APS News

APS Members Awarded Funding to Break the Boundaries of Classical Physics

NSF program awards 9 teams across the U.S. to research wave properties

September 6, 2016 | Rachel Gaal

The Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) NewLAW (new light and acoustic wave propagation) program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has awarded $18 million to multiple research teams. The funding agency’s goal is to spur transformative research with grants that extend into 2020. The projects aim to improve the ways that light and acoustic waves propagate, with innovations that go above and beyond the frontiers of classical physics.

Principal investigators who are members or fellows of APS lead 3 of the 9 teams, located at several institutions across the United States: Andrea Alu of the University of Texas at Austin, Yong Chen of Purdue University, and Ilya Krivorotov of the University of California-Irvine.

Each team plans to explore various physical properties of reciprocity and time reversal symmetry in wave propagation. The idea behind reciprocity and time reversal symmetry is that a wave moving through a material behaves the same way going one way as it does in reverse.

Over the next 4 years, these 9 teams will test these properties of wave physics, to see how it’s possible to break reciprocity — taking different materials and manipulating them so that waves avoid obstacles or even travel at different speeds in certain directions. Devices that force acoustic energy to flow in one direction, or metamaterials that allow electromagnetic waves to bend around them, are examples of non-reciprocal systems. Conventional methods to achieve these behaviors can’t be used in small technologies like microprocessors — leading to one of the main motivations behind EFRI’s research. The ability to control wave propagation in these systems could mean new innovations in healthcare, defense, and computer technologies.

Learn more about EFRI’s research areas, including NewLAW.

Credit: Harish Krishnaswamy, Columbia University

Columbia University engineering researchers invented integrated circuits that can allow radios to simultaneously transmit and receive on the same frequency, instead of requiring two separate frequencies as is typically the case.