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Grove School professor leads new metamaterials center

A new National Science Foundation-sponsored industry & university cooperative research center program (I/UCRC) will "provide a one-stop shop for the design, fabrication and testing of a wide range of metamaterials." Dr. David Crouse, associate professor of electrical engineering in the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York, serves as director of the new Center for Metamaterials.

Participating institutions are The City University of New York, Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Clarkson University. At least 15 corporations, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Corning and Goodrich, will become members of the center, which has NSF funding for five years, renewable, as well. First year support - $230,000 from NSF plus $40,000 from each of the companies is expected to be around $740,000, according to Professor Crouse.

Obtaining the award to create the new Center took several years and involved several stages and numerous people at CUNY and the other schools. They include Dr. Myron Wecker and Dr. John Blaho, of the CUNY Center for Advanced Technology (CUNY-CAT), CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research Gillian Small and the co-directors from the three other institutions:

  • Dr. Weiguo (Bill) Wang, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Western Carolina University;
  • Dr. Michael O. Fiddy, professor of physics and optical science and of electrical and computer engineering, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • Dr. S.V. Babu, distinguished university professor, Clarkson University.

"Metamaterials have capabilities beyond normal materials," Professor Crouse explains. "The best known examples are cloaking devices that allow light to wrap around an object, creating the perception of invisibility. Numerous other examples can be found in renewable energy and sensors."

Researchers at the I/UCRC Center for Metamaterials will focus on fundamental research concepts that are limiting the application and implementation of metamaterials to commercial products. For example, by controlling the composition of a material it may be possible to produce super lenses with near-perfect resolution.

The Center's research thrusts will encompass fundamental metamaterials research including:

  • Materials for rapid prototyping.
  • Metamaterials building blocks.
  • All-dielectric resonator metamaterials.
  • Development of modeling and design algorithms.
  • Process development of composite materials.
  • Aperture and cavity arrays.
  • Tools for characterization of metamaterials.
  • Next-generation metallic resonator metamaterials.
  • High/Zero/Negative Refractive Index Materials.

NSF-supported I/UCRC centers conduct pre-competitive fundamental research. The companies that participate in the center direct the research thrusts and receive royalty-free, non-exclusive licenses to the intellectual property the center produces.

Professor Crouse also serves as director of the CUNY Center for Advanced Technology (CUNY-CAT), which is supported by the State of New York and conducts research leading to product commercialization. The three other institutions in the Center for Metamaterials have programs similar to CUNY-CAT, he notes.

"We want the Center for Metamaterials to be a feeder for concepts and projects that graduate into more applied development with our CAT program and the other organizations, eventually leading to commercialization and economic impact," he adds.

Professor Crouse's metamaterials research laboratory at CCNY performs numerous applied metamaterials research and development projects. He also conducts research for Phoebus Optoelectronics, a metamaterials company he co-founded.

While the Center for Metamaterials research thrusts are on fundamental research concepts, the thrusts of Professor Crouse's laboratory and Phoebus are applied research and the development of metamaterials devices with high commercialization potential.

Two areas of particular interest to him are: renewable energy and sensors. "The typical solar cell has low efficiency, but we can do things to improve their efficiency or lower their cost to make them more competitive with fossil fuels," he says.

Placing thin metamaterial films over silicon panels would allow solar light to pass through to silicon surfaces unblocked. The same film would capture the electricity produced by those surfaces. This could raise efficiency of terrestrial solar cells, now made with embedded thin metal strips, from 17 percent to 21 percent, he adds. Because the film would spread light laterally across the cell, thinner silicon wafers could be used, which would reduce the cost.

Three projects currently underway at Professor Crouse's laboratory involve creation of metamaterials for a hydrogen-powered generation device, biofuel-powered generation and splitting light so it could be directed to specific locations on a device. "It could be that different materials respond better to different elements of the spectrum," he explains. "We could create a light harvester that would direct different elements to where they would be used most efficiently."

The sensor projects, being conducted with NASA and DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency), aim to produce lightweight polar image metric sensors capable of measuring light's intensity, color and polarization or orientation. "If you can see the orientation of light, you can detect many properties of an object," he continues.

"For example, NASA scientists could detect and analyze the chemical composition of different kinds of pollutants." Current sensor technology is fragile and heavy and has poor resolution, he adds.

Besides Professor Crouse, CUNY faculty affiliated with the Center for Metamaterials include:

  • Dr. Robert R. Alfano, CUNY distinguished professor of science and engineering, The City College of New York;
  • Dr. Azriel Z. Genack, distinguished professor of physics, Queens College;
  • Dr. Vinod M. Menon, associate professor of physics, Queens College, and
  • Dr. Godfrey Gumbs, CUNY distinguished professor of physics, Hunter College.


Contact: Ellis Simon
City College of New York

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