Pradeep Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UH, received the Office of Naval Research's Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award for his proposal on the "Novel Size-Effects in the Coupled Mechanical Deformation and Opto-Electronic Behavior of Quantum Dots and Wires." The total award of $262,471 for three years is intended to further propel Sharma's research.
"It's a proposal that will investigate new scaling laws for quantum dots due to mechanical strain," Sharma said. "Quantum dots are very small clusters of semiconductor material, and they exhibit some unusual and exciting opto-electronic properties. They have tremendous potential in future nanoelectronics."
Some examples of those nanoelectronics applications include next generation lasers and lighting devices, quantum cryptography, information storage and chemical sensors. On the medical side, this research may one day aid doctors in detecting and surgically removing cancerous cells in the body.
"Among many other applications, quantum dots can be used as biological labels," Sharma said. "For example, one can suitably tailor the size and bio-treatment of a dot so that it preferentially seeks and attaches to tumor cells. Then, simply by shining light on the body, one may optically detect and pinpoint precise locations of tumors."
Though Sharma is well aware of the possible products of his research, he maintains his work is largely fundamental and provides the basis for these potential uses rather than the actual technology itself. He estimates that his current quantum dots work will be put to practice in the nanoelectronics and medical arenas in the next five to 10 years.