Shcherbakov Receives DARPA Young Faculty Award

Maxim Shcherbakov

Sept. 29, 2022 – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has granted Maxim Shcherbakov a Young Faculty Award (YFA) in support of his efforts to study a new class of two-dimensional magnetic materials in optical fields. The assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science is one of 30 researchers nationwide to receive the award.

Shcherbakov’s research merges fundamental physics concepts and cutting-edge nanotechnology to create innovations in photonic devices. Designer nanomaterials offer flexibility to manipulate light waves on demand. His group uses theoretical and experimental methods to conceive next-generation light-based components for use in imagers, augmented and virtual reality technology, telecommunications and quantum computing.

The DARPA award will provide $500,000 over two years for his research. “My team will study a new class of two-dimensional materials—van der Waals magnets—in strong optical fields,” said Shcherbakov. “In other words, we want to show that one can control magnetism with light at the nanoscale.”

Two-dimensional magnets recently emerged as a novel class of quantum materials that can be managed by magnetic and electric fields. Shcherbakov’s project will create opportunities for high-speed, optically addressed magnetic and spintronic devices and magnetic biochemical sensors.

His research observations will create strategic technological advantages by providing ultrafast (at one trillionth of a second) means of writing and storing magnetic information for next-generation nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, spintronics and sensing devices.

“Some of us remember when we had computers with spinning magnetic data drives. Those fell out of favor for more robust and rapid solid-state devices,” explained Shcherbakov. “We want to explore the untested possibilities of magnetic materials controlled with light, and our results may find applications in the next-generation computer hardware.”

DARPA’s YFA program identifies rising research stars in U.S. academic institutions and introduces them to U.S. Department of Defense needs in hopes of developing the next generation of academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key disciplines who will focus on DOD and national security issues.

– Tonya Becerra