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NSF awards $410,500 grant to physicist Zhili Xiao

August 28, 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant of $410,500 over three years to NIU physics professor Zhili Xiao to further his research into the creation of nano-scale superconducting materials.

NIU physics professor Zhili Xiao works with doctoral student Jing Xu inside his lab at Argonne National Laboratory.

Xiao previously led a team of scientists working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory that created a new material called, “rewritable magnetic charge ice.” The material permits an unprecedented degree of control over local magnetic fields.

The discovery could pave the way for new computing technologies. With potential applications involving data storage, memory and logic devices, magnetic charge ice could someday lead to smaller and more powerful computers or even play a role in quantum computing, Xiao said.

Xiao and colleagues first reported on the development in the prestigious journal Science. The publication made the list of the top 2017 stories from the DOE’s Office of Science.

The new funding will provide a foundation for understanding how to manipulate the effects of the new and complex material.

“The project also will support the training of graduate and undergraduate students, enhancing their academic knowledge and improving their likelihood to succeed in future careers in academia, industry or government,” Xiao said.

The grant enabled him to offer research assistantships to two Ph.D. degree students. Xiao also has budgeted funds each year to support undergraduate involvement in the research.