with graphene/hBN heterojunctions; ii) local investigation of the electronic and plasmonic properties of heterojunctions based on different 2D nanomaterials, using novel scanning probe techniques; iii) employing surface polaritons in active nanophotonic devices to develop broadband polariton switching schemes.
Research will target radically new concepts and approaches to develop a novel optoelectronic technology based on 2D nanomaterials. All activities are driven by interdisciplinary methods and groundbreaking views, intersecting opto- and nano- electronics, photonics, material science and quantum engineering.

The main research goals are:
i) the development of design principles and fabrication methods of atomic layer assemblies that will enable the realization of novel electronic, optoelectronic, photonic and plasmonic devices.
ii) the engineering of vdW optoelectronics for optical detectors and modulators. By employing gate tunable surface plasmon polaritons, controlled phase modulation and beam steering of a light beam with a graphene-hBN heterojunction will be demonstrated.
iii) the probing of microscopic electronic and plasmonic properties of vdW heterostructures. Dr. Vitiello will investigate the local electronic properties of vdW heterostructures and the THz surface plasmons on different scales, with two complementary methods for plasmon mapping:
using nanofocused excitation by the s-SNOM probe, and using plasmon excitation within resonant periodic structures (e.g. micro-ribbon arrays). This will provide critical information for the design of novel devices.

Research Team
Supervisor: Prof. Federico Capasso
Co-principal investigator and co-responsible: Dr. Miriam Serena Vitiello (team leader, “Terahertz photonics and optoelectronics” group, National Enterprise for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NEST), Nanoscience Institute of the National Research Council (CNR-NANO), hosted by and technical support from the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa).

The research team, devoted to project activities, under the scientific supervision of Dr. Vitiello will feature one PhD student of the Scuola Normale Superiore and one young post-doc researcher who will work together with Dr. Vitiello.

Dissemination and exploitation of results
Publication in high impact academic journals (following IP protection) like the Nature-group, with open access and proper acknowledgement to the Balzan Foundation.

Project 2: Quantum Effects in Complex Systems (‘Q-EX’)

Institution: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ; Polytechnic University of Milan
Supervisor: Federico Capasso
Proposed beneficiary: Dr. Margherita Maiuri (Chemistry, Princeton University)

This project is inspired by the hypothesis that, if nuclear motion influences quantum dynamics of natural and bio-inspired molecular systems, it should be possible to extend the similar argument to the study of exciton dissociation in 2D materials and their hetero-structures. The key hypothesis of vibronically assisted charge separation in 2D heterostructures still lacks of experimental evidence. Direct observation of the complex quantum dynamics at the 2D TMD interface will be one of the challenges of Q-EX project, with the outcome of generating important photo-physical insights and suggesting design principles for operation of ultrathin devices under non-equilibrium conditions.

Q-EX aims to explore the roles that nuclear motions play in the ultrafast exciton dissociation in two different complex systems, going beyond the framework of classical electron transfer Marcus theories. The project has two main objectives: the study of vibronic coupling in bio-Inspired molecular arrays; the study of excitonic coherences in 2D materials and their heterostructures.

Dissemination and exploitation of results

The project foresees the production of scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals (following IP protection), like the Nature-group and other high-impact factor international journals. Publications and data will be made open access and report proper acknowledgement to the Balzan Foundation.
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