Colorado State University Professors Awarded $962,000 Stimulus Grant to Collaborate with NIST on Nanomagnets

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Three physics professors at Colorado State University have received a $962,000 U.S. Department of Commerce grant to improve tiny magnets in information-storage devices such as computers and generally improve electronic communication.

The grant is one of only 27 grants awarded across the nation – and the only one in Colorado – by the National Institute for Standards and Technology. The NIST Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants Program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grants were selected from a pool of 1,300 higher education, commercial and nonprofit applicants.

“This grant ensures that the university – and the College of Natural Sciences – can continue to do critical research, particularly during these difficult budget times,” said Dieter Hochheimer, physics department chair at Colorado State. “Part of our land-grant mission is to ensure that we continue to serve the residents of Colorado through these important partnerships with local, state and federal organizations.”

Leading the grant at Colorado State University are physics assistant professors Kristen Buchanan and Mingzhong Wu, and physics professor Carl Patton, all in the Magnetic Materials & Applied Magnetics Laboratory (MMAML) in the College of Natural Sciences.

The CSU-MMAML team will research dynamic properties of magnets – how they perform on the nanoscale – and how to improve measurement techniques that allow us to explore these materials. Their approaches include studies of ultra-high speed spin reversal and high resolution images of waves – spin waves – in nanoscale thin magnetic film structures.

Nanomagnets are a fundamental part of a new class of magnetoelectronic or spintronic devices, which are devices that exploit not only the charge of an electron but also its spin. The understanding of such “spin” based phenomena will lead to innovations in the role of magnets in processing as well as storing information, said Buchanan, who is the lead investigator on the grant.

“Ultimately, we hope this project and the collaboration with NIST will lead to scientific advances in nanomagnet-related fields that will shape future technologies,” she said.

"Our work will advance our understanding of physics in technologically relevant magnetic nanostructures and explore ways to improve relevant measurement techniques," Wu said. "This work will have potential to have an impact on both magnetic recording technologies and communications."

Colorado State has had a longtime relationship with NIST, and the Magnetics Group in the Electromagnetics Division in particular. The MMAML team at Colorado State is engaged in a variety of basic and applied research that addresses problems that range from the fundamental understanding of magnetic order to the study of materials and device structures for memory and high frequency applications.

“This grant will help us and NIST bridge that gap between higher education and industry to ensure that scientific innovations are getting to the community and the businesses that need them,” Patton said. “The MMAML team has had very productive collaborations with NIST for many years. We are looking forward to a successful nanomagnetics collaborative NIST program.”