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CCNY Physicist Carlos Meriles is First FRED Award Recipient

Carlos Andres Meriles, physics, CCNY
Carlos Andres Meriles, physics, CCNY

Carlos Andres Meriles, professor of physics at City College of New York, is the first recipient of a $250,000 Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery (FRED) Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), one of America’s leading science philanthropies.

The FRED Award supports the early stages of exceptional high risk/high reward research that may potentially transform a field of scientific research. FRED recipients must have been previously funded by RCSA’s Cottrell Scholar (CS) program, which champions the very best early career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy.

Meriles, a Cottrell Scholar since 2007, has long been interested in understanding and controlling spin dynamics in condensed matter systems. “Spin” has to do with the internal angular momentum of an electron or nucleus, conferring them properties equivalent to a compass; “condensed matter” refers to the properties – such as magnetism and electrical charge -- that arise from the interaction of atoms and electrons in solids.

Meriles will use his FRED Award to fund intensive study of the spin and electrical behavior of an impurity in the otherwise uniform crystal-lattice structure of diamond. The impurity is known as a “negatively-charged nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center.”

Light pulses of suitable wavelength and duration can alter the charge state of the NV from negative to neutral, which, in turn, alters the center’s fluorescence emission from bright to dark,” Meriles notes. “This alteration is reversible, lasts for a relatively long time, and is robust to multiple optical readouts.”

Basically, Meriles and his associates will be attempting to use red and green laser beams to flip a small group of electrons between their spin and charge states within a diamond’s NV center,while preventing stray light from affecting nearby electrons.

If successful, Meriles’ work might one day allow computers to write with light on the tiniest particle of matter, thus creating a pathway to nearly unlimited data storage. Precise control of electron spin and charge also may have important implications for the developing field of quantum computing. 

“This new route to data storage not only promises unmatched versatility and capacity, but also provides an intriguing playground to examine the interplay between spin and charge,” Meriles said. Thefundamentalunderstandingwewillgainthroughthiseffortwill have a positive impact beyond memory technology to encompass complementary applications to nanoscale metrology and quantum spintronics.”

Silvia Ronco, RCSA senior program director, notes “Successful proposals must convince external reviewers and the RCSA Science Advisory Committee that the applicant is a highly creative researcher and that the proposed project is poised to have a transformative impact in his or her research field. FRED Awards are expected to lead to top-level publications in the highest impact scientific journals.”

“The hope is that by developing unique perspectives for solving key challenges, FRED awardees will create new approaches that accelerate basic science research for the benefit of society,” said RCSA President Robert N. Shelton.

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